by Caleb Stanislaw
The new record from Cut Throat Finches breaks my mind a little. It’s so crazy that this band is here, now, with us all, Fort Worth’s under-the-radar world-class band. Their big sound spans the gap between late 90’s British re-invasion artists like Travis and a new world wide-open, western feeling sound a la Hiss Golden Messenger. I’ve had the pleasure to listen (closely) to a pre-release of their sophomore album, the surprising Polite Conversation. And, indeed, this album is polite (in its revolutionary tendencies).
Sean Russell, frontman for CTF, possess a timeless, inviting vocal that meshes well with his curated band of seasoned gunslingers. On my first listen, it was remarkable to me that the big, western sky soundscapes of Polite Conversation never became boring. Second track “Head in the Clouds” is case in point: an enveloped, compressed vocal greets the listener, with a halfway kitch melody suddenly blossoming into a raspy and deftly sung observation; “you call it out as it take you in / you shout it loud / won’t you open up your eyes / maybe you might be surprised.” Russell’s tendency to lean towards the political exists here, but it’s shrouded in an existential package. His commentary on conformity–how very punk-rock of you, Mr. Russell–peeks it’s head out with the second chorus, bringing home the point: “you call it out while it take you in / you shout aloud / but you still do what you’re told / maybe that’s just rock and roll.” The sentiment here is important, and the same attitude permeates the record. I think it does a slight disservice to CTF over the course of the album, but only insofar as some melodic and showmanship opportunities are missed. But that’s a small complaint. The real movement that’s happening here is in the dialogue being created: if you listen, the Finches have something to say. Somehow, this record manages to rock while being (secretly) paranoid, and anxious.
The record hits a comfortable, propellant stride with “You Don’t Write.” I like how the quaintness of a letter is almost ironic in the context of a song–in 2018–being written about not writing. But this is at least as meaningful as the moral behind a Futurama episode. Isn’t it silly that we don’t take the time to write anyone, ever? Russell says here that “it never really mattered,” but, actually, it did.
The penultimate “Trouble” might be the most joyful moment on the album, and as the jumpy, slinky feel emerges, a carefree feeling unfolds. “Yesterday has come to end / why don’t we just pretend that we control time?” And later, “let’s call a truce / there’s trouble to get into.” Because here, trouble is delicious. Remember when we were kids? Remember when life was about fun, not funds?
Pick up this record. Take it home to your turntable. Dub it onto cassette, or get the download or whatever. Just rest easy that, if and when you decide to listen, you’ll feel right at home. This is an album for all of us. It’s oddly patriotic, and yet it’s dissenting. It’s lively and controlled. It waxes from pushing to pulling at the listener, never satisfied with the last perspective. They’ve grown and they’re flying now. Catch the new record Polite Conversation from cultural resource Cut Throat Finches before we lose them to the European circuit.