Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Fly By Wire
Polyvinyl Records, 2013
Review by Kent Manthie
I’ve been away from these guys for quite a while. I remember back, in the previous decade, I did review their debut as well as its follow-up, both on the great Polyvinyl Records., out of Chicago, their debut was entitled, Broom and their sophomore effort, Pershing, which showed those skeptical types that sometimes bands circa now (to coin a phrase), can survive more than just being a passing fancy and avoid the fate that so many others fall victim to: after album #2, the band has not really developed much past what they were when they debuted, they are still doing the same thing, sometimes at least two years later, even though certain elements have come, gone and sometimes re-emerged in a new package, but when a band fails to really excite, enough to matter, anyway, after their debut, much less two albums, it’s usually curtains for them – that, or those purgatory of “adult contemporary” stations, venues, etc.
The band’s been together, basically, since Will Knauer and Philip Dickey met at, of all places, a Super Bowl Party! It must’ve been a really interesting conversation that obviously took place; something that would pave the way for development that got the band together and now that it’s been a few CDs later, they can say that SSLYBY has just about taken a life of its own.
“Lucky Young” is a song that really sticks with you. That haunting organ riff there, at the end is great. “Ms. Dot” is a fresh breeze. It has a good sensation and that sticks around but is eventually – and everyone should now that just about everything your listening to goes away when you are not listening to it at the time, but, of course, the better ones stay with you, they linger, they stick in your head, you hum it and so on. I thought that the opener, “Harrison Ford” was really strong, as well: a great tune with which to start the album.
SSLYBY has, however else they’ve grown and adapted over the last decade, stuck to a style, an avatar, if you will, that longtime fans can count on and for those new to the band, what you hear that is new is not so different than their debut, Broom. Hints of a love of their passion for their music: they’ve probably had a few chances here and there, to go Hollywood, but they’ve stayed loyal to the indie scene in general and to Polyvinyl Records in particular. ‘
From only taking a passing glimpse at SSLYBY, one just has a very short time for the music that one hears (SSLYBY’s) and, this is exactly the kind of sub-sub genre of rock that has a hard time with love at first sight. I can tell you that such a thing certainly does exist. That hopeful delight that one feels and the expectations that arise almost instantaneously when your talking about love between two people. But when it comes to music, it just depends on the style, the tempo and any recognition that shows that “XYZ” band sounds like this. There has actually been a handful of times where I was in a record store and some, random, new and for sure new-to-me, was playing in the store as I walked around inside, browsing, etc. and once in a while, whatever underground, DIY or otherwise indie music the guy at the counter was playing really stuck in my mind. In some instances I even asked the guy when I went to pay for what I was buying, “hey – who was that, that you were just playing?” or, if I think I recognize the band but don’t know the song or songs, I’d ask “Is that ‘so-and-so’ and if it is, what album is it?”. Either of two things will happen there: the guy will say “yeah, that is ‘so-and-so’ and it was on the ABC+DEF record, back in 1983” (or something like that) or he may, instead answer thus: “No, sorry, that’s not ‘so-and-so’ it’s actually ‘them-and-me’ and their new CD, which I’m playing now, is called Blah.” – so, there are two interesting tidbits that you can find out right then and there: whether there exists a song and maybe even an album by one of your favorite bands that you haven’t heard of yet – but, dammit, now that you know of it, that is next on your list. But, if it’s not them and it turns out to be some other band; someone whom you’ve never heard of, but they sound really great. You stick around for a while longer and listen, while you’re there anyway, to more of that album and by the time you leave, either way, you have some new musical knowledge that you can put into practical use.
But with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – and they’re not the only ones – they don’t always go down that smoothly the very first time as others do. You have to go through this process where you, sometimes completely by serendipity, you put the album on at a completely unscheduled time and you just sit there and you listen to it, you absorb it. Most of the time you have to, sometimes on a serendipitously, unscheduled moment, just put this CD in and play it. I’ve learned that unplanned events like that work the best the very first time their done. Why? Precisely because they’re spontaneous happenings. When you try to get the same feeling that xyz gives you when you do X, it probably won’t work a second or third time. In fact, next time you, spontaneously decide to do something like this, pick a different album and you’ll, most likely, enjoy a similar feeling.
But it’s this familiarizing that makes one appreciate SSLYBY all the more. And when it hits, then you have yourself a true fan, someone who sincerely digs these guys, not just a fair-weather fan. And since they’ve been around now for about 7 or 8 years, at least, they’ve proved that they’ve found that niche, that groove where they fit just fine – their fanbase likes where they come from, they’re very pleased with being on Polyvinyl Records. If I had to put it into some sort of “box” to categorize it, I’d say it fits in with that corps of bands who’re made up of intellectuals or semi-intellectual, college-types that appreciate the smart literary, film or some other American pop culture reference as well as understand the allegories, the metaphors and similes in the songs that make them light up with slick dressing, without which, might be a little on the drab side.
I do consider it a great thing to see Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin still around, still making new albums today almost a decade since their debut, Broom, came out in about 2006. I hope they can turn their personnel into a more personal thing and they stick together and keep these great records coming out. -KM