Separation Sunday is anything but an easy-listening album. When you’re faced with the decision of whether or not to listen to it, tread carefully. If you do, be prepared to be slung face first into an aural and psychological journey that’ll leave your brain hemorrhaging with admiration and confusion. At best, listen to it alone and learn to love it. Don’t bother convincing your friends to like it; I’ve been doing that since I first heard it, and am still waiting for someone to agree.
That being said, it’s undeniable that Craig Finn is a lyrical genius, and he is accompanied by a group of equally talented musicians. As a band, they are tighter than those Bonds undies that come in an array of crazy colour combinations, and their music screams for attention. Their second album, Separation Sunday, is an artwork EVERYONE should familiarize themselves with.
On the one hand, the album follows the story of Hallelujah, a teenage sometimes-Christian and her interactions with a vast array of drugs and shady characters like Charlemagne (a pimp) and Gideon: “Holly wore a cross to ward them off/she said if they think you’re a Christian then they wont bring in the dogs”.
Finn uses his wickedly descriptive writing to narrate various scenes that few could relate to: “I was waiting for my ride and I got jumped from behind, I got punctured/ I got stopped by the cops and they found it in my socks and I got probed.”.
On top of that, there’s the overwhelming use of literary techniques, such as the assonance in “Holly wore a string around her finger/ she says it helps her to remember, all the nights that we got over / and besides, it ties her outfit all together” that you’ll probably notice on your third listen (if you bother).
And, just in case the mix of storytelling narrative and complex literature hasn’t already blended your brain into a thick soup, then Finn sprinkles it all with some biblical imagery; “ I guess I heard about original sin, I heard the dude blamed the chick I heard the chick blamed the snake/And I heard they were naked when they got busted, and I heard things ain’t been the same since”.
But, none of it would work if it weren’t for the union of the band. The combination of Finn’s voice (that sounds as if he was being spat out by a drunk skater who just got punched in the lip), the distorted guitar and thundering bass and drums suit the lyrics perfectly. It all comes together in a huge blues/punk/doo wop fusion that makes you wonder whether any of the songs were rehearsed, or are just improvised.