"Released to little fanfare" is a phrase that brings joy to the hearts of obscurantists like me, but only once history's had a chance to soften the blow; it's a crying shame when an album as flat-out stunning as My Dad Is Dead's A Divided House slips by nearly unnoticed. This'll make two grievously underrated albums in ten years for Mark Edwards: 1997's Everyone Wants the Honey But Not the Sting is as raw an expression of pain as the indie realm has yet gasped. Edwards pumps all the pain and hurt through the guitars instead of his throat, though, which may account for some of his difficulty in getting over during our present epoch: the codified indie way of expressing pain, to borrow a phrase from Pee Wee Herman, is to scream real loud, and the broader culture's dictum really only differs in terms of reach. My Dad Is Dead are decidedly midwestern: the vocals come from a place of strangled emotion and choked-down indignities, of complex melancholy rather than overt rage. The melodies, not the ways in which they're delivered, carry the bulk of the story. The guitar solos, which soar, express cannily rather than filling the space between verses. The lyrics sting not because they're eager to make you hurt but because they sound like somebody trying to work out some ideas. It'd be foolish to pretend that My Dad Is Dead are somehow emblematic of a different indie era - at the end of the day, everybody then as now was just trying to have fun and maybe get famous - but A Divided House does sound entirely exceptional; it's impossible to imagine anybody else making a record like this now, one that quietly requests from the listener a setting-aside of context and then doggedly pushes its distinctive, difficult agenda forward. It poses a few questions that are hard to phrase, both about the genre and about bigger issues: life and how to live it, that sort of thing. It sticks to your ribs. Hear it if you get a chance.
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