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Michael Gira - Songs For A Dog

The more discerning listener will be aware that for sometime Michael Gira has been releasing a series of homemade CD-Rs with handmade covers of songs sung solo in the office / studio. They've cut to the essence of the musical output of his current project Angels of Light, stripped to voice and guitar, shorn of the arrangements and overdubs so favoured on the numerous releases from Angels of Light. It's from here that Songs For A Dog, particularly the first side, takes as its starting point with 10 tracks selected by Gira himself for this limited vinyl release on the UK's Lumberton Trading Company. Lyrically the tracks remain largely biographical, in parts real and imaginary, alongside tributes to friends and aquaintances, though not without their emotional pull on the listener. Included here is a nascent version of 'Rose of Los Angeles' written about his mother as she lay on her death bed. It is remarkably poignant even though its meaning is somewhat obscured. The sorry tale of alcohol, depression and death that is 'God Damn The Sun' remains a remarkably sad song, and delivered so starkly is perhaps the finest version of this song that first aired on the Swans Burning World album. Elsewhere man's propensity for violence is captured on 'Destroyer', a song written in the run up to the Iraq war. 'Lena's Song', however, is altogether more optimistic, being as it a redemptive tribute to a kind hearted lady who took in the young homeless Gira during his teenage wandering in Israel.

The second side of the album is perhaps more including as it does collaborations with Dan Matz and an outtake from the second Angels of Light album, New Mother. Listening to the 'God's Servant' a full ensemble piece you wonder why this was left off New Mother. I first heard this on Solo Recordings At Home and it still sounds good to me. I've never heard Gira's collaboration with Dan Matz, released as What We Did but the two tracks, built around Gira's compositions, display a country feel. The employment of banjo, reverb guitar and harmonica licks and female vocal accompaniment on 'Lines' imbues the track with a backwater country feel. I must confess, though, my favourite track on this side is the solo track 'Purple Creek', a hazy reverie full of yearning for an imaginary place and lover. The sheer thought of Gira penning a song for children is scary, yet 'Mean Monster Mike' written for the children of some friends is particularly disturbing with Gira deadpanning lyrics such as: 'Let's do the monster dance', 'Oh no, he's gonna tickle us'. I guess, this is what must pass for children's entertainment in the Gira household. And even though, it appears sometimes, that Gira is, somehow, embarassed with much of his musical past something like 'Mean Monster Mike' is evidence that, at heart, Michael Gira is an endearing and affable fellow.

It's a curious piece amongst the rest of Songs For A Dog, an album that reveals, to those yet unelightened, that at the core Michael Gira is one hell of a gifted songwriter. All told, it's stark intimacy is overpowering, and a worthwhile spin on what we've come to expect from Michael Gira. Songs For A Dog is released in an edition of 2000 copies. For more information go to www.lumbertontrading.com