5 out of 5
Label: Dr. Strange Records
Produced by: The Marshes
This album. On which I should be tougher: had I not been fully converted by endless, endless, still-to-this-day endless spins of Fledgling and Pox on the Tracts, scouring the scant few music stores in my area in St. Louis, Missouri for the brand stankin’ new Marshes release, Recluse, procuring it and subjecting it to similar repeats… might I be more critical of some of its repetitive riffs, and the occasional stiff lyrics?
Nah. I mean, that’s recipe for disaster, ain’t it? Building up expectations massively high, surely to be crushed by the tame reality of whatever your favorite band’s newest release actually offers, maybe coming back around to it some years later with tempered appreciation. But I loved Recluse then, and I love it now, and relistening to it for review, I went back and zoomed through their whole discography and wound back up on this release, and – okay, maybe excepting their rougher self-titled – each album has a twist on the Marshes flavor that makes it special. That first album is very Discord-ish, but then as soon as they’re on to Fledgling, the group has arrived as tuff-as-nails, atonal punkers, backed up by poppy drumming and a bouncing bassline. Pox goes deeper with the dichotomy of memorable pop and detuned, off-timed anthems; Recluse is even further down that road, now almost wholly narratively dedicated to Lovecraft and driving hard on a sort of rhythmic pulse for each track that’s then layered with that “typical” odd mashup of keys in which the group seems to play. In my many listens of the disc, I was fascinated how many tracks took a very similar template, but managed to do something vastly different with it; snippets of tracks are interchangeable, but the tracks on the whole are absolutely unique, and the album – both in terms of sequencing and lyrics – tells a much more linear, horror-tinged story than the prior albums, which would often slip into more standard topics (girls; eff society), albeit always told with flair via Emil’s imaginative, raw phrasings.
The magic of these latter three albums is that the exact flavor they provide – going from a bit more light-hearted to heavier as they proceeded – is perfect for that album; none of the discs feel dated by another, and all of them absolutely show off The Marshes’ instantly recognizable sound, while also being tweaked just so such that the songs are equally identifiable to their release. So I should be tougher on Recluse, but only if I was then tougher on the other albums, and I love them all.
For those new to Marshes, start with some DC Discord 80s style punk and then add a dash of Touch and Go style post-rock weirdness, but hold steadfast to those three cord, riffing roots. Atop that, add a lot of Lovecraft references, but less direct than that may make you think – there ain’t a Cthulhu in sight, but people are turning into fishes and, on Recluse, getting done killed as well.