Album Review: Hawksley Workman – Meat
I always thought I should like Hawksley Workman by default. The mere mention of his name incites passionate raving amongst his fans. He’s also produced Canadian darlings Sarah Slean and Tegan and Sara, both of whom I adore. However, it’s taken until now, and his newest album, Meat, for me to understand his genius. And even though this album is largely about break-ups and heartache, I fell in love.
‘Song for Sarah Jane’ (he seems to know a lot of Sarahs) opens the album. Though it’s a slow, quiet, and simple piano-driven ballad, there’s nothing dull about it. His voice resonates with emotion as he mourns the loss of his girl. The track that follows, ‘French Girl in LA’, could not be more different. This one is full, rich and fast. Crooning, “I can’t believe you’re almost mine”, this one is like a rebound; the chase of a new relationship.
Hawksley’s lyrics show off his worldliness, mentioning places like Sydney, LA and Paris. In fact, Meat was recorded in six different studios across the world from Winnipeg to London, to Stockholm. In some ways, these references can seem a little braggart and pretentious. On the other hand, this album is very relatable. Anyone who has survived a break-up will identify with at least one song. Hawksley somehow makes simple words poetic. He taps into his listeners’ collective experience; infusing his lyrics with their emotions. A good example of this is ‘The Ground We Stand On’, “It’s so cold here and I miss you/ and I can’t help but feeling broken.” Keeping Kleenex handy while listening might be a good idea.
The flow of this album rocks back and forth between slow, soft songs and upbeat, abrasive tracks. The track list is divided into Side A (#1-5) and Side B (#6-11). Side B deals more with politics- ‘And The Government Will Protect The Mighty’ and society-‘(We Ain’t No) Vampire Bats’. In my opinion, the best track is ‘You Don’t Just Want To Break Me (You Want to Tear Me Apart)’. At eight minutes long, it’s almost two different songs. After three minutes, the lengthy title is the only line that is sung and screamed, winding up to a screeching, cathartic guitar solo. This might sound ridiculously overdone, but you have to trust me on this one, just listen to it.
Hawksley’s style is best described as “eccentric”. He uses some strange sounds and references like “chocolate mouth” and “Tokyo bicycle”. Not many artists can write lines like “Baby mosquito…the firefly nights and the bats without sight will believe/ and malarial nightmares that keep you from sleep next to me” and still be taken seriously. He also has some pretty odd and extensive song titles. I think he may love parentheses as much as I do (though I’ve tried to cut back), often inserting them in unexpected places.
This album is front to back an amazing piece of work. Hawksley not only fosters great Canadian artists, he’s proven that he is one of the best. Even though we’re not even through the first month of the year, I have a feeling Meat will be topping a lot of “Best Album Release” lists at the end of the 2010.
(Original publication: Bring Back the Boom Box Magazine- Jan 21 2010)
Posted on February 27, 2011, in Album Reviews and tagged (We Aint No) Vampire Bats, And The Government Will Protect the Mighty, French Girl in LA, Hawksley Workman, Meat, Sarah Slean, Song for Sarah Jane, Tegan & Sara, The Ground We Stand On, Tokyo Bicycle, You Don't Just Want To Break Me (You Want to Tear Me Apart). Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.