songs ohia

I remember when I first belatedly got into some Songs:Ohia. I seem to recall giving up on them once they had Crazy Horsed into Magnolia Electric Co. and also being frustrated that there were already 5 or 6 albums to get hold of and I’d missed out on a lot of good music from the past 10 years, time wasted on not really caring much about music (also known as the Britpop era), Galliano and Galliano not really caring much about music. I think a friend had mentioned them in passing and, once Steve Albini was mentioned as being engineer, I decided to buy ‘Didn’t It Rain’ as it seemed the sort of thing that would sit well with my post-millennium realisation that I would obsessively buy music for life and no amount of hiding out in the tropics would alter that. I clearly didn’t realise that ‘they’ were pretty much just a ‘he’ with added friends, associates and session players at this point.

So, to ‘Didn’t It Rain’. Bleak and without hope. Desolate. Uplifting only in that there couldn’t be anyone else whose life could possibly sound so lonely. Beautiful, therefore, but also overpowering, almost too rich in its sadness as to give it a voyeuristic quality I did not feel I wanted. I was going through a happy time in my life and this album just didn’t fit in with that or positivity in general no matter how beautiful ‘Blue Factory Flame’ really was. The next album could only seem watered down by comparison, a step back was surely necessary for the sanity of the artist. Listening to ‘Magnolia Electric Co.’ – the last album by Songs:Ohia before Jason Molina changed his band name to Magnolia Electric Co. (I kind of liked the way he did that even if it was another clear parallel with Palace/Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) is a much less intense experience and a sense of something being reigned in to me. I never got around to going back to seek out his earlier albums, something I regret and am now finally doing starting with ‘The Lioness’. That sounds like mawkish guilt but isn’t. I guess my life hasn’t been too great of late and therefore Songs:Ohia are able to make more sense to me now that I can wallow in it more authentically. Vacuously maudlin? No, more using the art of suffering to draw a line under my own things. ‘Rumours’, ‘Here, My Dear’, ‘Shoot Out The Lights’ and ‘Steve McQueen’ have also been of great comfort but seem to provide an understanding that I can tolerate this crap for evermore. Songs:Ohia and ‘Didn’t It Rain’ in particular, make me want to shake these blues and move forward with purpose. I also get a brief snapshot of the quieter and more reflective times hidden beneath a more upbeat time of life. ‘Didn’t It Rain’ may well have been the album I fell asleep to after returning home late and needing some background noise to drown out the cicadas that soundtracked many a developing hangover or, and more likely, to harmonise with them. I also now hope to be find greater light to add to the shade of this album over the course of many future listens.

Anyway, to discover Jason Molina has died a year younger than I currently am and has done so after a few wilderness years in rehab after relentless dedication to releasing music almost too rapidly for any of it to take a strong enough hold is dreadfully depressing. That I missed his the vast majority of his career makes me wonder what this thing called music that we are caught up in is all for. After all, I have been revisiting his music all week and must admit that ‘Didn’t It Rain’ is an absolutely superb piece of music that suits a reflective early morning dogwalk as much as it does the wee small hours. I am also staggered that someone could record and tour so relentlessly with such an obvious dependency for so long. However, maybe that’s not so hard to understand. It may have been work that kept him together and, without it, he rapidly fell apart. If that is the case then it merely serves to prove that throwing yourself into work to deal with things is not healthy as there will always be times when the work isn’t there to reassure you just like replacing cigarettes with something else be it chocolate or jogging means you never really quit but merely shift the addiction’s hold. A life without producing music did for Jason Molina in as much as a life relentlessly producing music did the same. My thoughts are with his family and the bigger fans than I who must feel a massive hole in their lives with his passing. RIP and ‘Cross the Road, Molina’.

For the rest of this week Secretly Canadian (Molina’s label that started to release his music and ended up giving us Bon Iver) are streaming his entire back catalogue. I recommend you go to ‘Didn’t It Rain’ first: