The Great Depression – In a Starry State
The band The Great Depression are practitioners of experimental rock. So if you’re not interested in dissonant rock this probably isn’t a band for you. They seem to like to take progressive and aggressive takes on traditional songwriting. Rather than a straightforward four chord rock song, The Great Depression explore with all sorts of radical sounds. Fans of edgier rock music will find this album In a Starry State to be fulfilling.
“Hey Go Easy (Serpentina)” really characterizes the album well. The imagery and sounds twist and turn with uncertainty. It’s not the kind of music that will have you singing in your shower. Rather, it’s jarring and disconnected, pulling us out of our existential malaise and into a critical engagement with life.
The faster and more 80s feel on “New Salem” is about witchcraft. “If you can read the symbols… divine signs from outer space.” The “Salem” imagery hearkening back to the Salem Witch Trials is captivating. The song’s structure is not really conventional, but it works nicely considering the theme of the track. Fans of darker music (but not impossibly heavy) will like how this song plays on dark themes but maintains an upbeat rhythm.
“Visiting Davenports” drastically slows down the album. The powerful organ in the background puts me in mind of The Addams Family. The ironic (I think?) use of the Jello commercial jingle is a bit lost on me. It seems to be almost a Rocky Horror Picture Show sound, including choral vocals and esoteric holds. The following “Something Like Shame” takes a different take as well. Although upbeat, it’s closer to what you might think of an urban indie rock sound. Honestly the harmonies in some parts of the song are really groovy. It doesn’t seem like the same band that opened the album at all.
The title track “In a Starry State” is almost folk rock. The acoustic guitar and piano come together for a really interesting sound, highlighting the lead singer’s vocals. It’s definitely not the same kind of big rock sound of some of the early elements of the album. It’s not clear, but the lyrics are definitely about getting put into a “starry state.” It may be an allusion to drugs, or just an altered existential reality. Either way, the song conveys an altered state of mind like something off of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine album.
“Thirteen Bells” gets back to the earlier rock flavor. The guitars go in different directions and the lead vocal meanders around the melody a good bit. The rapid rhythm creates urgency while the perfectly placed harmonies serve to jolt the listener from harmony into discord. It’s no doubt intentional and effective. “A Dreamy Brochure for Elsewhere” is unique in that the lyrics are written in prosaic form. Some of the vocal harmonies on the track are really intriguing. It makes me wonder what a full album of these types of vocals might sound like.
“Phillip K Disco” is, perhaps unsurprisingly, influenced by electronic beats. It’s upbeat and encourages the listener to move. This track contains one of the more fascinating lyrics on the whole album. “All the Empire is insane and it imposes itself on us.” Yep. The final track “Sophia and the Fool” is another chill rock sound (definitely what I prefer off of this album). It sounds like it’s a song about the existential uncertainty of life after a broken relationship. It’s abstract and strangely comforting like Pink Floyd.
All told, this is an experimental rock album with many different styles presented. While it may not be for the more melodic rock types that typically read ETTG, it is the kind of album that will find rabid, loyal fans among people who appreciate its dark angles and shadows.