[27 November 2006]
The biography of the lead singer of Grey Does Matter, Jason Crawford, sounds like the most clichéd and yet also most classic tale of post-‘60s rock and roll youth. Growing up in the East Village, he worked in neighborhood nightclubs and honed his songwriting with his four-track recorder. He went to college, realized it wasn’t for him, and then like Bob Dylan in “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”, went back to New York City because he believed he’d had enough. After years of wandering the rock-writing wilderness, he came out with the lo-fi release How to Make Millions in Real Estate. Now he and his band have come out with a new release of grainy indie-pop, Your Job Will Kill You.
Why is his biography in any sense significant to his music? It really isn’t, except that after hearing his music, you realize that the music feels like it should have been made by a guy with Crawford’s upbringing. There is a dense, overwhelmed, lo-fi sound to the music. It sounds exactly like what the music of the clubs of the East Village should sound like. The music is shining indie-pop with a twinge of haziness, and a smidgeon of urban grit.
This sound is encapsulated by Crawford’s voice. His voice doesn’t sound like much at first. It doesn’t overpower the music or stand up and make you take notice. Yet it is perfect for the band’s sound, quiet but not faint, an exact replica of the poppy yet lo-fi sound that the band produces. It isn’t filled with urgency and it goes at its own pace, the pace of the music.
The band itself, despite the lo-fi overtones, provides a varied and interesting sound. The fourth track, “So Easy”, drones onwards with a menacing rhythm mixed incongruously with high-pitched vocals. “Another Mistake” has jangly guitars and a happy beat. “Wholesale” has a dangerous sounding surf guitar and bells and whistles to accentuate the lo-fi sound. “Gatehouse” is all dark atmosphere and a change from the propelling sounds of other tracks on the album.
This is good music. The pop elements on this album are undeniable and everything is easy to sing along to. Yet there is degree of somber feeling to the album, something that prevents those precious melodies from becoming New Pornographers-style sunshine. It feels like what New York should sound like, joy tempered with somberness, urban haze and boredom mixed with poppy sunshine, contradictions creating some very interesting music. It doesn’t change the world, but it does make it a little more fruitful.