If you’re familiar with Bry Webb‘s former band, Constantines, then you will not be surprised by the fieriness of his first solo LP, Provider, but you may be taken aback by it’s decibel level. Provider is a muted, subdued affair for the most part, but the subject matter amplifies Webb’s skill at songwriting and storytelling. Dedicated to his son Asa (who lends his name to the album’s opening cut) and his grandparents, who passed away a few months apart while Webb worked away at the record, it’s an intense, personal record about coming of age and taking on the responsibility of parenthood. there’s no mushy sentiment to these songs, though; Webb’s wry humour and skill at turning memorable lyrical phrases are shot throughout.
When an album is as personal as Provider is, I sometimes feel uncomfortable listening in, as if I was eavesdropping on someone’s own thoughts and emotions. To Webb’s credit, the songs take on a life of their own; he could be singing about anyone, anywhere. The result is that more often than not, these songs stir something in the listener, trigger some memory or sense that was buried or forgotten. A song like “Undertaker” for instance, with its funeral dirge arrangement, can be taken literally or seen as the omnipresent spectre of death around us all: “Whether dilettante or lawmaker/whether scavenger or caretaker/I’m known by everyone/I will be standing by”. I put myself in the narrator’s place, not specifically as a funeral director, but as a person who has stood by and watched friends and family pass away this year, waiting in the corridors and the shadows for death to come and claim those who are still hanging on to life by threads. Maybe we’re all kind of like undertakers, just waiting until it’s our turn to be taken.
Deep shit, I know, but this album is far from the downer I’m making it out to be. “Ex-Punks” tribal rhythm is sultry and sophisticated, and makes me want to hit repeat over and over again. In fact, the whole record elicits that response. You’re not going to put Provider on to get the party started, but when the hangers-on are gone, and it’s just you and your close friends, it’ll be the perfect soundtrack to those moments of silent, shared experience and understanding. A record that doesn’t need explaining, just experiencing.
Provider is released today, November 15 by Ideé Fixe Records.Bry Webb