Damien JuradoGhost of David (Sub Pop)

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You might begin your most painful therapy session ever just as Damien Jurado does his newest CD: by settling noisily into a chair and saying, "It just so happens I have many concerns." On Ghost of David, Jurado's many concerns—often sung in a disaffected, folky monotone against a stripped-down acoustic guitar—are a catalog of creepy. The list of disasters in his life—lovers married to suspicious cops, brothers gone insane, other lovers who'd kill you just as soon as sleep with you and disembodied voices—could convince you that Jurado has lived through some rough times since the release of last year's Rehearsals for Departure. Now the rehearsing is apparently over, and the departing has begun. Consider simply the title of one tune, "Tonight I Will Retire," and this line: "If I should taste fire/ Save me not/I deserve to die." "Fire" might mean hell, of course, but it also sounds an awful lot like he's talking in more mundane terms—about fire leaping from the muzzle of a gun. The entire CD is alive with betrayal: of allegiances crumbling, of a man praying that God will take his loony brother's life, of a guy telling his lover, "You can say you're on my side/And I know that's a lie/ 'Cause given the chance/You'd stab my back/And leave me here to die." But the crumbling allegiances aren't just interpersonal —they're intrapersonal, like the aforementioned self-inflicted gunshot wound or the double tracking of vocals on "Great Today," in which Jurado seems to be singing out alienated parts of his character in a increasingly desperate-sounding assertion of the greatness he ought to have achieved but pretty clearly hasn't. Speaking of intrapersonal conflict: the acid-rock hymn to Paxil, the fabulously popular antidepressant, hints at some of Jurado's far-flung musical interests—which on this CD alone include found music, industrial clanging and the eerie Appalachian standard about "a little rosewood casket." There are experiments with ambient sound throughout, and that's how Jurado wraps up the CD: with a jangling telephone that rings and rings unanswered—like a prayer? Maybe. Or maybe just like a phone in the room of a guy who's killed himself and is now way too dead to answer.

 
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