Music Reviews

Karl Hendricks Trio

Declare Your Weapons

Merge

The Karl Hendricks Trio’s mission (found at the Merge Web site) is to play loud music that touches your heart. With their mission defined, the Trio is well on their way to accomplish their goals on this release. Yes, I will concede that the subject matter has not changed much from their last release (lamenting a broken heart, fear of a broken heart, losing one’s innocence in a hypocritical, adult world) but their music shows a greater depth and sensitivity. The album opens with the blistering “Like John Travolta,” and continues from there. Although there are a few pieces of fat on this disc (“Your Lesbian Friends” is a real snoozer), overall it’s pretty good.

One of the things Hendricks does well is to describe relationships after they’ve reached the breaking point and communication has fallen apart. For example, consider the opening lines of the track “Know More About Jazz”: “Don’t tell me you don’t know what I think/ Thirty seconds before I spit it out/ Don’t look at me like I called your bluff/ Your plan was never that much to shout about.”

Another song touching on this topic is “The Smile That Made You Give Up.” In this one he laments, “Like a little boy with cap in hands, fumbling for the words; the calm reassurance in her face only makes it worse.” However, where other musicians might leave one with a sense of depression on this subject, Hendricks conveys hope buried amidst the pain, bitterness, recrimination.

In this respect, this sets Hendricks apart from the rest of the naysayers in new music. His ability to create emotionally charged music that deals with the difficulty of relationships and the oft-troubling passage into adulthood, a passage that claims no small part of ones integrity. For this reason, Hendricks reminds me of a guitar-playing Holden Caulfield, who has no difficulty criticizing the hypocrisy of adulthood, but reserves the most devastating critiques for himself. Merge Records, Box 1235, Chapel Hill, NC 27514; http://www.mrg2000.com


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