[29 September 2008]
In I’m Not There, the fascinating Bob Dylan bio-pic, writer/director Todd Haynes presented the ever-changing nature of the old Bluesman by having six-different actors play-out the various stages of his life. If you were to pick an artiste from the metal spectrum who would qualify for a similar multi-thespian immortalization, you would be hard pressed to find someone better than Justin K. Broadrick. Much like Dylan, the constant shape-shifting of Broadrick’s musical output has confounded followers, befuddled critics and weeded out myopic scenesters.
From Napalm Death and Godflesh to his current permutation in Jesu, Broadrick’s work has been indubitably seminal, refreshingly varied, relentlessly progressive and consequentially, revered by his peers. Ever since Jesu emerged from the ashes of Godflesh, Broadrick has been moving away from the throttling heft of his extreme-metal past. The pace dipped to a sluggish amble on the Heart Ache and self-titled releases, but the metallic stomp remained. Silver found a melodic sensibility glinting through the mire while Conqueror and Lifeline brought the tuneful bent to the surface of the weighty substrata.
Why Are We Not Perfect? continues this ascent, skimming past the bounds of metal and safely into shoegaze airspace. The opening cut “Farewell” literally floats on delicately beating wings, Broadrick’s gossamer vocals steering the song through a multilayered stratosphere. “I just can’t be it / leave me behind / I don’t want to go with you,” seems to echo Broadrick’s predilection for leaving behind the past and wandering into undiscovered territory.
“Blind and Faithless” breezes through with nary a vocal in sight, a weightless instrumental blown hither and thither by waves of ethereal tones. More a rudderless flight than a song, “Blind and Faithless” is likely to lose those who are not surveying its swirling melodies with a keen ear. The title track drags the focus back by positing refracting tones and echoing intonation. The hypnotically recurring “Faith / less / turn away / and turn on” mantra soothes but also lulls. Even when the guitars join the fray at the end, the overall effect is elegiac and comforting.
The last two tracks rounding up this EP are alternate versions of “Farewell” and “Why Are We Not Perfect?” Considering the general similarity of Jesu songs, the repetition of two-songs that were already digested and do not have significant difference to their precursors is somewhat tedious.
The “are we not perfect / then we / we can live forever” coda on “Why Are We Not Perfect?”, repeated a second time, drills in what might be Broadrick’s objective: to relentlessly plough on, shedding his spent and obsolete identities to reach for that unassailable crown of perfection; to live forever through his art.
Although Why Are We Not Perfect? is not his most cohesive record, it is one that hints at the evolution and direction of an eminent artist in an often overlooked musical milieu. Thus, It is interesting to hypothesize the future of Broadrick. In the unlikely event of him reaching Dylan-esque status to beget the inevitable biographical film, and in the even more unlikely case that it is made in the fashion of I’m Not There... how many actors will be required to represent his many faces?