Wednesday, March 13, 2024

MOTU: “Acceding To The Apocalypse” (2024) CD Review

MOTU is the project and stage name of Richard Michelson, and it stands for Music Of The Universe. Richard Michelson plays a variety of instruments on his new album, Acceding To The Apocalypse, including acoustic guitar, electric guitar, dobro, pedal steel, bass, keyboards and harmonica. Like his 2023 release, The Water Is High, this new album features all original material, written, arranged and mastered by Michelson. And as on that earlier release, here he is joined by his wife Dee Michelson on vocals, and by Ed Modzel on drums. He is also joined this time by Rich Fry on vocals and guitar.

The album opens with “The Cost,” which eases in gently, that vibe working in an almost eerie way with those first images of traffic on the highway and the line “Drivers in a trance seem lost.” Those first lines are particularly effective for those of us living in Los Angeles and other areas where traffic has become a normal part of existence. Soon he asks, “What is the cost?” And the song builds from there, turning to other areas of what has become modern life, and featuring some pretty backing vocal work and nice percussion. This track also features some good guitar work toward the end. “How much have we lost?” That’s followed by “Love Is All We Need.” A lonely guitar begins this one, and the song soon takes on a heavier sound, with a blues rock vibe. The guitar is the song’s voice for the first few minutes, and even as it rises, there is a sense of melancholy about it. Then, after three minutes, the vocals come in. “A place where truth is free/A place where eyes can see/Love is all we need.” Yet the darker, heavier vibe remains, giving the impression that love will not conquer all, at least no time soon. It’s an interesting song, for even on lines like “The war for love can be won/One day peace will come/We’ll all live as one/And love is all we need,” there isn’t a lot of optimism in the delivery. Yes, we need love. But will we get it?

I love the electric guitar work near the beginning of “Too Much,” and wish that opening section went on a little longer. The song’s first lines are effective: “Too many questions makes a man insane/Too many answers can shut down his brain/Too much of everything makes you complain/That too many problems will just cause you pain/Too much confusion from too much news.” This is a time when there is just too much going on that we are supposed to pay attention to. Too many people talking, too many people lying, too much rubbish being shoved in our faces. It’s a wonder that we haven’t all just completely shut down. “Too little love when there’s much to despise/Too little truth when there are so many lies.” Yes. Some people seem to subsist on lies, on garbage, and maybe they’re the sane ones after all, for they are able to turn what is terrible somehow to their advantage, at least in their minds. This is one of my personal favorites from this album. Then “When Your Smile Has Left The Room” has a gentler, sweeter vibe. “But so much is gone/But I linger on/When your smile has left the room.”

The guitar turns bluesy again for “A Test Of Our Love,” and MOTU announces in the first line, “Life is pain.” Yes, but that’s not all it is. “Life is sort of/A test of our love,” Richard Michelson sings, but something about his delivery, and about the sound of this track, seems hopeful, even positive. “Nothing can be clear/We hear what we want to hear/No tears left to get rid of/A test of our love.” That’s followed by “You’re Just A Pile Of Crap,” another of the disc’s highlights. I love that raw bluesy guitar that begins this track, setting a cool tone. Even before the lyrics begin, just that title creates the image of a certain person in our minds. “Lots of lies, but no facts/We can see through your trap/You’re just a pile of crap/Think too much of yourself/Not much of everyone else/Directing everyone to cheer and clap/You’re just a pile of crap.” I love the delivery of that title line. It is clear to anyone with eyes and ears and hearts that Donald Trump is just a pile of crap. What’s bewildering to me is that there are millions of people who adore him. What is it they adore? He has no redeeming qualities, not even one, and that is some kind of feat. Seriously, he is completely devoid of any and all positive qualities. This song is straightforward, the message not couched in any flowery language, and I love it. I also love the harmonica work.

And nothing, nothing here seems real/I’m looking for answers.” I love how “I’m Looking For Answers” moves slowly, fitting for that search for answers, and giving it a haunted feel. In one verse, this song addresses mass shootings, how politicians offer thoughts and prayers, “But do nothing and don’t even care.” If the horrors at Sandy Hook weren’t enough to effect change, then change will likely never happen. What we have to hope for, sadly, is that the children of all Republican politicians will be victims of gun violence. That is the only way those politicians will entertain a solution to the problem. It has to touch them personally. This song is another of the album’s gems. It’s followed by “I Can’t Be Denied.” There is some cool, raw work on harmonica at the beginning of this one. “I’m a man, yeah, and I can’t be denied,” we hear, and we wonder where he might be going with this one. “You’re my woman, yeah, so make me satisfied.” This track has that classic vibe, and so the lyrics could certainly be in earnest, as they fit with older songs of that style, that sound, that vibe, but it could also be a comment on that very thing. Either way, the track features some excellent work on guitar.

“Acceding To The Apocalypse,” the album’s title track, comes on with a cool punk energy, particularly in that bass work, and becomes a good, hard-driving blues tune, the album’s only instrumental track. The album then concludes with “History Repeats Itself,” another strong number. “Only a fool thinks power can bring happiness/A hole in his heart where his soul used to rest/Anger brings confusion as he lies to himself/Ignorant of the past, history repeats itself.” And, yes, we are again talking about an ignorant, racist ex-game show host that somehow became president of the United States. One of the scariest things about Trump is that he has no curiosity about anything. He’s probably never read a book in his life. But scarier than that is that even after his attempt at overthrowing this nation’s democracy, many citizens support him. They crave a dictator. What has gone wrong with people? Well, it’s something that went wrong before, and this song takes us to November 1923, when there was a failed coup attempt by Adolf Hitler. “An autocrat only ever cares about himself/Ignorant of the past, history repeats itself.”

CD Track List

  1. The Cost
  2. Love Is All We Need
  3. Too Much
  4. When Your Smile Has Left The Room
  5. A Test Of Our Love
  6. You’re Just A Pile Of Crap
  7. I’m Looking For Answers
  8. I Can’t Be Denied
  9. Acceding To The Apocalypse
  10. History Repeats Itself

Acceding To The Apocalypse is scheduled to be released on March 29, 2024.

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