MJ LENDERMAN – ” Boat Songs “

Posted: May 8, 2022 in MUSIC

Lenderman plays guitar in the twangy shoegaze troupe Wednesday, and while the lyrical references in Boat Songs are not literary like his bandmate Karly Hartzman’s, they are employed with a similar economy. His holy trinity is basketball, professional wrestling, and Jackass, considerably “lower brow” vessels for entertainment compared to the flash fiction and poetry allusions of Wednesday. This, of course, sets up an interesting intra-band dynamic: Lenderman as the everyman foil singing ditties about sports, toilet humour, and bodily harm to Hartzman’s artier, dream-addled approach.  

The 10 tracks of countrified indie rock sound primed to soundtrack plenty of beer-battered sessions.

Elsewhere, Lenderman uses all two minutes and 16 seconds of the opening “Hangover Game” to debunk a legendary NBA rumor. Don’t get it twisted, “The Last Dance” was fun and all, but there’s no conspiracy as to why Michael Jordan had a fever on that fateful night in June of ’97. Hell, he loves drinking too. For that matter, why don’t we ever think about the toll all those steroids and pratfalls take on wrestlers? “TLC Cage Match” reminds us that they aren’t gods, just regular people like you and me, with families and dreams, Lenderman has other things on his mind besides what was on the TV during recording sessions. “Toon Town” is supposedly a holdover from a scrapped metal album, but it’s the jilted “SUV” that houses the record’s sludgiest riffs, brings a Mascis-sized solo out of him before a breakdown segues into the bad luck sermon “Under Control.”

Best of all might be the tour travelogue “You Have Bought Yourself a Boat.” Detailing bug bites and freshly cleaned clothes drying out in the back of the van, its rootsy shuffle is infectious while Lenderman and company battle the elements on the road. 

There’s something refreshing in the plainspoken way Lenderman sings and performs these songs. His backing band The Wind plays them straight with no irony, just pedal steel, pump organ, and a little Southern swing to support the white-hot distorted guitars. All of this is to say that Boat Songs is country in approach, but indie rock by means of marketing. Lenderman has namechecked acts like Bob Dylan, The Band, Warren Zevon, and Johnny Paycheck in prior interviews, and his recent cover of Drive-By Truckers was so complimentary the band snuck Wednesday into a recent show when they played neighbouring venues.

Boat Songs” is a triumph in any sense of the word, but it’s a true victory for a certain strain of indie rock fan. Aligning oneself with sports, suds, and Sparklehorse.

MJ Lenderman’s ‘Boat Songs,’ available everywhere 29th April via Dear Life Records

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