Full disclosure: I’m a Devin Townsend fanboy. Except for his material with Strapping Young Lad. No time for that noise at all. But his solo work, I love it all. This kind of devotion, and the privilege of an expensive education, means that I have too much time on my hands to watch Townsend in interview after interview on YouTube. As a result of spending my time so wisely, I’m acutely aware as to just how important this album is for Townsend. So my fanboy sense of duty kicked in and I felt this deserved my full attention as often as it could be spared.
The wonderful thing about this record though is that it doesn’t demand your full attention. It isn’t loud. There’s no bombast. No screaming. No obnoxiously bright melodies. Nothing thunders. Nothing roars. Crucially nothing whimpers either.
This album won’t beg for your attention either, but its difficult to ignore. It envelopes you. It feels warm. Like nostalgia or melancholy feels warm. It’s also blessed with a dark sense of self-awareness. You couldn’t doubt the sincerity of this music, or its honesty but you needn’t fear it beating you over the head with it.
Tracks like ‘The Code’ reaffirm that grooves are sexy. Whether they’re aggressive and obtuse as Meshuggah or as sedate and shuffling as they are here. Tastefully vocal distortion and a delicious male/female duet make this song an unrelentingly pleasurable experience. The saxophone laden ‘Moon’, with it’s ‘Great Gig in the Sky’-esque vocal is another obvious highlight.
In comparison to Townsend’s back catalogue this falls somewhere between the taut introspection of ‘Ki’ and the spiritual exploration of ‘Ghost’. It’s darker than ‘Ghost’, sexier than ‘Ki’ and darker than both. For my money, that combination makes it more beautiful as a collection than either of those albums. Largely this down to the absolutely sublime vocal performance by Che Aimee on this album.
‘Casualties of Cool’ is very much a mood record. Not the catharsis of aggressive music, the euphoria of party music, the shared misery of jazz or the escapism of pop. It’s a very intimate mood.This album feels…’close’. Uncomfortably insightful while remaining reassuringly vague.
It’s an acquired taste, but often a lot of the best things are. Which isn’t to do the mass populace a disservice, it’s just that some things require the attention necessary to acquire a taste. You’re not a bad person for not taking the time, for whatever reason.
Each to their own and all that. But in this case I’m convinced that you’d be missing out.
‘Casualties of Cool’ is available now via Pledge Music.