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December 2000 Pick of the Month
Cush
Artist: Cush 
Label: Northern Records
Length: 12 Tracks

The debut album from the entity known as Cush is a disc that has taken my CD player hostage since it first came out this summer.  What makes this disc so tasty is that the recipe includes the perfect mix of ingredients: take four parts Prayer Chain and Lassie Foundation, two parts Violet Burning, Fold in some Zandura, add a taste of Honey, some essence of Bloomsday and other spices, and then top it off with a bit of Gene Eugene and Mike Knott.  Mix it all together and out comes one of the best discs of the year.  It is a wonderful mélange of indie-alterna pop without the pretension from which many other such bands suffer.

Part of the beauty of this album, and band, can be found in the Cush manifesto :

"Willing to have anybody play any role, whoever is most suited for it at the time.  Willing to be anonymous.  Willing to be produced.  Sharing, being selfless, letting go…. Music being able to be performed in any way, by any combination of people, in any setting…. One instrument per part, one player per part.  Minimal overlapping of tones….CUSH is not a solo project.  CUSH is not a band."

So while this band may consist, for the time being, of Mr. Knott, it is certainly not just another Knott side project.  In fact, the impetus for the band lies primarily with Andrew Prickett and some of his Prayer Chain cohorts.  Others on the album include Wayne Everett, Frank Lenz, Eric Campuzano (the man behind Northern Records), the late Gene Eugene, and Snowman, along with Tim Taber, Jeff Schroeder, Blake Wescott, Jyro, Chris Colbert, and Jason 71.  Some of these guys played a much larger role, but when you look at the liner notes, the credit line that stands out is the refreshingly anonymous, "All songs written, performed, produced, and engineered by Cush."  You get the feeling that if you saw this band play live, you'd never know who would be up on stage on any given night, and the next album just might be a whole different group of players.

The album begins with the heartbreaking "Heaven Sent" where the singer pleads with a young child to "tell your mother don't give up on me." Most of the songs on this album deal with either the joy or pain that can be associated with love.  At times it is hard to tell whether the object of affection is an earthly object of desire or the heavenly Father, but in many cases it doesn't matter: they can work on both levels, with the temporal and eternal intermingling quite comfortably.

Other high points on the disc (and there are no low points) include "Starry Starry Seas," "Arching Heart," and "Shining Glory." Then there's "The Touch," with its retro sound and pop-culture nods to Bowie and the Beatles.  Equally impressive is the trippy "Porpoise," with its jazz-tinged performance and probably the most "spiritual" lyrics on the disc:  "imminent glory is creating loving forgiving encouraging lifting gifting unrestricting hands of the maker."

The album ends with "The Smallest Part," which begins with the confessional "I'm an empty man swimming for the prize, folding up my hands for the fool inside," which moves onto the plaintive "Christ crush my head, break those cloudy skies."

From start to finish this album is strong both musically and lyrically. And unlike most "supergroups" out there, it does not disappoint.  As the Manifesto points out:

"CUSH praises like Gospel and wails like Rock and Roll…. CUSH sounds familiar, like the best songs you've ever heard, but feels new….A CUSH song does not have to be 3:30 long.  A CUSH song can be 68 minutes long.  A CUSH song is already a greatest hit."

Long live CUSH!

Ken Mueller 11/26/2000


 
 

 

 
 
 

 

   
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