Lungfish – Talking Songs For Walking

Lungfish
Talking Songs For Walking
Dischord Records

Sitting down this morning, no coffee, cobwebs in my eyes, a pit in my stomach and too much already on my mind, listening to Lungfish’s second album, Talking Songs For Walking, I am truly hearing it for the first time. This was back when Lungfish was raw and still sort of resembled a basic band. In fact as “Kissing” rings out as I write this, I see just how pedestrian of a band Lungfish was in their infancy. Yes, the beginnings of their own style were emerging, but it was still soaked so thoroughly in that DC energy, reminiscent of the mighty Rites of Spring, the gritty Ignition and the pummeling of early Fugazi. The repetition or hypnosis doesn’t feel so pronounced here in their infancy (though it’s certainly there).

What is great about these reissues of all these Lungfish albums is that we get to reconsider them. During their height I was a Compact Disc addict. I rarely bought vinyl and it hasn’t been until recently that I have succumbed to the mp3 hoarding nature prevalent among us nerds and assholes. My interaction with Talking Songs for Walking was on CD and thus also included their debut Necklace of Heads in one, very long package. The distinction between the two were not always easy to find. But now as Dischord remasters these great albums, I am compelled to take the time and sit here with Talking Songs for Walking.

A true rock record, the spit and sour of punk rock rests firmly in the veins of this band. John Chriest, the original bassist is most pronounced here, driving the songs into sonic fury where soon the band would step back into a more hypnotic groove. But here, the band is typical in giving just ten songs, but they shave a good ten minutes off the running time. It is only now I realize how economical Talking Songs for Walking was. Confined and compressed by speed, the band delivers a true rock record, made in their own recipe.

As Lungfish is presented here with more urgency, the same riff patterns from our man Asa Osbourne that normally sooth and calm the beast suddenly become more feet shuffling and fist pounding. Here, Lungfish is more of a war cry then a meditative om. It isn’t until we reach the lovely “Put Your Hand In My Hand” that the band slows down to the laid back groove they would become known for. And yet somehow, Asa lets the main riff rule space, somehow showing a complex dynamic. This song also has one of the most dynamic bridges that Lungfish has ever written. In fact, all over  this album moments of great change can be found, making this a rather unique entry into the known Lungfish canon.

We also get a young Dan Higgs, more poetic with his words, not quite embracing the bombastic military bark he would become known for. At this point he was more beat poet than psychic head trip, telling odd ball stories. I am immersed for the first time in the song “Descender”, delivered in a slacker cool that Higgs seemed to embody but never project later on. The weirdness is there, but the crazy hadn’t quite emerged. It’s an interesting contrast, a band known for being relatively laid back (in theory, not always in practice) and a front man being “out there”, Talking Songs For Walking gives us a rather subdued Higgs. Of course, what the remaster does is give us a better presentation of some of the accompanying vocal work, hinting at the bark and yell we would later find.

Unfortunately, the remaster process isn’t all kind. The deficiencies in the recording, obviously caught in the trends of the day unfortunately resonate more. The bass is muted and the drums sound far too treated, an insult to Chriest and drummer Mitch Feldstein, but unfortunately this was par for the course back then. More labor intensive and possibly even unattainable, a treatment of the original masters, stripping down the added effects and giving the bass it’s proper due might make for a powerful re-imagining. This is the first time a remaster does very little to bring forward the nuances and instead shows the deficiencies more.

To this guy though, that doesn’t matter. I am happy to have a second look at my favorite band once again (this was also remastered in conjunction with Indivisible, this writers favorite Lungfish album which we will write about very soon) especially the earlier part of the catalog I have not spent as much time with. It’s nice to find a Lungfish that was once interested in kicking faces in with some foot stomping rock instead of tearing them off with hypnotic, esoteric leanings. As Dischord continues this project, and hopefully unleashes more from the vaults like A.C.R 1999, us fans and devoted “dum dums” can find more nuance. For me, it reminds me to listen to music. To pay more attention and consume less. I can assure you for weeks, maybe months I will be entrenched in Lungfish.

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