Consonant: Consonant


Breaking up is hard to do--but writing a song about said split seems surprisingly easy. Indeed, singers have penned their postmortem relationship miseries for decades, and to much acclaim. But Neil Sedaka's little pat on the shoulder still lacks a certain punch, don't you think? Admit it: "What Is This Thing Called Love?" sounds much more convincing coming from Wire's point-blank Colin Newman--who borrowed the theme for Pink Flag's "Feeling Called Love"--than it does from, say, Frank Sinatra. Punks need love, too.

And so does Consonant's Clint Conley, who handily reinvents the breakup genre with an ironic song title, "Post-Pathetic," on the band's lovelorn debut. With these two little words (or one hyphenated word, as you prefer), Conley has hereby condensed every Elvis Costello and David Gedge album into a handy subsection at your local record store, and added Consonant to it. Self-destructive and cathartic, Consonant riffs on Blood and Chocolate's early verses, situating itself somewhere within the personal detonation of "I Want You." Conley wants you back, too. Yet unlike Costello, the stalker outside your window at 2:00 a.m., Conley is that achingly earnest voice on the other end of the telephone. When he offers you his broken heart, as he does on "Not Like Them," well, you take it.

Disjointed and disgruntled, his small declarations of post-postadolescent lust and devotion are parlayed into mature love songs. And his scribbled composition-book verse complements an equally hazy malaise of guitar. "What's he have that I don't got?/What's he getting that I'm not?" Conley intones on "Call it L---." And on the fragmented "Who Touches You Now?" he plaintively states, "Maybe we happened/And maybe we didn't at all." Not only content to mope over lovers, Conley also playfully reminisces about his days with seminal East Coast punks Mission of Burma (whose guitarist Roger Miller also contributes to the album), and gives Consonant bandmates Matt Kadane and Chris Brokaw some friendly admiration with references to their other project, the New Year. Each of these affectionate acts is further testament to that widely discussed emotion that remains ultimately undefined: Call it devotion, call it pathos, call it l---.

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