MAURICE FLAVEL’S INTENSIVE CARE
Where will it end? asks Maurice Flavel at the end of the opening track of Heal Me, his band’s latest long player. The answer, of course, is no one knows, but, as Flavel is well aware, asking questions is never about getting answers.
Heal Me is introspection for the walking wounded…
Sounding like they were recorded in a hung-over Sunday morning haze of cigarette smoke, Heal Me is a collection of 10 atmospheric songs that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack for a Coen Brothers modern cowboy epic, one with a troubled cop chasing a crazed killer across a hot, dusty desert.
Grungy guitars and slow-paced beats are offset with celestial voices — dark counterpointed with light — and Flavel’s voice is all sucking ennui, menace and heartbreak, dragging you along with him on his journey by the scruff of your neck; but lovingly like a mother wolf, he may sing about harm, but he intends none. What Flavel’s music provides is nurturing for the broken-spirited masses who are stuck with him in the cave of life. Heal Me is the tentative flicker of a match, sparking hope as well as the possibility it will be snuffed out.
There’s a certain spacious aimlessness about the songs and arrangements on Heal Me. Case in point is ‘Cover Your Tracks’, which weighs in at 5:40 but feels like it runs for a full hour. The track peters out and then starts up again; what passes for a chorus is repeated and then repeated again … and again. With a lesser artist, this would consign their work to the status of self-indulgent shite. In Flavel’s hands, the monotony is thrilling in its audacity; the elongations and lack of brevity — no editing in sight — just add to the grinding existence the record documents. Everything about this record conspires together to take you with it on its downward spiral.
Heal Me should come packaged with instruments of self-harm and self-healing so you can choose your own response. It’s a triumph in a world where we’re no longer allowed to be anything but happy, express any emotions that might be in any way untidy. It’s a sonic ‘Fuck you!’ to a generation of gnomic social media denizens whose only way of salving their own ills is to turn on others without once looking at themselves.
Heal Me is introspection for the walking wounded, leading us through the darkness and into the grey. Sometimes light is too much to ask for, but with artists like Maurice Flavel in this world, that’s OK.
It may not be a record you like, but Heal Me is definitely a record you need.