THE FOR CARNATION The For Carnation (Domino)
Brian McMahon has travelled the indie kid's to-die-for career trajectory: formerly of legendary hardcore combo Squirrel Bait, as vocalist and guitarist in Slint he arguably launched the post-rock phenomenon, with that band's slim catalogue held up as the holy grail by young tykes like Mogwai. When Slint disintegrated in mental chaos he joined Will Oldham's Palace Brothers, somewhere fitting in an 18 month stint in a grocers and the gradual coalescence of his latest project, The For Carnation.
Details are sketchy and smudged, a situation exacerbated by the sleeve's total lack of credits, but "The For Carnation" is either the band's first or second long player (some sources claim TFC's debut album "Marshmellows" was released in 1997, others suggest that a few EPs surfaced in the mid 90s), and features contributions from members of Slint and Tortoise (John McEntire is variously credited with co-production and recording duties) and Kim Deal.
Somewhere behind this veil of mystery are the six songs that constitute "The For Carnation", and, in the manner of Slint's masterpiece "Spiderland" they rumble along quietly, slowly and ominously. McMahon's vocal style is still set firmly in the Lou Reed and Tom Verlaine school of mumbling, and musical pyrotechnics are kept to an absolute minimum - absolutely no guitar hero grandstanding here. There's an air of note-perfect attention to detail here which befits the album's three year gestation period, but without the feeling that inspiration has been airbrushed into mere technique. The finest moments are the final two tracks. "Tales (Live From The Crypt)" begins with a disembodied, heavily treated Kim Deal mouthing a few lines of "When You Wish Upon A Star" before blooming into an eerie example of Kraftwerk playing reggae. "Moonbeams" is even odder, as tiny shards of melody flit in and around the song's uncoiling main theme where lesser talents might have been tempted to use effects or distortion.
Not for everybody, perhaps, but "The For Carnation" is the rightful successor to "Spiderland"'s parched, puzzling storyteller's crown, and in its own, minor key way it redraws the whole post-rock map once again.