Hemingway, Potato Salad, Ken Bone & “The Lovely Grind” (REVIEW)

Leava challenges the notion of celebrity in his finest work yet, The Lovely Grind.

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Everett singer-songwriter Simon Nicol has always been a cryptic indie rocker. His highly personal but deeply veiled lyrics and smoldering performances have been a hallmark of his existence as a musician thus far. But in his newest release, Nicol bares his musical aggression — with angsty riffs and urgent drums propelling the two tracks — and lyrical awareness, criticizing celebrities of the social media age.

The first track, “Caffeine & Fashion,” at first seems like the cry of a desperate artist, but Nicol turns the song’s meaning on its head when he decries his efforts as “just caffeine and fashion.” He recognizes that, in the end, the pursuit of celebrity and self-worth is misguided striving.

The following track, “Impressive Waste,” solidifies this idea, opening with the lyric “The burst is coming, and what’s the point?” The rest of the song explores the shallow and contrived nature of pop culture stardom, ending with poetic impressions of a funeral and the refrain “You don’t mean anything, do you?”

It’s hard for an artist — or anyone — to reconcile with the truth of our eventual demise and cosmic worthlessness. Some cope by rejecting this truth and embracing blind optimism and saccharine naivety. Others lose themselves in a rabbit hole of nihilism and depression. In The Lovely Grind, Leava strikes an Ecclesiastical balance. While there aren’t really any rays of sunshine in this release, its critical atmosphere isn’t overpowering or self-indulgent.

This balance is aided by the shortness of the release, which almost begs to be called an EP despite its two-track runtime. It’s a coherent statement, not just a split single of two loosely related songs. In fact, it even brings to mind Hemingway’s legendary “shortest short story” in the sense of its brevity and clarity.

In closing, it seems (strangely) appropriate to reflect on potato salad and Ken Bone:

In July 2014, a Kickstarter creator under the username Zack “Danger” Brown launched a project with a $10 funding goal and the description, “I’m making potato salad.” This project quickly became an internet phenomenon, raising over $50,000 in the one-month funding period. The creator and the project received a lot of press, even from major media outlets.

In a likewise manner, an undecided voter from Illinois stole the show at the second 2016 presidential debate. Ken Bone, with his now-iconic red IZOD sweater and disposable camera, quickly developed an widespread ironic appreciation, bordering on a cult following.

Brown and Bone offered little to enrich popular culture. They came out of nowhere and met an unceremonious end. Brown’s follow-up campaign was declined a spot on Kickstarter, and it floundered on Indiegogo. The spotlight quickly diverted from Bone when his uncouth Reddit history was revealed. The two achieved the status of celebrity, but their very fame was a mere celebration of mediocrity, destined to end in failure and disgrace.

The Lovely Grind is Leava’s most passionate and immediate work, and “Impressive Waste” may be the best song Nicol has ever recorded. But most importantly — like these stories of salads and sweaters — the release is a necessary reminder that the biggest and smallest of names all meet the same end.

Leava will release The Lovely Grind on March 18th with a show at the Central Saloon also featuring Boots to the Moon, Verlaine, and Campion. You can stream “Caffeine & Fashion” below.

 

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