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Meeting Themselves
Broken Hearts Are Blue Meeting Themselves Punk Rock Theory
Saturday, February 3, 2024 - 09:14
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Originally established in late 1995, the one-time Kalamazoo, Michigan indie band Broken Hearts Are Blue regrouped in 2018 to release three previously unrecorded songs (Here Is Always Nowhere, Late Night, Walnut Street, Rustbelt Sunsets), plus a brand new one (Murder Mysteries). The experience of writing and recording after more than two decadesspurred the geographically dislocated four-piece to continue to develop and share demos from their homes in Los Angeles, Alameda, Minneapolis, and Kalamazoo. Over the following five years, the band has surpassed their original production, releasing the seven-song Goodbye Bunny Smith in 2020 and the twelve-track Dark Whimsy and Soft Surrealismin 2021.

Their new album Meeting Themselves was recorded in the summer of 2023 at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone studio in Oakland. Meric Long (The Dodos) served as engineer and producer, while Bay Area multi-instrumentalists Yea-Ming Chen (Yea-Ming and the Rumours) and Anna Hillburg (Shannon and The Clams, Will Sprott, Shannon Shaw and her All Star Buddy Band) were brought in to add their unique flair to several tracks.

The record's first single 'The French Major' is the most narratively driven track on Meeting Themselves, and one that leans into Gage’s weakness for gallows humor and fated characters. Thematically, the tune draws upon the notion of the inescapable, with the troubled type focused on their inability to exercise agency over their life. It all comes into colorful specificity and focus through the short life of a young undergraduate known to the narrator as Blue, legally coupled to Maud, but who may even be a callback to an earlier ballad, Goodbye Bunny Smith. The protagonist has found the “hallowed halls” of college life grueling to navigate. She finds the dense theories of Marx imposing and disconnected from her interior tussles with the self, choosing instead, to retreat into a symbol of the nostalgic and soothing—Judy Blume’s classic Superfudge. Why slog through dialectical materialism and the Grundrisse, when what Maud really craves is to live out loud the messiest of her feelings and desires? Musically, it is a sneering, Spector-tinged pop song, fuzzed up and slathered with a thick coat of reverb that helps to conjure a spry buoyancy that neutralizes the grim storyline.

These are Broken Hearts Are Blue’s autumn days. And where the sprawling DWSS, whose creation was largely the by-product of a global pandemic, sought a retreat from the external world of disease and political inanity towarda dense, referential landscape littered with cultural signposts, Meeting Themselves exhibits a lighter touch—a truce with what is to come as Generation X seniors.

From their start in 1995, when they occupied a place in a culture that included then contemporaries Braid, The Promise Ring, Mineral, Christie Front Drive, Jejune, and Jimmy Eat World, the band’s signature consistency has been its refusal to stay consistent. Their idiosyncratic catalog reflects an enduring preoccupation with exploring the rock and roll form, filling in its near-exhausted but still nimble outline with inspired compositions filled with colorful intertextuality, gallows humor, and personal allusions to place and past. Ever since their debut album, The Truth About Love (1997, Caulfield Records), their songs have vacillated between styles, tempos, emotional textures, and indie rock influences.