Drear as folk

By MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG  |  May 28, 2008

From there, Jurado’s powerful first-person fictions head down dark paths, letting in only sporadic light, his husky voice spinning weighty tales of loneliness, ennui, and love forbidden, unrequited, or betrayed — accompanied by a plaintive gathering of acoustic and electric guitar, piano, hushed percussion, the occasional voice of a female foil, and sometimes the creak of his chair. There’s no relief in the nocturnal slow-burner “Intoxicated Hands” (“I loved you seven long years/And now that you’ve found me out/Just get out”) or the rueful rumination “Tonight I Will Retire” (“If I should taste fire/Save me not, I deserve to die”). Still, we get reason to believe all is not lost, as in the climax of “Lion Tamer”: “The gun in the drawer/The long-distance call/A story to tell. . . . Save us now before we drown.”

There’s precious little hope, however, in his most recent CD, 2006’s And Now That I’m in Your Shadow. It begins with “Hoquiam,” Jurado wondering amid strings and gently picked guitar, “Was I nothing but a landslide in your mind?”, and grows more morbid from there. “I lost all feeling/And now that I’m in your shadow/I am motionless/I am black,” he intones below desolate cello saws and cymbal crashes on the title track. “Four miles from the highway they found her/Lying in the tall grass by the road/Murdered by the hands of her lover,” he sings in “Shannon Rhodes,” his voice hardly comforted by the lone acoustic strums. Even in the closer — the æthereal “Montesano,” which floats on ambient drones and female coos like some placid Sigur Rós interlude — salvation is questionable at best: “In a landslide I can hear you/Hear you walk away.”

Salvation is the name of Enigk’s game — his well-documented conversion to Christianity in the mid ’90s tore Sunny Day Real Estate apart. He made his solo debut with a bombastic, chamber-prog tour de force (1996’s Return of the Frog Queen), then briefly reconstituted Sunny Day and participated in its spinoff outfit, the Fire Theft, in the late ’90s and early ’00s. And though his earliest lyrics were celebrated for their acute rendering of pain and self-doubt, the solo career he continued in 2006 with his most recent full-length, the self-released World Waits (last year’s The Missing Link is mainly re-recordings of World Waits songs), places him in a more positive space.

Unlike Jurado, whose lyrics lean more to the confessional, Enigk revels in the cryptic rather than the concrete, and his arrangements, often fashioned from similar instrumentation — acoustic guitars, piano, strings, organs — come together in more anthemic and uplifting forms. Like his tourmate, he can sink into the doldrums. “I am drained of all of my hope/Eyes gone red/Voice half-dead/Worry of things I can’t control,” he despairs amid the guitar arpeggios and steady crescendo in “Dare a Smile.” But he just as often offers serenity and redemption: “I cannot change any man’s hate/But I can make known forgiving waters that flow,” he coos in “River to Sea.” “Here to depart/There a new wonder/racing to start. . . . watch all our tears wash away,” he purrs in “Oh John” as he envisions the afterlife.

Of course, the impossibility of knowing where people go when they vanish — whether to peril or paradise — may be our richest collective source of melancholy, but it’s a feeling well worth exploring. Jurado and Enigk are fearless guides.

JEREMY ENIGK + DAMIEN JURADO + SYDNEY WAYSER | Great Scott, 1222 Comm Ave, Allston | May 31 | 617.566.9014

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