Veritas est Rock

Paul Karner

It is typically an unfortunate event when rock musicians turn to the concept album as a means to consolidate their self-perceived musical prowess, often in a vain attempt to be taken seriously as artists. The concept album was once the “Winterreise” of modern songwriters, but over the past ten years it seems they’ve devolved into a tiny footnote in the liner notes or some rumor circling through blogs and online journals. In a music culture dominated by singles and hooks, it seems natural for musicians to narrow their artistic scope. Recently, however, one man by the name of David Longstreth has brought a bit of dignity back to the concept album.
Longstreth is the obsessive mastermind behind The Dirty Projectors and their recent operatic album, “The Getty Address.” As a student at Yale, Longstreth had begun work on a number of orchestral arrangements for wind septet, women’s choir, and cello octet in February 2003. But by the time they were recorded in May, the obsessive musician was less than pleased. Longstreth soon got to work splicing up his own orchestrations, supplementing them with his disjointed guitar work and off-kilter beats in order to create the hour-long glitch opera that is “The Getty Address.”
The concept is a fanciful story revolving around the history of the Aztecs, the post 9-11 aftermath, and Don Henley from The Eagles. There’s no questioning the band’s integrity in keeping with the concept, as Longstreth offers a five-page downloadable synopsis of the story with corresponding track numbers on the band’s website. However, storyline aside, The Dirty Projectors have truly produced a collection of musical collages that are almost disconcerting in their ingenuity.
“The Getty Address” moves between the deconstructed sounds of sparse drum accompaniments to richly orchestrated backdrops while Longstreth’s soulful vocals flitter in and out of it all. There’s no comparison to be made with The Projectors in regards to the places they go musically, or even the overall sound of the album. referred to Longstreth’s music as “raceless,” which is perhaps the most apt compliment one could give the album. There are hints of rock, soul, Middle-Eastern, medieval chant, and even a little 20th century avant-garde classical all sewn together with a sort of beautiful indifference. The songs ultimately procure a musical sense that goes beyond the shortsighted ambitions of typical indie rock albums, leaving the listener helpless in trying to define their sound.
To put it into perspective, “The Getty Address” marks an uncharted musical island in a world of colonized genres and satellite artists that could only spur from the indiscriminate mind of a true artist. It is this kind of album that appears every so often to serve as an unadulterated standard against which lesser music seems to piddle away in embarrassment.