Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences - Apologies To The Enlightenment
Paul Hawkins is the Preacher Man. Not in the Dan Ashcroft sense, but in a far more real and prophetic way. He is a man pouring out his soul. He is frustrated, confused and angry. All of this turmoil has been distilled onto Apologies To The Enlightenment - a double CD gouged with menace and misery. This much emotion over this long an album (just shy of an hour and a half) demands almost herculean levels of endurance for even the most grounded listener. Casual observation from the sidelines isn't an option, once you are strapped in you will feel every blow, cry every tear and scream every scream.
Calling upon an impressive range of musical backdrops, sometimes stumbling towards pop or falling backwards into sweeping string sections and often this dichotomy between cheerful musical direction and bleak lyrical content delivers rewards of its own. But it's when Paul and the band in unison set controls for the blackest hole that the results can be overwhelming. ‘The Yellow Castle on the Hill’ tells the story of an institutionalised mental patient terrified of his release. At eight and a half minutes long it is, despite its beauty, completely reliant upon your emotional participation. And as such can be a crushing experience – the enforced symbioses between listener and protagonist are clearly the work of a genius – but it doesn’t make the pain any less easy to endure.
Elsewhere he tackles on 'I've Had My Fun' youth slipping away, the party ending and the subsequent hollow existence only interspersed by brief periods of joy fuelled by alcohol or two weeks in the sun. It isn't self pitying, it's anger born from lack of direction and opportunity. His observations, so eloquently captured, will ring true to many who are wondering "What happens now?" His black sense of humour weaves through the album, but never more so than on ‘I'm In Love With A Hospital Receptionist’ - the tale of a hypochondriac engaging in horrific injuries just for some time with the girl behind the desk.
This is a dense, epic, sprawling and extraordinarily ambitious body of work. Like this year's Liars album, art reacts to the irrational systems within which we exist. No more proficiently has anyone managed to step back from Western culture's current position and ask "What the fuck is going on?"