Every review I write is a quivering pile of jelly, and
with every ill-informed take, I sling another batch on an ooze mountain
which is certain to eventually collapse, trapping me in its slimy prison,
deafening in a crashing cacophony of colour.
I can’t blame Omar Rodriguez-Lopez for my stinking brain problem, it’s probably  London life.
Now that I’m halfway finished with this project, the goalposts favour me.
(and now I have ‘Moving the Goalposts’ by Billy Bragg in my head)
but best get back to the fannydangle,
because if I am constantly distracted, I’ll never understand what I’m trying to say.
Though if I had mah druthers, y’all would be fixin’ to listen!
This record is a solid plank of chaos,
a whirling dervish providing a sturdy foundation;
while I listen, I belt my favourites in the honeyed style of Marlene Dietrich
(Bec, sometimes I do wonder for your sanity).
When this project is over, I’ll be both sad and relieved,
like a short-ass giant who finally reached the top shelf
Ultimately, this record is metaphysical
il a remis le couvert,
said the fork to the knife.
And without further ado, time to sling Killing Tingled Lifting Retreats onto the ooze mountain!

Day 8’s prompt for this year’s Na/GloPoWriMo was “Twenty Little Poetry Projects”, originally developed by Jim Simmerman; the challenge is to use all the prompts in one piece. This exercise immediately brought Killing Tingled Lifting Retreats to mind, because of all the word salad album titles ORL has gifted the world, this is the one I’m most convinced was lifted directly from a spam email. Therefore, opening with the above ‘poetic’ drivel directly aligns spiritually with how much sense that doesn’t make. In all honesty, I’m kind of bummed that Cosmic Jesus Hearst, the title given when 2017’s tranche of albums was announced, ultimately wasn’t chosen, but just knowing it was on the table does lift my spirits. 

Because the lyrics sure don’t; the cover appears to be presenting the proverbial lamb to the slaughter, ready for dressing with bitter herbs and served as resentment stew. It’s hard to imagine the material is anything other than deeply personal, not just because of the acerbic lyrics and frequently snotty cadence, but because of the quiet intensity of emotion, radiating break-up energy.

At times, this energy is just annoying, the kind I classify in the ‘whiny boy music’ genre (quite possibly my least favourite kind of this, when not discounting nasally country music with reactionary themes). “A Fool So Bleak” opens with an ominous beat, and the repetitive lyrics and music act as a harbinger for the rest of the album. Although I do appreciate it both textually and thematically and how it effectively increases in hostility, I’m not in love with the deliberate pause dragging out oh yes I did / I had to cut her / …loose to the point where I just want to skip it. Similarly, the self-pity boiling across “Paint Yourself a Saint” makes me roll my eyes so hard I get a tension headache, regrettably overwhelming Deantoni’s clicky beat and some admittedly clever wordplay. “Love Light” only gets interesting at the outro and struggles to hold my attention, the way you subconsciously tune out an irritating background phone call on public transport.

The landscape isn’t entirely bleak; “Tickle Tumor” is a perfectly cromulent amuse-bouche, injecting a bit of much-needed silliness. It’s deceptively gentle at times, and the vocals constructed of softly rounded vowels that throw a glancing blow at indie pop proffer more exasperation than violence. Thankfully this brief pivot from persecution to absurdity downgrades the overall threat to ‘minor implied’ from the ‘potential femicide’ of the previous track. In addition, the absence of vocal effects adds a humanising vulnerability and is a welcome progression from the previous mixing choices that often masked emotion with fuzziness on ORL’s neo-confessional lyrics.

KTLR’S raison d’être is the split track “Cassando La Luna” / “Oro”, a glorious re-arrangement of “Arcos del Amor” from Arañas en la Sombra. This version is significantly stripped and slowed down from its previous frenetic desperation. The first half measures out the plodding of a dying heart confessing its most selfish misdeeds in an almost detached tone, which paradoxically only intensifies the sorrow. The pace increases in the second half’s coda and gradually thickens the texture, with keyboards gradually developing like invisible ink to take us out with a reprise of the chorus.

“Bow Down Again” / “Or Make War” works in a similar way with two short tracks set in contrast with one another, but I wish there was more space for the guitar. “Don’t Let Us Breathe” is another peppy number centred on vocal and musical repetition that eschews traditional rhyme and assonance, concluding with some dadaist chanting of equations, and is a brilliant cipher for arguments that have become meaningless with time and distance, but still as passionate. “Wonder Kindly”, the smoothest and softest track, can’t end this album on anything but a downer given the circumstances, advising ‘I was always yours / could it be that you were always mine? / let us lay down tonight / to say a long goodbye’ and I can’t think of a better way to summarise everything preceding.

Like many breakup records, the songs here often feel like a protracted, one-sided argument. Lyrics that I might have either glossed over, made excuses for, or just not even noticed ten years ago now stand out in bright yellow highlighter; White Blood Cells got me through my divorce, but when I listen to it now, these same issues of toeing-the-line and outright misogyny are hard to ignore. I’m not dunking on self-pity, blame, venom, and projected guilt (the load-bearing walls of any break-up record), I just side-eye the content in a way I previously found easier to overlook, which makes it all more difficult to rep for this album. 

But in all honesty, my main beef is that KTLR just doesn’t rock hard enough, and I resent how shred-baited I feel. While I can’t praise “Cassando La Luna” / “Oro” enough, and appreciate how the lyrical and textual repetition accurately depicts the same fucking argument you have to have fifty times before you break up for real (this time we mean it), KTLR is not an album high on my rotation, in no small part because of the old ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ cliche. 

Track listing:
A Fool So Bleak
Tickle Tumor
Bow Down Again
Or Make War
Love Light
Paint Yourself a Saint
Cassando La Luna
Don’t Let Us Breathe
Wonder Kindly