Sinking is out now.
Coming across with a more restrained and rhyhtm based brand of noise rock than is typical are Chicago trio Lardo. Sinking is the group’s second album and it seamlessly combines noise influenced guitar work, thundering bass and drums, and a vocal performance that is not a million miles removed from Minutemen’s D. Boon.
We had a rather in depth chat with Nick Minor (bass, vocals) about how mental health, education, and feminism influenced their sophomore offering.
I’m approaching 10 years as a public school teacher. It’s been extremely rewarding, and after initially being too overwhelmed to do anything besides a random show here or there, I was able to get back to playing music regularly. As I returned to a more active life in music, I realized that I wanted to pursue something a bit more aggressive than I had previously done.
The things I had witnessed and experienced teaching on “Chicago’s most dangerous block” (as per the Sun Times), and later in the North Lawndale neighborhood, had me yearning to return to the music that brought me to Chicago in the first place, which was the aesthetic and sounds of 90s era Touch and Go. I needed to react to what I was seeing around me: deep inequities, violence, beauty in the face of adversity, administrative bullying, structural dysfunction, and the feelings of guilt and futility.
Not to mention anecdotal moments, like when my student showed me her brother’s video of him bouncing around in a dark Parkway Gardens apartment smoking weed with his shirtless buddies, insisting, “He’s gonna be famous!” And sure enough, after a summer Kanye West remix, her brother Keith blew up as Chief Keef out of O’block (where I taught at the time).
This reaction produced the lyrics for our 2015 record called Gunmetal Eyes. Now we find ourselves at album number two, Sinking. A few of the earlier themes linger, but this album expands to let in comedic nihilism, revenge, social justice, and mental health. I can’t explain all the lyrics. I mean, who wants to read all that anyway? Plus, many of the songs are more like codes than narratives, meaning you can plug in the specifics of many situations, micro or macro, and the principals still apply. That said, I’m hoping these details might provide a valuable insight for a select few.
Nick (bass, vocals)
One morning, I was hung over and driving to work on about 5.5 hours of sleep. As I flipped through radio stations, I came across the B. J. Thomas version of “Hooked on a Feeling,” precisely as those words were being sung, and I thought to myself, “Goddamn right I am.”
‘Hooked’ is a mental health song. It’s a cold look at someone romanticizing his quixotic adventure in escaping the clutches of the couch and fighting the voices of reason (haters) as he makes his way to the kitchen for another whiskey. It’s a sad party of one. But hey, at least it’s a party, right?
Have you ever gone from a moment of blinding beauty and exquisite purpose, to a moment later feeling like nothing around you has any meaning at all? You know, a realization that everything you’re seeing pass in front of your eyes is utterly pointless? Of course you have.
‘Nothing’ acknowledges that feeling, so it can pass.
‘Swamped’ is a straight forward “State of Education Policy” song. The concept works locally, regionally, and nationally. Politicians in the U.S. privatize the education of children so that they can sell off those services for personal gain and influence. Meanwhile, children are dying, prisons are overflowing, unions are being attacked, and the people who make it their life’s work to help, are swamped.
4. Watch Him (Watch Her)
This song is a directive: discreetly observe him as he watches her. You’ll know all you have to after that. I find this test is particularly revealing in a school setting, and as men sit in their vehicles at stoplights. #themalegaze #killemall #thefutureisfemale
My young daughter is on the swim team at our local YMCA. Sometimes I take her to practice and wait. This is one of those times. A man sitting next to me literally didn’t know what time it ended, so he asked, “How long will this last?” I wanted to reply, “Deep man… deep.”
6. Change in Time
Anyone who’s trying to make a difference can, and should, do much more than they already are. Things seem to be spiraling out of control, if you haven’t noticed, and we are all complicit. Wait… Let me try that again. (ahem) Anyone who’s trying to make a difference can sometimes get a bit discouraged, or at least concerned, that their efforts will be for nothing if the results aren’t seen in time. If you bleed to death while I’m running to get you a tourniquet, my efforts were pointless. We might as well have spent those final moments having a meaningful exchange. This song is an acknowledgement of that principal, which I find is relevant in so many aspects of life – from my intimate interpersonal relationships, to man’s relationship with earth.
As we know, cell division is essential to growth, but too much and it’s cancer. In regards to the specific ailment (guns, germs, steel, whatever it may be), as thespian Chris Pratt so eloquently said in 2015’s classic Jurassic World, “Maybe progress should lose for once?”
7. Call Me Karma
I read this interview of Steve Albini last year where he addressed some of his lyrics in the context of feminism. In it he mentioned “impotent male rage,” in reference to ‘Prayer to God,” and it got me thinking. I consider myself a pretty relaxed person, but I started to examine myself for any last vestiges of IMR (other than petty road rage or whatever). I found that there were still three people who I had some kind of sworn internal vendetta against, who if given the chance… Two of them are rapists, the other simply did a lot of damage to children and people I care about, all under the guise of “doing what’s best for kids.” ‘Call Me Karma’ is an indulgent revenge fantasy that, at one point, pauses to challenge the infantile, entitled, savior thinking that accompanies such a fantasy. As Steve goes on to say in the interview, “Daylight is a great disinfectant.”
8. Let Go
Pulling the keys of privilege out of my pocket and gladly handing them over, before it’s all gone.
9. The Wake
I was thinking that all our meaningful feelings, on some level, are forms of grieving.
10. Black Spots
When I was 14 years old, I went to stay with my college-aged sister in Grand Forks, North Dakota to see the state high school hockey tournament. While I was there, I ran into a really old friend of mine. He was a sweetheart whose parents had divorced forcing him to move away. We were walking through the ice rink when some troglodyte just randomly started being a dick to him.
My instinct, also prehistoric, was to challenge this guy to step outside and fight me. It was a bluff. I was thinking the threat of real world consequences would shut him down. As I approached him, chest out, I realized he was much bigger and older than I was. In fact he was a 17 year old championship wrestler. But, I couldn’t bring myself to fold, so I walked outside with him.
As I was trying to talk my way out of it, without warning, he punched me square in the nose (one of my nostrils has been much smaller ever since). I was a standing knock out. I woke up from being momentarily unconscious leaning against the door to the rink, the back of my head throbbing. He was dancing around with his dukes up. I shook it off and began charging toward him. At that very moment a cop tackled me from the side. When he picked me up, blood was streaming out of my nose. The authorities took us into the rink to sort things out.
As I was washing my face, the trog whispered to me that I needed to tell them we were friends and that it was an accident, or we’ll go to jail. I’ve never been much of a quick thinker, so I totally bought it. We came out of the bathroom, his arm around my head, explaining through forced smiles that it was all a silly misunderstanding.
Since then, I’ve picked up at least ten concussions through various in-elegant means. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday they found the black spots on my brain. I finish the song with the vision of an orderly at an assisted living facility putting me out of my misery.
11. World War
“A little ditty ‘bout Jack & Diane”
Grab Sinking via Bandcamp.
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