Music Blues is the alias of Harvey Milk's bassist Stephen Tanner. Harvey Milk aren't exactly big balls of sunshine, yet Things Haven't Gone Well trumps their discography for sheer boot-in-the-gut, wrenching anguish. At least, initially.

Written and recorded after the death of a friend, Things Haven't Gone Well is rock stretched to its absolute limit. Sometimes that turns rock into doom with the same crushing tone of Harvey Milk's most miserable moments. Other times it becomes drone. It kind of sounds like a ZZ Top or Crazy Horse LP slowing to a stop. Things Haven't Gone Well often feels like depression.

Things Haven't Gone Well is a rare work evoking the distinct qualities of depression without coming off as maudlin. It does this mainly through inertia, accurately capturing the long slog of sadness. Tanner gets that real grief might be punctuated by breakdowns, but those periods are spaced between hours/days/weeks spent numbly starring off into nothingness. Things Haven't Gone Well is caught in that fog of being a step or two out of sync with the rest of the world. And because things have decelerated, Tanner has the time to find death lurking everywhere.

The video for "The Great Depression" is like a black hole that only eats joy. It also defines depression, the darker side when your filters have been removed and you only recognize life's futility. The video contrasts mindless entertainment and titillation with real scenes of death. It suggests that the end is inescapable and omnipresent, no matter how far you distance yourself from it. And "The Great Depression" is right and that leaves you feeling queasy. Music Blues expose your nerves, stripping away artifice, and showing you reality in all its harshness. You feel death, even if just for a second. But, conversely, that kind of makes you feel alive.

"The Great Depression" appears on Music Blues' Things Haven't Gone Well. The album will be released August 26 by Thrill Jockey Records and it's available for preorder now.

— Ian Chainey


Warning: This video contains scenes you may find disturbing.


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