Juliette Commagere | The Procession
Most Likely To: trouble the soul.
It seems that any time I’m suffering from insomnia and lying in bed unable to sleep but want nothing more than to do so, some joker at the radio station I’m listening to will decide to play Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again, Naturally.” Now I ask, under what circumstances would anyone ever want to hear that song at 3 A.M.? Tossing and turning during the wee hours of the morning is prime time for dark and dreadful thoughts, and who the hell needs Gilbert O’Sullivan rubbing it in?
Now Juliette Commagere, the keytar-goddess frontwoman of glam-rockers Hello Stranger – who has also lent keyboards, vocals, and general pulchritude to such disparate projects as The Bird and The Bee, the Tool offshoot Puscifer, and the I’ve-never-bothered-to-find-out-if-they’re-punk-or-metal Avenged Sevenfold – has released the long dark night of the soul The Procession, a work that stretches the feeling of hearing “Alone Again, Naturally” on a sleepless night to album length. As she herself expresses it, “From the corner of the bedroom, I can hear it breathe / hovering in the wings.” Gee, thanks for that, Cupcake. One more thing to have running through my mind next time I can’t sleep.
The Procession is a reasonably gorgeous album full of moody but pretty melodies, shimmering synths, fluttering guitars, and layers of Commagere’s words, sighs, and coos. Commagere would likely impale me with her keytar for saying this, but a lot of it puts me in mind of Enya, but I don’t mean anything negative by that. I remember how everyone thought “Orinoco Flow” was pretty damn cool when if first came out – it wasn’t until horrified hipsters started noticing that their spinster aunts had cassettes of Watermark in their cars that Enya was decisively booted out of the acceptable dream-pop camp and into the unacceptable New Age. Anyhow, songs like “You” and “The Foreigner” have a definite Enya vibe, but that’s not a bad thing.
If there’s one major weakness musically with The Procession, it’s that the back half of it (following the bust out almost dance-pop of “How I Look For You”) becomes a bit of a slog through rarely changing moods or tempos. The album could have used more songs like the deceptively chipper “Impact,” which seems to be an examination of emotional numbness brought on by a non-reaction to a marriage proposal, but it’s set to a perky, semi-tropical synth-pop bop.
In contrast to her brassy persona with Hello Stranger, Commagere solo is quite the introspective and perhaps just a wee bit glum soul. When she sings “There is a weight in me / a cinder block that is slowly sinking” on the opening track “Eats From the Inside,” she sounds like someone even Lisa Germano would tell to cheer the hell up. That the song breaks into a percussive sing-along chorus still doesn’t change the fact that the lyrics you’re singing along to are “it eats from the inside.”
Even the songs which are celebratory in their subject matter are shot through with an overwhelming melancholy. On “Plantsong,” Commagere rescues a fragile sapling before the onset of winter planning to replant it in the spring, and eventually a meditation on life becomes one on the passing of time and the eventual onset of old age and death. The epic closing track “Animal” celebrates the innocence of a newborn baby, and of course couples that with the realization that innocence won’t last.
The Procession is a very accomplished and lovely rumination on the passing of time and life and emotion and all that stuff. But like watching an old home movie and being confronted with the laughing image of a relative who’s recently passed on, it laces its pleasures with a huge helping of sadness and loss.
Listen to the Keepaway remix of “Impact” from Juliette Commagere: