A Story in White
Chemikal Underground / Matador
I could recap Aereogramme’s history, but you don’t really care, and it’s pretty undramatic anyway (short version: singer/guitarist Craig B used to be in Ganger). I could also mention that they are a trio from Glasgow and that they are pals with Mogwai, but they really aren’t all that much like Mogwai. So just the basics: A Story in White would have easily been on my Top Ten List (or Top 19 List, whatever) had I heard it in time. As it is, I’ll probably listen more to this album this year than half the stuff on my 2002 list.
Here’s what Aereogramme is aiming for on their first album: the kind of sonic onslaught that gives sonic onslaughts a good name, crossed with the kind of confessional God-haunted doom-laden insights that give confessional God-haunted doom-laden insights a good name. They can shred your ears with sheer death-punk bile (“Shouting For Joey”), they can whisper/sing against simple acoustic guitars or string arrangements (“Egypt,” “Messenger”), or, more often, take both paths (everything else). They mess with time signatures (opener “The Question is Complete” goes 7/4 with occasional 5/4 in the verses, then something that I think is 6/4 for the choruses… and then it gets weird), they got studio trickery up the ying (“Descending” does a one-speaker fading back into two thing that’s very disorienting but cool) they do slow burns like Doves (“A Meaningful Existence”), and it’s all absurdly lovely and powerful and completely emotional without lapsing into The Genre That Must Not Speak Its Name.
I’ve read a couple of reviews of A Story in White, and they’ve mentioned Craig B’s lyrics as “introspective” or “sad” or “romantic” — but none have mentioned this album’s dirty little secret: it’s a concept record, I think, about maintaining one’s faith in a romantic partner while battling with, and perhaps losing, one’s faith in God.
Don’t be afraid that it’s some kind of creepy Creed trip, though; Craig B is very much a seeker rather than a preacher. Here’s a sample lyric, from “Post-tour, Pre-judgement”: “Undecided/Should I pray to something else?/Fuck the devil/Fuck myself.” And then follows the hardest most painful screaming you’ve ever heard outside a maternity ward. It’s catharsis, it’s mourning, it’s celebration, it’s the pain of freedom, it’s the joy of freedom.
And it’s a really wonderful record that will stand the test of time.