The Gentle Lurch “We are passing our days / Like two snails / Slowly crawling past each other / A shared office, alright / But aren’t we supposed to be brothers?” . Workingman’s Lurch, just as the title track suggests, is a pessimistic album that deals with work. Going to work, being at work, stagnation, approximating death.
It’s the third album by a band from Dresden, Germany, called The Gentle Lurch. Its members hail from
the rural Ore Mountain region nearby. They like to pause in between
albums until each and everyone has forgotten about their existence. Their last
(double-) album stems from 2009 and Americana-UK spoke of “Dresden‘s Answer to
Wilco – a sprawling, experimental epic…” with regards to it back then. Rolling
Stone Germany compared them to Lambchop and Tindersticks.
Since then, the three core
members and singers Cornelia Mothes on piano, Frank Heim and Lars Hiller on
various string instruments were joined by Ronny Wunderwald on drums and Timo
Lippold on bass. Possibly as a consequence, the band has been overheard
speaking of Workingman’s Lurch as an “honest-to-God rock record” which, most
likely, is an indication of their skewed self-perception. It’s the opposite of
a perfectly rounded offering. Each song
has got its own will, develops its own strategy and momentum. Ludwig Bauer
has written two harrowingly beautiful string arrangements and, from time to
time, an obscure ‘Choir of Mothers’ expands the polyphony of voices of the
band’s three lead singers.
Yet, drums and bass provide a
much firmer framework for this new set of songs. They let them become more
concise and, at times, louder than on previous albums. ‘Our Bodies Become The
Ground‘ rolls like scree avalange from the speakers. Also, Cornelia Mothes
takes up much more room on this record, confronting Lars Hiller’s stoic
sing-song manner of recitation with a comforting, almost redemptive element.
She also brings a previously unfound directness
and pop-affinity to this record. Therebeside, plenty of remnants of the old
Gentle Lurch remain: close to standstill, precariously groping, a sound like
Their songs are lyric-heavy and narrative. The lyrics
like to twist and turn to mystery like the closing observation of a short story
by Flannery O’Connor. It’s difficult
to call them a folk band, but it’s
also difficult to call their output experimental
music. There are only three choruses on the whole album. Most tracks are like
journeys from point A to point B, others level and rise like waves on an ocean.
They use elements of Folk, Country and
Americana, because they like their emotional directness. But they realign them into something
different. At times, as confrontational as on ‘All Things Come’ which tilts
from complaint over into consolation on a single organ note, changing singers
as well as harmonies mid-song. There is the strangely rotating chord
progression that propels ‘Cannot’, or the groove torpedoing the gospel of ‘On
How To Tamp Leaks‘.
Workingman’s Lurch also marks
the first time, the band has worked with an external producer. Johannes
Gerstengarbe usually stands for a more polished, radio-friendly production
style. It was a conscious decision to combine the band’s crude approach with
his aesthetics. Mastering was done at Soundcurrent
in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The almost two years of
recording took place in an abandoned,
former chocolate factory surrounded
by old GDR-housing projects depicted in the albums artwork and which –
apart from a few early 90ies satellite dishes – appear to have gone untouched
by the German unity and the Quarter century that has passed.
Then of course, the album’s title is also a distant echo to Workingman’s Dead by Grateful Dead (1970). Whereas that record could be viewed as a swansong of the innocence and cultural liberation of the 1960ies, Workingsman’s Lurch is the swansong of an unaffected, self-sufficient life. It doesn’t describe a cultural phenomenon but a biographical one: integration into employment, the groan of material, the deadlock, the grind and creak, the repulsion of nonfunctional parts. „There was something that sat on my heart like a moth.” (Nesting)
buy Workingmans Lurch