Urban Folk Kaleidoscope
Review by Kent Manthie
Here is a good example of DIY in action: two people, originally from New York, who decided to pack up and move out west to the very UN-New York-ish Salinas, CA. The band known as The Subjective Perspective is comprised of Nick and Lisa. They are also sometimes joined by another member, who’s been jamming with them since they’ve landed on the West Coast is a guitarist who calls himself Cabby. Nick and Lisa both veteran songwriters and musicians, write songs that are introspective, yearning, serene and contemplative even. Even though they’ve left the big city behind them, they still are thinking of the urbanity of it all, evident on songs such as “Dead Peasant Uprising” and “Ragtown Boys”, for example.
Their goal is to use their songwriting as a vehicle for conveying the emotions and memories they carry over from growing up on the mean streets of New York. The result is a mélange of sounds that range from the folksy to the classic-rock-esque, some blues thrown in a “jam” sensibility, that I imagine really comes to life when they’re playing onstage, the way it does for a lot of bands. Where the studio routine can sometimes be stultifying to a band that is more comfortable playing together, live, as opposed to other duos, say, Steely Dan, for instance, who were such studio perfectionists that they gave up touring after 1974 and concentrated on making each album the best it could be, often wearing out the various session musicians that would play with them, getting them to do about 40 or more takes of a particular song –or even just a solo or other part of a song, so as to have a lot of pieces from which to choose to make each song just perfect; and that worked for them, as it has for other studio hounds such as Brian Eno, Bowie, Stereolab and others, but there are certain bands who are never quite comfortable piecing together their music, what with the overdubbing, the inevitable multiple takes and the drive to make as great a recording as possible. This was certainly true of the Grateful Dead, who had some successful studio recordings (Anthem of the Sun being one of their best studio efforts, probably because the lion’s share of it was recorded live, but also, a couple of their mid-70s efforts, including From the Mars Hotel, Wake of the Flood and Blues for Allah all had shining moments – my favorite studio moment from the Dead is the hauntingly beautiful “Unbroken Chain” that appeared on 1974’s From the Mars Hotel, a song that was hardly ever played live – maybe only a handful of times, so if you have a “bootleg” with that song on it, consider yourself extremely lucky! But I digress…
Nick has been honing his craft since he was a teenager, back in the mid-90s. He began his songwriting around 1997 and started getting more and more comfortable as a performer by “rhyming” at parties throughout his teenage years. These happily memorable teen experiences eventually gave him a yearning to do much more, to take things to a higher level, which is what he did. He went beyond just entertaining the party crowds where he went and his thirst for songwriting became a stepping stone to where he wanted to go. For the last 10-15 years now, Nick has been traipsing around the New York area, performing and singing for crowds big and small. Eventually he serendipitously met Lisa, the two hit it off and the next thing you know The Subjective Perspective was born.
Lisa, herself, has been singing all her life. She too grew up in and around the NYC area and it just so happened that she lived close by Nick’s house, the proximity of the two is no doubt one way to explain the way they came together. The fact that both members are equal part “lead” singers is not only sufficient but necessary. The Subjective Perspective wouldn’t be who they’ve evolved into without the synergy that magically forms, like some unique chemical interaction.
A few songs I had the pleasure of hearing gave me insight into their minds. “Real Romance” is a happy little ditty that features some psychedelic guitar playing which doesn’t dominate the song, but seems to come from the “back burner” as it were, no doubt from the helping hands (and fingers) of the man called Cabby. It’s a real charmer of a song: catchy, upbeat, with a sunny disposition and a sound that could be thought of as a blues-themed cut, but with major chords instead of the typical sad or melancholy/morose vibes that are the raison d’etre of The Blues (with a capital “B”). But, hey, dummy, you might say, that is what “folk music” is supposed to be. But I still wouldn’t go so far as to label it “folk”, it has too much of a groove-thang going to end up being stuck in a “folk” box. It certainly transcends what you might think of when you get the quick & easy bio of the band and their “sound”. It’s blues roots, tweaked a bit to suit their pleasure (which becomes the listener’s pleasure as well, when exposed to it) mostly comes through in Cabby’s psychedelicized/funk guitar riffing, a hazy distortion with a twinge of a ring through it. If you’re sad or upset about last night’s tiff or are otherwise in a pique of angst, “Real Romance” is one song that can lift your spirits and give you a shot of hope.
Even a song that seems to be about getting the poor, downtrodden sad-faced people, not just the many who people the streets of New York, but are a fixture of every major city in America, “Dead Peasant Uprising”, has a definite folksy undertone to it, more of their major chord progressions here, not the minor, angry ranting, inciting the disenfranchised masses to rise up and demand for their needs. But the thing here that really shines is the juxtaposition of the “happy-go-lucky”, sunny outlook of the music while the lyrics scold the cold, unfeeling “army of the rich” cops for their harsh treatment of homeless, poor citizens – a scolding that could apply in any city, USA. For example: “Hey blue man with that club in your hand/Let’s have a talk, man-to-man/Don’t go attacking innocent civs/Look what they did to Scott on [unintelligible]/Put that pepper spray away/Follow these laws that make us say:/It’s a Dead Peasant Uprising/It’s a Dead Peasant Uprising/From New York City to the Frisco Bay/Can’t keep them peasants away/Ain’t know how, no way today/You’re going to keep the peasants down today…” is a perfect slice of what these two are all about: empathic, sympathetic, knowledgeable and one of the very few in this day and age (as opposed to the sixties, as glorious, but dangerous and chaotic as it may have been-at least the protesters were organized and not just a bunch of loosely knit “friends” who have no contact except on the pages of Facebook. People need to organize themselves – because for one thing, it’s obvious, poll after poll, that the mainstream of America detest the right-wing, authoritarian, bigoted, pro-rich, anti-poor stance that defines today’s Republican Party. Once upon a time there was such a thing as moderation and not all Republicans were right-wing “John Bircher” types who stockpiled guns at home and were blatant bigots – Republicans abhor gays – they’re not “saving marriage” – that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard – half of all marriages end in divorce and that includes Republicans, like the philandering jerk, Newt Gingrich, who left his wife, when she was suffering painfully in the hospital from cancer – he went to the hospital to get a divorce so he could go off and marry this bimbo that was on some campaign staff of his. What hypocrites these people are. Richard Nixon is, I’m sure, still a name that evokes heated passion and hatred in many, but if you look past his own shortcomings and focus on the positive aspects of his policies in the late 60s, early 70s: he started the EPA, the DEA, signed bills including the Clean Air Act and many more things that, today, would get him branded by the current GOP as “too liberal for us”. That is how bad things are and will get worse until those that don’t want to live under such people organize, protest hard and, above all VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!!!
Anyway, The Subjective Perspective is a band whose heart and soul is with the “common man” of America – the working class heroes of this country and not the tyrannical hypocrites who have HATE written all over their faces. Good for Nick and Lisa. Let’s hope their music spreads and is hailed – if things go right, “The Dead Peasant Uprising” should be an anthem for the death of the right as we know it. They seem to be a positive beacon for hope and what’s more, in the face of all the negative, abhorrent things that the press keeps abreast of while ignoring the good that liberal, non-rich citizens are doing, keep a pleasantly positive outlook and are not full of rage, anger or fear.
For more information about The Subjective Perspective as well as a place to listen to as well as purchase their music, you can check them out at www.reverbnation.com or at CD Baby, which you can get to by going to cdbaby.com/cd/thesubjectiveperspective. I hope you’ll enjoy what they have to say as well as their pleasant music. –KM.