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The Pilot Ships


Bob Dylan once noted that too much of nothing makes a man ill at ease. He might well have been talking about this dreary disc’s worth of droning dirges by the Pilot Ships, whose members include brothers Chris and Mike Linnen of Monroe Mustang, as well as Cheree Jetton of Bees Are Black and Brian McBride of Stars of the Lid. The nine numbing threnodies on The Limits of Painting and Poetry follow one another in a lugubrious procession like unhappy spirits bewailing the death of such simple rock pleasures as Van Halen’s “Jump.” The album’s doleful melodies are alternately carried by piano, organ, guitar, and synthesizer; meanwhile, a world-weary somebody sings flatly. It’s all very gloomy and enervated and poetic, like a crummy winter sky over a drab Midwestern city, and it features lots of slow builds that lead to nowhere very interesting. (Warning label, my ass; this baby ought to come complete with antidepressants and a preprinted suicide note.) That said, I’ve developed a kind of morbid affection for the hedge-clippers-meet-organ drone weirdness of “Backyards” (as well as for “You’ve Always Been a Dullard to Me,” but more because of its title than its Twin Peaks-esque tune). After you’ve heard The Limits of Painting and Poetry several dozen times, it seems, its unremitting melancholia, anhedonic timbres, and soporific tempos actually start to grow on you. But I get paid to subject myself to stuff like the Pilot Ships; only a fool would listen to this profound bummer pro bono. —Michael Little