The Organ: Grab That Gun

The Organ
Grab That Gun
Mint Records

Press play for a catchy tune, which then begins. After a tentative while, an equally tentative female voice joins in, wandering forward, in between the instruments' sounds, which jump a step closer upon the first utterance, like a flinch. It goes: "Here we go/They're back again/Look alive/Warn your friends." The girls are back in town. But they're not so sure who these "friends" are, even among themselves, or the subsection from which they define a band, or the parameters within which it's all just a song. Seeking traction, the voice draws resolve from hearing its own sound: "We are warm/And we are safe/Enjoy it while you can/Before things change." By the chorus, that voice is a member of some band, if not this one, when it sings, "We have got to take"

The beginning of the Organ's Grab That Gun (and its opening track "Brother") channels some of the paranoid desperation of the Stones' "Gimme Shelter." But not any more than the music's ironically bouncy fatalism recalls the Smiths' finest attempts at uniting the dispossessed. It's a useful--and telling--contrast. The Rolling Stones' social conscience, after all, was only credible by virtue of Mick Jagger's unifying narcissism. But Morrissey's preternatural moan casts into doubt the idea that even his own bandmates--much less a society beyond them--will acknowledge him. For the Organ, this contrast is more than arbitrary. In fact, it's this album's sustaining conflict: Grab That Gun is soul music in search of a soul by way of a soul-searching audience. Or maybe it's music for the fashionless who wonder how it is they've suddenly been promoted to unfashionable.

If these songs speak to my soul, it's because I wonder, too. At the moment there's a wind of revivalism blowing from the recent past, and it may be swelling the Organ's sails, even while the band senses that it's shifting their course altogether. They remember that this wind used to howl through the mouths of corpses, and it sounded a lot like Morrissey. Howling from the mouths of young women like the Organ's Katie Sketch, it sounds like Debbie Harry. Still others just helpfully point out that it blows. But these folks' scorn is the bad conscience that comes from denying that this current is the very soul music of white suburbia. When the suburban diaspora grew up, people started to mistake '80s suburban soul music's success in communicating deadness for the belief that the genre always was dead, and always will be. That's why the Organ will probably be viewed as a part of the current '80s revival. But you can't discount the Organ as its own kind of soul music simply because it's from the wrong soul--either the wrong kind of soul, or the wrong way to long for one.

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