Curtis McMurtry “Toothless Messiah”

Independent, 2021

Artwork for Curtis McMurtry's 'Tootless Messiah'

A mysterious, haunting and powerful album that deals with a pessimistic view on life

Artwork for Curtis McMurtry's 'Tootless Messiah'The sinister and mysterious LP, ‘Toothless Messiah‘, from Austin resident Curtis McMurtry, is a brilliant take on dictatorship, oppression and greed, with the overarching pessimistic outlook on what life has become. McMurtry’s album includes a wide variety of styles that enable him to tell the brief stories of different people’s views on the world in the state of its current destruction with great effect.

The album starts with the sound of rain, rattling on a tin roof as McMurtry begins to speak as if a preacher in a post-apocalyptic world: ‘How are you adjusting to the new regime?’, he asks us. The song itself, ‘1/27/17’, is a reference to the executive order 13769, in which Trump reduced the number of refugees allowed to enter the USA. The song is a call for resistance and is a brilliant way to start this powerful album.

The album is full of a pessimistic attitude to modern society, and this is seen clearly in two tracks: ‘Food On The Table’ and ‘You Need Me to Betray You’. Both feature poignant moments, with the former having beautiful harmonies from excellent cellist and vocalist Diana Burgess, which creates this wonderfully mysterious sound, and the latter featuring powerful lyrics about the anger of today’s generation: ‘My teachers taught me not to trust my teachers.’

Praise Caesar’ offers the one voice of optimism throughout the album and has a very different feel to it. McMurtry’s style choice is clever here, with this change in style signalling the change in feelings towards the world. The song itself is a standout with brilliant jazz and pop vibes to it. The use of muted horns work perfectly throughout as well.

Overall, McMurtry’s album is an absolute success. Incorporating a variety of different styles into his music, McMurtry achieves the diversity needed to stand-out in today’s music, from the slow-spoken track of ‘1/27/17’ to the title and fast-jamming track, ‘Toothless Messiah’. For me it is ‘Saltwood’, one of the lyric-less songs that stands out the most, managing to evoke such deep emotion, despite not having any lyrics- you feel like you know exactly, like in every song, what McMurtry’s trying to get across.

The album finishes with a return to rain on the roof in the form of the lullaby, ‘Flowers Through The Stone’, whose final lines describe great perseverance: ‘so like the pines that fuel the embers/ we resign ourselves to burn / to the fire we surrender / from the ashes we return’. It is a message of hope from McMurtry to go alongside his album of despair, and it is nice to see that he believes that there will be a better future somewhere down the line.

A mysterious, haunting and powerful album

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Joe Mama

I just listened to this guy on NPR (PUBLIC RADIO), and oh man this guy just spoke through me on subatomic levels. I’ve found a new favourite artist.