A striking political statement
In early May, band Felice Brothers released their album Undress, the first since their 2016 release of Life In The Dark. The album was produced by Jeremy Backofen and features the original brothers Ian and James Felice, as well as drummer Will Lawrence and new bassist Jesske Hume. The band has recently lost fiddle player Greg Farley and Josh “Christmas Clapton” Rawson, who left to pursue other interests. The folk-rock band’s hiatus gave them the chance to shift their artistic focus towards overarching socio-political themes. Each track on the album reflects the band’s political and economical ideologies regarding the issues plaguing modern American society. Much of their focus on the evils of money corruption and corporate America can be attributed to their disdain for the capitalistic modern music industry, that they ultimately must be complicit in. The music on the album is a usual development of their sound and style, in addition to a nuanced gravitas.
The album’s self-titled first track “Undress,” starts with a gradual introduction that picks up both musically and lyrically into an ode addressing the corruptions of capitalism. Antagonistic political parties, Kelly-Anne Connway, Wall Street types and Anarchists are referenced, among others, as the negative effectors of modern society. Felice ends with the lyric “when will we find the light of day,” the underlying theme of the dually bleak and hopeful future American society faces. This oppositional binary focus is also represented musically in the contrasting somber and upbeat style of the album tracks.
Track 03, “Special Announcement,” paints a portrait of the corruption of political power. With a promise to put Charlie Parker on the $10 bill, the song provides thought provoking satirical criticism on the relationship between money and power. The track ends ever so ironically? with a fade out interwoven melody of the U.S. Presidential Anthem: “Hail to the Chief.”
The album’s halfway mark song “Poor Blind Birds” takes inspiration from poet William Bonk. The track has a contemplative and sobering refinement: “We live in a world we can’t understand/ poor blind birds if we’re anything.” It is a message about the complications of life and the lack of control humans have in the grand scheme of it. It is the most instrumentally simple track on the album and yet the most pensive and applicable to the masses.
The final track, “Socrates,” tells the bleak tale of an artist facing a death sentence for writing songs. Felice sings of a society where expression of art is persecuted and tyranny is adhered to. The song begins with a simple piano melody and slowly builds. As it reaches climax there is a swirl of sound that creates a dream-like muffle over Felice’s singing, before finally ending with the simple piano fade out. The song is certainly the most epic and bleak on the album, however, it also acts as the perfect ending song for the values that the band consistently has upheld for the last decade. The importance of musical artistry and lyrical meaning emerges distinctively throughout the album, and reverberates with the bands moral message even after the song has ended.