His Name is Alive is well known for their ethereal, late night moods but on this new album the band picks straight up where last year's Detrola left off and fires up an army of homemade electronics and freaked out songs that are equal parts organic and mysterious. Pitchfork Media gave Detrola an 8.5 and described it as “someone singing softly right in your ear.” David Bowie put Detrola in his top ten reccomendations for 2006 and said it has “an early 70s singer/songwriter vibe plus it comes on like Karen Carpenter.” This year’s XMMER album is all that plus way more. His Name is Alive continues to create an astounding body of work that is exclusively their own.
His Name Is Alive's exotic and amazing XMMER is by turns frenetic, meditational, intuitive, and obsessive. XMMER songs are stripped of all extraneous detail - its the formula for ambiguity, symbols, personal meaning, etc. Sweet dreams and nightmarish visions are lined with vague personal references to pop culture, history, art, and politics. This collection of summer songs are late night confessions filled with unexpected noises. Strikingly diverse in sound, texture and genre ("Trends? I call them friends"), these 12 songs concisely reprise the entire range of sonic quality and stylistic jumps found within the increasingly diverse HNIA catalog!!!
BRIEF SONG DESCRIPTIONS BY WARN DEFEVER (WAR):
YOUNGBLOOD - This song is about when some of the foreign soldiers currently occupying your country go crazy and start going into your house and shooting people indiscriminately.
GO TO HELL MOUNTAIN - David Bowie told me he was using "I Thought I Saw You Moving" from last year's Detrola as his ringtone and that it had a "70's singersongwriter vibe". That song was about the Manson Family creepy crawling into your house and killing your family and trying to kill you, but you don't die and you have to pretend you're dead so that they don't kill you all the way but really its a metaphor for when you're on a date with your girlfriend and she has to endure you always "checking out" other girls. This song was sorta like the sequel, like after "all the evidence has been disposed." My guitar solo is dedicated to pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page.
THE WOLF PUT HIS MOUTH ON ME - Me and Elliot got electric thumb pianos from this guy in Portland and they were incredible so we started making our own. We made about a hundred so far. You can see some pics here. This song was inspired by Francis Bebey - some of the younger students might not be familiar with his work as one of Africa's greatest singers, songwriters, teachers, writers, and most importantly thumb pianists. (Kalimbist? Mbirist?) My guitar solo is a tribute to fallen hero Ali Farke Toure. (yes every guitar solo is dedicated to some boy somewhere)
HOW DARK IS YOUR DARK SIDE - My friend was getting married and this song is directed to the couple who might not know that much, or want to know that much, about each other's past. We're always getting compared to to studio obsessed - control freaks like Jeff Lynne (ELO), Stephen Merritt, Ike Turner, Todd Rundgren, or Prince (if Sheila E., or Vanity 6 had been his main project) but I think our situation is a little different. I don't really know what I'm doing, plus I can't make up my mind. Some people call it "experimental", but I think the only experiment is to see what happens when I'm left alone in the studio for six months...
WHAT COLOR WAS THE BLOOD - Detroit is such a heavy scene with a hundred years (300) of extreme history hanging over my head and there's this park called Eliza Howell Park and when I was growing up in the 1970's I always heard that this was where you went to buy drugs. Legend has it that one spring day the Detroit Police Department raided Eliza Howell in conjunction with the National Guard with a hundred officers, trucks, and thirteen helicopters. They arrested three hundred people that day. (I have interviewed numerous older folks around town and searched newspaper archives and haven't been able to verify any of the previous facts other than that the Detroit Police regularly used helicopters in the seventies.)
OH MISS FLOWER - We spent most of last year on travelling: we did tours with Low and Arab Strap, played at SXSW, held a peace conference, headlined our own US tour, and did a bunch of shows in Europe. We started recording as soon as we got home. Usually I like to take a year or two off to fully recover before trying to record again. This song is about seeing a window halfway open as an invitation.
PUT IT IN YOUR MIND - This song is about the trouble that you encounter when you always misinterpret other people's "invitations."
SANGAREE - Not the Leadbelly song of the same name. This song is about looking for answers in the wrong places, sweet places, fermented places.
INTRA ULTRA - This is the intro to the next song
COME OUT THE WILDERNESS - Last year I got a small grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and helped organize a week long peace conference called Come Out the Wilderness in New York City. We had a peace walk, a midnight bell jam, some boring speeches, and a couple cool concerts. Plus we had free bracelets that you can't take off without a pair of pliers!!!
WHEN YOU FALL FOR SOMEONE - Did you ever hear Dinosaur Jr's album, Bug? This is sorta of an answer song to "They Always Come" - its about when you fall for someone who's not your own. (Not the Lonnie Johnson song of the same name).
COME TO ME - This is the same song as the first song, Youngblood, but with an army of electric kalimbas and saxophones on your side.
HIS NAME IS ALIVE has been described at various phases of their career as beautiful, mystifying, and "the band that gave Tom Cruise a nervous breakdown!!!" What began as experimental basement folk (acoustic guitar + loops + girl) eventually went on to sell 100,000 records with famed British label 4AD. Collaborations with legendary filmmakers THE BROTHERS QUAY resulted in two truly amazing and dark installments in the STILLE NACHT series. HNIA's appearance in Cameron Crowe's JERRY MAGUIRE film brought the band some mainstream recognition and helped boost sales of the soundtrack album way past platinum!!! This latest album was recorded in Detroit by longtime member WARN DEFEVER, who has spent the last couple years recording and remixing other like-minded artists such as BLANCHE, TAMION12INCH, SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME, NOMO, LOW, THE VONBONDIES, IDA, ELIZABETH MITCHELL, YOKO ONO and demos for IGGY AND THE STOOGES!!!