There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Asking anybody to be pithy after spending time inside a metal exoskeleton is a little unfair, to be sure. In a decent set of headphones, the sounds on Juno’s A Future Lived in Past Tense align in a semicircle, with drums and bass locked in the middle distance and the band’s three guitars surging around the rhythms. It’s all for the benefit of Arlie Carstens’ voice, and, given his recent medical history, it makes sense: He mangled four vertebrae in a snowboarding accident as Juno was about to release its 1999 debut, This Is the Way It Goes and Goes and Goes. Recovery involved intricate surgery and weeks in steel halos designed to buttress his fragile upper spine. Carstens is lucky to be aliveand perhaps that’s why he’s so verbose on A Future Lived in Past Tense, on which he pours out fragmented narratives and fever-dream images. The spoken mother-and-son tale “Things Gone and Things Still Here (We’ll Need the Machine Guns by Next March)” alone has enough text to fill a note pad: “He will spy the letters lying there in a tidy heap/ Humming on top of the grubby file folder in the breeze/Having had Secret Service training/Coupled with his mother’s finest investigative genes/He will be naturally inclined to snoop.” The intense “Covered With Hair” is somewhat more direct, with Carstens shouting about how “all the hip kids wail in the cold/Bluffing to dying sounds of indie rock’s dying soul.” But even this clear swipe at the scenesters is engulfed by gobs of surreal imagery. The rest of Juno respectfully clears spaces of six, eight, and 10 minutes for Carstens’ verbiage, answering his Roger Waters-esque drone with languid grooves and sudden bursts of power indebted to Sonic Youth, Hüsker Dü, and Glenn Branca’s guitar orchestras. Its slow-build approach is far from catchy, but even when A Future Lived in Past Tense teeters on monotony, the disc retains the crackle of a mind overcome with raw literary material. Joe Warminsky