An introspective album exploring important and challenging subjects that never really takes off.
Sometimes you just know that there are going to be other people who absolutely love this album, even though, as a reviewer, you can’t really see it. And, on this occasion, this reviewer would love to like this album more than he does for the following two reasons.
Firstly, Rothman has some fantastic guests on ‘Good Morning America’. The current single. ‘Decent Man’, which, is the song that stands above the rest, features the sublime Lucinda Williams. Elsewhere we find Amanda Shires on ‘Thrash The West’ and Caroline Rose on ‘Breathe’. But the whole is irredeemably downbeat and conveys an air of disappointment. It may be partly down to Rothman’s vocals which barely rise above the whispered that sets this tone, as on ‘Glory’ which you think from the title may find some transcendence, but instead ‘your kids have kids/and repeat an endless cycle/and then when you die/does anyone really give a shit about/ all your glory’. There are moments on this track, however, that show something breaking through the curtains of darkness, such as the uplifting harmony vocals from Katie Pruitt. These moments tend to also coincide with Rothman’s voice breaking free into a more fully dynamic instrument and losing the hushed tones that dominate.
Secondly, the songs explore both the state of America and, more intimately, Rothman’s own childhood experience as gender fluid in suburban America. ‘Not A Son’ discusses their experience coming out to their parents as genderqueer and is followed by the poignant ‘Homesick’ addressing concepts of ‘home’. There is a depth of introspection and renewal here which Rothman summarises as a world changed in a post-Trump, post-pandemic way “where you don’t have to check a male or female box ever again and bands can sound like Tom Petty and Anohni on the same record.”
It sounds like it should be stunning in its originality. But the record, sadly, sounds like the occasional bits of Nick Cave where he stops being arresting and unusual and instead slides into banality and obscurantism.
For some, ‘Good Morning, America’ will feature on their best albums of 2021; but it could do with more lightness to temper the darkness.