Hamilton Shoegazers Basement Revolver 'Embody' Vulnerability, Resilience and Growth
Published Feb 21, 2022Embody, the second full-length album by Hamilton, ON, shoegazers Basement Revolver, is a pandemic baby. Forged against the constraining backdrop of numerous lockdowns, and spurred on by personal journeys of growth and self-reckonings that only isolation could kindle, the sophomore record is a stunning distillation of the band's skill and acumen. More than that, though, this record is an astonishing reminder that the unseen explosions taking place within our roiling minds are as worthy of discussion and attention as are the events of our physical reality, for oftentimes these unseen circumstances are more indelible than tributaries in rock.
Embody is a stellar record that charts a storm of becoming and unbecoming, making a meal of the delicious paradox of lead singer Chrisy Hurn-Morrison's preternatural voice and lyrics vulnerable as a wound housed within raging guitars and soldiering drums (established in their earlier work, this contrast is masterfully developed here). The album documents earth-shattering personal metamorphoses delicately, like a barometer rising.
The pandemic, with its attendant, periodic ebbing and flowing of restrictions, stalled Embody's production, causing for the band's studio time to be desultory in 2020, but the album did eventually emerge. Throughout this protracted production process, the band took on a new drummer, Levi Kertesz, and Hurn-Morrison herself received a diagnosis of bulimia, all while watching her now-former church take a stance against the queer community. On the record, these latter two events become subsumed under larger ideas of faith and feeling at-home in oneself; they are reckoned with throughout Embody, whose lyrics function in a confiding, boldly diaristic way to communicate Hurn-Morrison's inner world. The kindness and the anger both appear in turn, for they are a part of an identity's continual unfolding.
With its controlled industrial clangor and sleepy bass, opener "Skin" sets the tone for the album, that of strength among internal chaos "Make me feel small / Don't wanna know at all / The shape of my body," Hurn-Morrison sings, her voice cracking as if about to weep by the end of the phrase. But she doesn't weep. "Eraser lines, just markers of the times / Darling, you stand by," she goes on, the timbre of her voice having steadied. A lilting piano carries the chorus. This is a song about working to love one's body, but also about the ways in which its sensations lead to bursts of happiness, proving that it's possible to transmute internal darknesses to stability or even power. There is hope, if you're willing to look for it.
There's a folksier tone to this album as compared to the group's earlier work, best evidenced in the persistent twang of "Blackhole." The track begins with sounds of a downpour as a guitar echoing the pluck of a banjo comes in, and then Hurn-Morrison's voice, so much like Dolores O'Riordan's, begins. It's a song about loss. "I've never loved you more / But damn this hurts / Letting him go / Back to the norm," she sings, before falling into its chorus, "Lose control / I have become a black hole." Every element, from the rain to the weeping piano to the strings to the lyrics and vocals, is complementary, with the strength of its beauty fighting off any inertia.
There's an unrelenting, unexpected optimism carried through the album as it flickers between thundering guitars on one track to delicate piano on another, following a trajectory similar to the ways in which intrusive thoughts work in the mind. Hurn-Morrison fleshes out the album's themes — search for safety within one's skin, how faith can be reconciled with institutional hatred — by listening to her thoughts, giving them space and showing them respect, an act which carries with it a tremendous amount of strength. The track "Tired" is more vibrant than you might expect based off its name. "Breaking my teeth on the glass that they tried to cut me out of," she sings as drums begin a steadily driving beat like a march. "Tired of living like I'm dying / Tired of being the enemy," her voice seems to whisper, as she talks to someone unseen about the persistence of her heart and faith despite the unmasked bigotry of sacred institutions. Here, the song becomes a veritable mess of noise, harkening back to the band's earlier hardcore feel.
Every track on this album uniquely demonstrates that there's strength and validity in vulnerability, in bringing to the surface those thoughts and patterns that have been repeating themselves, festering within for a long while. The album has a keen understanding of the effect of Hurn-Morrison's angelic voice against raging sound, and uses it to good measure on various tracks, especially near the end, where tracks like "Dissolve" and "Tunnel Vision" gesture toward a sunniness after the downpour.
Indeed, the final track "Long Way" is closer to country than any other track. Hurn-Morrison sings of change and growth within herself, despite all the judgment from a mirror, despite all the hardships. She tells herself to turn away from her reflection as she sings of love, overcoming fears, of countenancing one's essence. As she sings of the persistence of a body despite piercing gazes, her voice commingled with the cadence of the chorus is breathtaking. The track's end is like a ghostly adieu to recent difficulties.
More than anything, Basement Revolver lead by example through Embody, showing listeners that uncertainties and confusions and anger and sadnesses are valid and worth soldiering through. This is an album that haunts as it works through trauma and attempts to wash off its murky shadows, ultimately successfully revealing light and hope for the future. Embody is a new and worthwhile turn in Basement Revolver's oeuvre, showcasing band members' musical talents and elevating Hurn-Morrison's poetic songwriting. (Sonic Unyon)