Codeine – The White Birch 9.2
Slowcore exists only in the winter for me. I don’t know why, but when winter gets here, it feels like it lasts forever. Maybe that has to do with its very uniform approach: cold and sad. The White Birch, Codeine’s last album, has remained a staple for winters ever since I first heard it. Lacking any sort of happiness, it kind of embodies the winter for me: plain, dull, and a black hole of emotion.
Each time as I see my breath in the cold air, the songs pop into my head. It works as some kind of genetic disposition. Unlike a lot of slowcore, it tends to be a bit more experimental, mixing occasional blasts of anger and volume. These elements are used almost as punctuation throughout the album.
Length-wise, it is a relatively short album, clocking in at about 43 minutes. Things get started with a quiet, clean song “Sea”. Usually if a band starts out with a long song, it means they have some sort of faith in it. That faith is justified here. It set the tone for what’s in store for you, easing you in slowly to the angst.
Angst abounds throughout the album. Somehow it avoids being whiny. Resigned would be a better term for it, the singer/speaker doesn’t appear particularly distraught at the point. He’s still working through all the motions, and you get to experience them with him. Honestly, I want more singers in this vein, but it seems that it was more acceptable in the early 90s, when emotions were allowed to be real.
“Loss Leader” includes a great amount of distortion and volume. One of the album highlights comes across as a disturbed valentine, a beautiful song called “Vacancy”. Perhaps this is the closest they come to anything resembling happiness. The tempo continues at the pace of molasses, at points coming across more as decoration than as keeping time.
Towards the end we get the border personality disorder of “Wird”. Veering radically between near silence and frustrated noise, it is a dozy. If there was going to be a song you could compare to Slint on here, it would be this piece. They channel Slint’s rage and confusion. It moves from noise, to silence, to gorgeous melody.
If you need to stay in on a boring winter night feeling kind of down, you could do far worse than these guys. What is surprising is after you’re done, you feel better.