“Convince yourself that everyone that you don’t know is super slow.” — “Levinski,” from Goners
Tetsuo never seem to have a good band photo. They play empty venues for no money just as readily as full ones, and they’ve never adhered to a “scene” despite being good and only getting better. It’s just what I think. A lot of Tetsuo’s “problems” can be attributed to poor marketing, but really I don’t think they give much of a shit. That mentality is faked by bands from here to there, but Tetsuo might be serious.
So now there’s Goners. Titled for its tracks’ common theme of inevitability, Tetsuo’s third long player came out in late 2012 but was celebrated last July at Exit/In before it was available. Their first was These Crystals Don’t Burn, a well-written but loosely executed experiment with heavy psychedelic leanings. They tightened up after that with Inmates, the closest they ever came to fitting within Nashville’s very precise garage/punk rock niche, which is ironic because that’s what that record laughs at. What is Goners, exactly? Calculated chords, a sonic shabbiness kept in check by a great rhythm section, riffs channeled from another era (sometimes almost copied; I keep hearing T. Rex’s “Twentieth Century Boy” on “Danzig”), mostly the late ’70s (a lot of Deep Purple and The Stooges and stuff), with some precious outliers like the scrap folk of “No Use Hiding from the Airplane.”
That’s all great, but Goners, and Tetsuo in general, have become like a flame to a moth for me because of vocalist/guitarist Ardis Redford’s lyrics. You hardly think of them if you go to a Tetsuo show—it might not even occur to you that there are lyrics, what with all the noise and shit—but if you go home with the record, listen to it, wait for it, let it crawl in, see the words in front of you; you begin to feel their weight. Goners sounds like rock ’n’ roll, but it reads like a collection of short stories written in part for the writer himself and in part for a generation of kids who came from a childhood that was good but who now live in times that are weird; Redford writes about places everyone’s been and verbalizes the things you think about in a back corner of the mind.
“Well, all the sacred judgments have terrible aim/and they built a machine just to know his name / It’s like going back to places from where you came trying to feel the same,” he sings in “Just Ain’t Jagged Enough,” that last sentiment being one that strikes an acutely familiar chord. Goners offers uplifting thoughts inside of miserable ones, or the other way around, and characters show up like ghosts, read a line and exit. The words can be virulent, but the feeling is familiar, and in that sense comforting.
“I was trying to forget that which I could not quite remember / You were the most expensive habit that I have ever had / But it wasn’’t that bad / Turn out the lights / I’m coming in for the night / Tie up the kids and come to bed / Girl, I thought you were really something / But you were nothing instead / I was working on a problem that you could not comprehend / I was looking for a mother / You were looking for a friend.” — “End It With a Middle Finger”
Lyrically, listening to Goners is like looking through a foggy, sometimes abstract and highly poetic window at predicaments you recognize, and it’s soundtracked by the kind of rock music your parents played for you. It’s my favorite yet, although like with all their records, Tetsuo are over it before it even happens and on to making the next one. Tetsuo, don’t stop doing what you want.