The Boy Bathing – A Fire to Make Preparations
Record Label: None
Release Date: July 15, 2008
They’re always there, those certain songs. They whisper to us in the early morning and they drip into our ears when we get caught out in the rain. They hide behind corners with us when we don’t want to be seen and they slip in and out of our laughing conversations between drinks and old friends. They sit beside us when we’re working and they wait patiently while we sleep. They’re life songs, quiet pieces of ourselves tucked into the minutia of the everyday. Sometimes they’re so subtle that we almost fail to notice them, even though they’ve been there all along.
The Boy Bathing’s full-length debut, A Fire to Make Preparations, crossed my path a couple weeks ago and I was floored. First impressions are powerful things and the only experience I could compare this to was the first time I heard my personal “certain songs,” Bright Eyes’ Fever and Mirrors and Lifted, or the Story is In the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground. I was immediately grabbed by David Hurwitz’s whispered stories. Each song is a tiny vignette laced with quirk and a sense of companionable confidentiality, as if he’s relating his tales behind the back of his hand. Tracks like “The Miner’s Jewels,” “The Beasts Obey,” and “Razor Blades” juxtapose story-telling and twangy guitars, weaving an indie flavor that would make an Omaha native blush. “The Beaches Meet the Sea” comes as close to acoustic pop as the band seems willing to go, while the sparse composition of “The Questions Simple” and “Thanksgiving (For Elliott Smith)” reveal The Boy Bathing’s musical sensitivity.
This isn’t, however, just another Saddle Creek clone. The band’s ability to build a song from the ground up, transitioning from movement to movement with sudden grace, adds an element of versatility to A Fire to Make Preparations. One need only sit patiently as the nested drama of “The Leaves” is unpacked on a musical stage. “My Parent’s Religion” and “A Fire” unfold in a similar fashion, bedecked in layered bells, strings, and expansive chorales. Jeannie Scofield’s background vocals are sprinkled throughout the album with artful perfection, providing a lilting counterpart to Hurwitz’s quaver. When she takes the reins in “The Pilgrim’s Last Stand,” it’s tough not to make comparisons to Jenny Lewis or Adrianne Verhoeven.
A Fire to Make Preparations is a collection of life songs. In their odd, idiosyncratic way, each song is somehow wonderfully relevant. For this reason, the band’s name is appropriately familiar: it’s borrowed from one of Aesop’s Fables in which a bathing boy is caught up by a current and in danger of drowning. When he calls out to a passing stranger, the man blithely chastises the boy for his foolhardiness. As trite as it may be, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to see this unsigned marvel of a band floundering in a music scene that would sooner wag its tongue than offer assistance.
Maybe you’re not buying my enthusiasm (or my hackneyed metaphors), or maybe this band isn’t for you. But they’re not the only ones fighting against the scene’s tide. I can only advise you to pull The Boy Bathing from the river and stick them in your pocket. Maybe one of these days when you’re listening to your “certain songs,” you’ll cock your head and realize that you’re listening to A Fire to Make Preparations.
Fantastic review. You made me go straight to myspace to check this out. That's what a positive review should do. As far as the band goes, his voice is a little annoying, but it's catchy. I'll give it a few more spins.