February 3, 2016

Civils: Hothouse Flowers EP Review

(Marching Banana) The Hothouse Flowers EP, Drew Kirby’s (Mothers, New Wives) second release under the name Civils, hangs in a balance of fractured, heartbreaking melodies, slapdash musical calamity and the comforting din of low fidelity. The whole thing was recorded over the course of a single day, and the material predates Civils’ Young But Ugly debut EP.

As such, the medium is the message, at least partially, when the thunderous guitar resonance of “Winter of Early Bellow” crashes into the mania of “Fraud.” Both numbers clock in at just over 30 seconds; such a rapid switching of gears offers a real-time look at a conversation simmering between id, ego and superego, all grappling with a case of imposter syndrome. The honesty on display on “Arielle,” “Perth Slumber” and “Meansucker” is immediate and palpable.

Amid so much turbulence, the album’s centerpiece, “What I Am,” takes shape as a genuine pop gem. Without drawing any attention to itself, the song interpolates “The Shire Theme” from The Lord of the Rings (YouTube it). It’s a happy accident that resonates on a subconscious level. Ironically, employing such obscure, avant-garde rock musings might shelter Civils from reaching larger audiences, but that’s OK; that’s what Kirby’s other bands are for.