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Bodies of Water - A Certain Feeling

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Artist: Bodies of Water

Album: A Certain Feeling

Label: Secretly Canadian

Review date: Jul. 22, 2008

The success of a band like The Decemberists is not immaterial for discussing the existence of a band like Bodies of Water. Not that the former is an influence on the latter – Bodies of Water was already a band before The Decemberists gained mainstream acclaim. The point of bringing up Mr. Meloy is that the landmark success of a certain style often creates a niche, a niche that exposes artists that play the same kind of music, or use the same strategy, or are tangentially related to that successful band. Regardless, think of it like gravity. A particularly heavy object deforms space-time in such a way that smaller bodies around it are trapped in that concavity. It’s an after-the-fact process, though. At some certain point in time, you have many artists playing the same kind of music, and for different contingent reasons, one gets popular thus suddenly raising the cachet of everyone using similar aesthetic strategies. These lucky bands then create conditions for the next wave of acts, which can approach the style cynically, as a conscious decision, or as some kind of natural outgrowth of development.

Bodies of Water can be located within that first generation, as one of the bands whose existence does the altering of that landscape. While much of the press surrounding them namechecks bands like Arcade Fire and discusses the theatricality of the band, that description stinks of whisper down the lane. Someone at some point (perhaps the band members themselves, as they self-profess to be purveyors of “sincere melodrama of musical theatre”) said they were theatrical, and it’s been repeated ever since. It’s like teaching Marx and having some snot-nosed prick all of 18 years tell you, “Socialism is good on paper, but it doesn’t work in reality.” Sorry kid, just ‘cause your dad murmured that while pouring over some shitty novel like Atlas Shrugged doesn’t mean it has validity, and surely not as it tumbles out of the mouth of some know-nothing doofus.

Just repeating that Bodies of Water is theatrical doesn’t make it so. Maybe theatrically influenced in some way, but if you want theatricality, put on a Frog Eyes album. There’s drama for you. Regardless, I think one can get a much better grasp on the band’s music by seeing the songs as long, somewhat-complex pop songs – ones derived from much different circumstances than The Decemberists’ boring narratives – rather than grand, theatrical gospels. Have we learned nothing from the Romans? Uh, or the medievals? Or whomever the fuck said: Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Just because some event precedes another doesn’t make it the cause. And in cases like being influenced by something, causal understandings are a ridiculous way of understanding what’s going on anyway.

By Andrew Beckerman

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