Click to hear: “Cleopatras”
As a source of steady income for rock musicians in Portland, working as a caregiver for people with mental disabilities is second only to working at Sonny’s/Local 188. Many of the most gifted players and songwriters in the indie scene drive short buses and go bowling during the day with their charges. (There’s an ironic quip to make here about the idiocy and injustice of the music industry, but it’s better left unsaid.)
One of those savants is Tyler DeVos of the band Ginlab. Forget, Forget is a side project that evolved from a Cover to Cover gig for which Ginlab collaborated with other musicians to play the Arcade Fire album Funeral. A septet, Forget, Forget includes three guitarists (lead singer DeVos, as well as Hamilton Mckay Belk and John Nels Blanchette, both of whom also contribute vocals and synth), bassist Dominic Grosso, drummer Aaron LaChance, and two women, Patia Maule and Johanna Sorrell, who play violin and cello, respectively, and sing.
The result is a richly textured sound, a mix of electric and acoustic instruments and male and female voices that complement one another in wonderful ways. The hooks are subtle, barely there on first listen, but they grow with repeated exposure into mighty pretty things.
The first two tracks are fine examples of the group’s instrumental interplay. “Cleopatras” is thick with chiming and churning guitars girded by strings that rise to the surface during the quieter sections. Belk’s banjo is a bright presence throughout “Double Meanings,” even when the guitars whip up an electrical storm. The mix by Howard Bilerman at Hotel2Tango Studio in Montreal (where Arcade Fire and other notables have worked) is impeccable.
DeVos’ adept and honest voice harmonizes well with the ladies’, and when the women get a chance to take the lead or share it, as on the beautiful ballad “Two People” and the edgy “Ex-Husband,” you realize, Damn, this band is deep.
DeVos used his day job at a group home for mentally ill adults as a source of inspiration and material for We Are All. As he told Emily Burnham of the Bangor Daily News’ Culture Shock blog last spring, he cribbed the remarks of schizophrenic patients for the lyrics of these singular songs.
“People with psychosis often speak in their own kind of language, in these metaphors that are their own natural form of communication with its own kind of meaning,” DeVos said. But, he added, “in some ways, what they are dealing with and what they are saying are kind of relatable on a basic level.”
Indeed, the loneliness, horniness, confusion and alienation expressed in these songs are familiar to anyone who is or was a teenager, though the lyrics are much more challenging than the pabulum mainstream radio feeds our young these days.
“They won’t let us talk to girls / and girls are Cleopatras,” that song’s chorus goes. “They’re making me turn my music down / and they wanna steal my speakers / They hate us when we masturbate / They are needles in my sneakers.” And then there are lines like these, from “Two People”: “You are two people / One of you was raped when you were just a girl … You, you are two people / One of you told me I was beautiful.”
“You’re a fucker, you’re a faggot, and those girls hate you,” DeVos wails on “Synapses Crossing.” “You’re a god, you’re savoir, and everything is coming true.”
People, this is poetry, the finest kind. DeVos has managed to give voice to crazies most of society would rather never hear, while simultaneously tapping into feelings most everyone understands, and he does it all atop music of remarkable sophistication. It’s a very impressive feat that, lyrically, the band cannot, and should not, attempt again, but what they’ve given us on this excellent debut album is quite a lot. If you give it a chance, you’ll be listening to We Are All for many years to come.
— Chris Busby
Forget, Forget plays an album release show on Sat., Sept. 7, at One Longfellow Square (181 State St., Portland), with openers Rural Ghosts and These Animals, at 8 p.m. Tix: $7-$10 (all ages). For more on the band, visit forgetforgetmusic.com.