Thursday, October 11, 2012

Album Review: 17f - The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Album Rating: A-
When it comes to inner states of mind, I like to agree with Max Richter’s selection of Kafka: that ‘everyone carries a room about inside them.’ If we run with this view for a while, we can see that the room inside Frederic Merk - the man behind this project - is quite a dreary place indeed. It’s isolated, first and foremost, perhaps with a single chair placed at its centre confronting a wall of naked plasterboard; with light trapped in the narrow beams that squeeze through gaps in the shutters. I’d like to think that next to the chair sat a battered old guitar and a rusty harmonica, too. A musical outlet for whatever clouds his mind.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf can therefore be viewed as the result of this outlook: it’s anti-culture, anti-conformist, anti-heroes and in general anti-everything that Merk thinks is stuffed down our throats without a second thought. Initially quite depressing - with its downtrodden monologues spotted around a dreamy blend of acoustic folk, psychedelic themes and an ambient state of mind - it’s only after tuning in to small subtleties and a permeating cynicism that the sadness becomes inescapable. At the same time, he’s painfully aware of the futility of his outlook and the experiences it has cost him: a sentiment perfectly shown in the wonderfully mysterious and confused ‘The Boy Who Cried Again,’ which takes time to depart from its spiralling, plucked guitar notes for a face-to-face admission of Merk’s flaws: ‘I’m the boy who cried wolf... who never said what needed to be said... the guy who forgot to kiss her once.’ A confession that just serves to make it all worse.

So what is The Boy Who Cried Wolf, then? A reflection of the past or a warning for the future? I’d be surprised if Merk knew, to be honest, but he does supply plenty to think about. The harmonica-backed Scottish tones in ‘A Second Chance’ attacks the notion that ‘we’re the lucky ones,’ in such a heart-wrenchingly broken way that it’s able to be deeply moving without moving anywhere close to preachy. ‘Asshole’ is an entirely different and more bitter story, as well as being slightly more straightforward in its approach as it acknowledges the futility of many ‘great’ accomplishments, sadly (in a bad way this time) marking a bit of a low point for the record.

The real strength of the album, however, lies more in the music itself than in the ideas it tries to convey. After what can only be a ‘Happy New Year’ to himself, ‘Unbedingt’ follows up with a rich, almost post-rock interlude with layers of guitars and scratched, incomprehensible vocal samples that builds up to a chime-led peak. It’s utterly beautiful, especially as in the context of the album it strikes us as an acceptance of sorts for Merk’s view of the world. Elsewhere the album brings a mixed bag of folk-come-country jams and short ambient hums, all fulfilling the same, mellow purpose of providing a contemplative yet rustic atmosphere. It’s evident that Merk prefers to hint at feelings instead of explicitly describing them, such as ‘Gimme Some Booze,’ which combines a simple, laid back country guitar with a slow chant of the title. A description of giving up against the world told only in three (or four if you can’t accept the abbreviation) words.

It’s rare that an album in this segment of the musical spectrum goes so far out of its way to be sad, but the marriage of obvious depression and subtle reinforcement ends up being far more powerful than we could have hoped. The Boy Who Cried Wolf doesn’t overdo it, however, as it mixes in plenty of apathy, beauty and self-awareness too, so it’s always a bit of a surprise how bleak the album can really be. This isn’t an album for everyone, but then again when could it ever be? It’s an album’s worth of time-out for anyone who wants to break out of their routine and relax into a detached, sad and empty room; with a chair in the centre and only small shards of light reaching in from outside.

Stream and Purchase The Boy Who Cried Wolf on Bandcamp
Be sure to like 17f on Facebook

1. Bellprank
2. The Boy Who Cried Wolf
3. In Praise of Shadow
4. Asshole
5. Happy New Year
6. Unbedingt
7. The Swing of Things
8. Gimme Some Booze
9. A Second Chance
10. Pusan
11. Warlock
12. Waiting
13. The Boy Who Cried Again

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