Logan Lynn – Adieu
Wrapped inside a striking, bleak cover image, carved into blood red vinyl, and with a full page of liner notes explaining its fascinating, tragic exegesis, Logan Lynn’s double album released near the end of 2016 is the defiant, insistent & powerful work of a years’ long incubating process, a thoughtful self-interrogation that pulls light out of darkness and healing out of grief, addiction and pain with subtlety, nuance, humor, and lively melodies.
“You should have been careful with my love.”
Lynn’s 8th record is a fully present, stripped down major work that is still full of Lynn’s signature steady beats and catchy refrains that pull you forward, easing the listener with an unexpected warmth, the humanity of shared experience, the shrug of “we’re all just doing our best” and the soft place to land of friendship. And it’s needed. He journeys through his own rhythms and harmonies and in the great tradition of the sharpest smart pop music from The Smiths and Morrissey to The Beautiful South (a few of our touchstones, of so many others you might conjure) and Lynn navigates the darkness and pain of the recent and distant past with an electropop crackle, a captain’s knack, never rocking us overboard into darkness, but instead, turning what could be a shocking bolt of frigid water into a gentle sea spray.
But let’s go back a bit. The liner notes are a diary, a letter and a battle cry for survival. With the honesty and plainness that is key to healthy growth, Lynn speaks of deep wounds old and new, loss, depression, addiction and heartbreak, of a long period working to health and sobriety and redefining one’s life through art. There is so much being unpacked here on one sheet that the double disc demanded to be given a few weeks of reflection before attempting to write on it. The subject matter is a good match for the vinyl format, which makes us slow down, pay attention and consider music as an entire package, in this case a Christmas season parcel arriving in the snail mail from another coast.
Music on vinyl is never really background, because every four songs or so you’ll have to get up and flip the record. This tiny detail separates life in the digital age from that of our childhoods (for those who remember) as much as any other aspect. Its insistence and its need is a feature and not a hassle, as we’ve lived through all the formats until music almost became something flat and static and valueless for awhile, when we let something as critically important as music become an intangible file among lesser bits of data on machines for the sake of portability. As if it were containable within machines. Art and music is alive, it’s supposed to have weight, heft. It’s pretty indestructible, even, it’s tough as shit, it turns out. Like human beings. Like survivors. The oppositional force of big ‘ol records versus the convenience of digital music is in this difference, and these important oppositional forces are why the most innovative, boldest artists of today like Logan Lynn understand all of this and communicate clearly through the many and different channels, formats and routes where music lives today. There is vision and clarity, pride and focus that resonates through these beats, and we think, always did, despite the personal darkness and pain that accompanied or hampered the music releases of the past.
Produced beautifully by Gino Mari and Logan Lynn, and at 15 tracks, the four sides flow easily and enjoyably, inviting an immediate return to favorites. And to newcomers, there’s a surprise inside all of this stark, blood-red imagery of the shell, like getting down to the core of an all-day sucker. Blood is the stuff of life, and it flows still. Artists live and create and bleed and heal and sacrifice their private selves for art in order to get up each day and overcome the darkest pulls inside too many of us, the dark dreams and cruel mothers and fathers that live inside our bone marrow, that we must live with and learn to mute while awake. When done this artfully, the musical effect resonates in joy and healing into countless other people who receive the messages.
Play and repeat.
Flip the record.
“Oh, Lucifer”, Adieu’s closer, is an infectious rallying cry, a party song, a bold act of resistance (there is even a bit of “my lucifer”) and a devil-may-care energy that is hard won and precious. It turns out that it’s even the perfect vehicle for a muppet-filled vision of hell as the ultimate death-disco where you can party with Lynn, David Bowie, Freddy Mercury and George Michael, the reward awaits if you can just get past that maniac Trump, beautifully fabricated in a muppet whose creators have captured the precise, particular fraudulence of Trump in a ball cap that, sadly, fooled too many. (The video is genius, and was released just in time for the day the world won’t soon forget, January 20th 2017.)
In the background are lovers and friends who needed to go, and in the foreground is a tribute to man’s best friend who will ever be missed, the best friends who stay rooted in our hearts like a layer of fur, with no regrets, despite the pain of loss and blackness of their sometimes bad ends. Lynn has looked, unflinchingly, in the pre-dawn sleepless hours, at the facets of his pain and regrets and through a slow process of audio note taking, built, file by file and then brick by brick, a monumentous structure called simply, Adieu. Logan Lynn illustrates the deft, careful movement from shadows and isolation to creation and productivity that he’s designed through his years as a musician by honouring his dog in this latest vinyl, the centre picture his face spinning round and round, there he is, look at him.
And he’s a cover star, Dutch is. And what first is so unsettling, the cover image, looked at another way, is accepted because while full of pain, it’s symbolic and not literal. Wouldn’t we all do the same thing for our animals and those we love, open a vein for them if it would save them? It’s blood-red love. It’s limitless, boundary-less, life and death-defying love. It’s proud and it doesn’t care if you approve of its shape, its message or its boldness. It’s sobering and it’s sober. And it’s done with a lot of forethought: Logan Lynn has been both a prolific maker of music out of Portland, Oregon, one of the most challenging, rainiest corners of the world, a notable LGBT activist and in mental health advocacy, founding the “Keep Oregon Well” Campaign to fight mental health and addiction stigma through the arts.
“Wandering the Kingdom” begins with a melody that should resonate with all the lapsed and rejected kids of heavy religious upbringings, and we are legion. There’s something in there of the church, of the hymn, the call and repeat that prescribed joy through song no matter what bad sinners we all still are at the end of the sermon. But it’s the kind of sermon we never heard much – it’s true testimony, that pivotal growth moment of an adult looking back on the child he was, and the failings of not the tainted self, finally but instead a clear eyed and brave look at “the father” in all his forms. Religious kids usually have at least two fathers dictating their growth and instruction. Here, on side three, the listener is at last primed to get down to brass tacks:
“I was born to a prophet, who had fallen to his knees”
but “I am strong”
there is emotion here allowed to finally spill out in the vocal, the music slowing and some precise melancholy to season the record that up until now has moved along at a gallop, no matter what the subject matter (including love, sex, and the risky kinds of both things) and the change reminds us that blood red is the colour of healthy blood, not the clotted kind that can kill us in our sleep.
Music reviewers who completed their 2016 best of lists prematurely should give Lynn’s Adieu consideration for 2017. Years and beginnings and ends are arbitrary, anyway, as this mature work tells us, music and love exist outside such constraints.
By Jacqueline Howlett Photos by Dave MacIntyre