February 14, 2005

The Blow "Everyday Examples of Humans Facing Straight Into The Blow"

This CD is a reissue of a cassette that Khaela Maricich (a.k.a. the Blow) sold during K Records’ 2001 “Paper Opera” tour, during which she, Microphones/Mount Eerie auteur Phil Elvrum and label head Calvin Johnson wove their individual songs into a multimedia tapestry about love, death and the moon. Judging by Khaela’s performance, it seemed as if she had already outgrown the material on the cassette. She performed under her current name, as opposed to the cassette’s unwieldy “Get the Hell Out of the Way of the Volcano” moniker, and the songs she showcased were sparer and funkier than the lilting acoustic material on the cassette. When Khaela sold the cassette to me, she warned me that it was nothing like her current material, but I bought it anyway as a gesture of financial support. I listened to it once on the way home, but never returned to it afterwards. Her next three releases as “the Blow,” two of which I’ve reviewed for this website, did a much better job of capturing my attention.

Because of such, I wonder whether K considers this reissue a mere archival gift to Blow diehards (yes, they exist…and they should!), or as something bigger than that. Is Everyday Examples of Humans Facing Straight into the Blow an underappreciated gem that holds up well on its own? Would anyone unfamiliar with the Blow’s R&B-influenced later work be blown away (no pun intended) by this album? Would anyone who owns the Poor Aim: Love Songs EP consider this album its equal, let alone its superior? In my opinion, the answer to all of these questions is “no.” However, Everyday Examples is still worth more than a cursory listen, if only because it demonstrates that 1) Khaela had a knack for writing a good tune even before she learned how to play guitar, and 2) she could have easily went in other artistic directions after recording this cassette.

Almost all of this album’s 14 songs are four-track recordings consisting only of voice and acoustic guitar. The six-string work is consistently clumsy throughout. Sometimes it’s endearing, but other times it’s annoying. Khaela’s attempt at bossa nova on “My Heart” is tough to listen to, and on “Tidalwave” she sounds as if she can barely press her fingers against the frets. She’s a much better singer, though, and many songs on this album are saved by the sweetness of its double-tracked harmonies. “Why Don’t You” is entirely a capella, and its wordless, slightly out-of-sync harmonies form an inviting backdrop atop which Khaela tries to convince a boy to crash at her place: “I would open my sheets and open my arms/I would make you a food or two/I would run right into you.” The harmonies on “Lily Pink” purposefully go in and out of tune, which make the (admittedly cool) descending guitar riff she plays sound even woozier.

One thing I noticed about Everyday Examples is that there isn’t as much of a focus on romantic relationships as I expected. Khaela begins “Surf Song” with the lyrics “Hello, my naked airy sweetheart/you are but a creature of the ether now/But one day, you’ll be born into the flesh/and we will play.” This sentiment is closer to Phil Elvrum’s nature worship than it is to the boy-craziness of the Blow’s later work. Similarly, “Did You Drive” speaks of a need for profound, visceral experience: “Did you feel the flow? Do you feel it still? Did you bring some home?” Later on in the record, Khaela sings about the joys of being alone in her room: “I don’t even notice at all/The aching expanse of space.” These songs get much more metaphysical than anything Khaela’s done since. In retrospect, I’m glad that Khaela became obsessed with sex and funk --- besides, we already have Mirah to hit us with the deep stuff.

---Sean Padilla

Artist Website: www.thetouchmefeeling.com
Label Website: www.kpunk.com

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