Music

Mayday: I Know Your Troubles Been Long

Matt Gonzales

Mayday

I Know Your Troubles Been Long

Label: Bar-None
US Release Date: 2003-05-06
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

So when exactly did Omaha, Nebraska emerge as one of America's most fertile indie rock breeding grounds?

Probably around the same time that Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst hit puberty. It was around that time that the then-freshly adolescent Oberst helped launch Commander Venus, the band that became the springboard from which Saddle Creek Records, Omaha's red-hot indie label, would leap. These days, Saddle Creek is as rich in indie cred as anything out of Chicago or New York. With relatively big-name bands like Cursive, the Faint, and the Desperacidos, much of Saddle Creek's success is due to an unlikely abundance of strong artists living right there in Omaha. In fact, many of the label's bands are just different incarnations of the same core group of Omahaians. Mayday is one such band. Except, for some reason, they're on Bar None Records.

Mayday frontman Ted Stephens plays guitar for Cursive, and he also fronts the gloomy Americana folk outfit Lullaby for the Working Class. Whereas Lullaby rarely push the tempo beyond a snail's pace, Mayday plays everything from plaintive, baroque pop to bluegrass-inspired romps.

This, their second album, lacks the production gloss that adorned their debut, Old Blood. Whether that's a strength or a weakness is pretty much a subjective call. The bedroom-studio quality doesn't come close to providing adequate space for the variety of instruments on the record to swell out the way they could, and on a few tracks, the horns, guitars, and drums coalesce into a muddled ball of tinny, indistinguishable noise. But on the quieter songs, the lo-fi treatment infuses the songs with the kind of depth and intimacy that made those Grifters and Sebedoh albums of the nineties so great.

I Know Your Troubles Been Long has many of the impulsive trappings of a side project: thrift-store sound quality, whimsical one-offs between songs, and no allegiance to a particular genre. But repeated listens (appreciation of this album requires them) reveal an increasingly discernible theme of bittersweet nostalgia for the simple life of youth. That theme is most explicitly articulated in the faintly surly, sad-eyed track "The Laundromat", which finds Stevens' confronting the dirty affairs of the world with a yearningly helpless eye. Musically, the song is an straight-up dirge, but Stevens's emotive, weary-as-all-hell voice grows palpably inconsolable as he sings about his personal impotence in the face of war and murder and political manipulation. "There's a lot of talk goin' around," he sings, "bout time reaching a zenith of despair / I watch myself sit idly by like some distant cold third person / And stare so blankly at the news fed by my telescreen".

Yeah -- it's dreary stuff. But there are moments of shivering beauty on Troubles that do plenty to counterbalance that misery. Of those moments, the most unforgettable comes with "Lost Serenade", a velvety masterpiece of a ballad that softly emerges from the speakers like a soft, pink mist. Horns drift in and out lazily as the rest of the song floats by with a quiet, heartrending majesty. To not get chills while listening to it alone at night would indicate an absence of any warm blood running through your heart whatsoever.

Similar sublimity can be found in the pastoral opener "Lone Star", which tracks the trajectory of a night sky luminary as it streaks slowly by. Like "Lost Serenade", "Lone Star" radiates a fundamentally nocturnal beauty, drifting by ever so slowly, yet always over too soon. Elsewhere throughout Troubles, you'll find barroom blues (the unprepossessingly titled "Dyzfunctional Cuzin"), Mekons-esque fiddle-driven rock ("Running Away") and dark, bucolic folk ("Crawfish River"). Throughout, Stephens fills the songs with the kind of detail-rich Midwestern narratives the likes of which would make Sherwood Anderson proud.

Bright Eyes and Cursive may continue to command the awe of trend-following emo kids, but in the meantime, Mayday is inconspicuously making some of the most poignant and emotionally mature indie music to ever come out of Omaha, Nebraska. Anymore, that's saying a lot.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image