A synth-filled meditation on an era of anxieties
Glitterer, Ned Russin’s newest project after the suspension of the band Title Fight, aims in its sophomore album Life Is Not A Lesson to portray the many facets of desire of others and the many anxieties faced with it. In an era profoundly affected by the lack of human contact, the record delves into ideas that cross many daily thoughts under lockdown, providing in short, digestible segments a meditation on such issues. Although short, the primarily solo work of Russin is admirable in its ability to reflect the anxieties of this time, while providing a familiar punk sound with resonant lyrics.
The opening track “Bodies’” first lines reflect this well, stating “in between a thought and being/ try to rid myself of feeling,” as if a thesis to the album itself. Contradicting ideas of what ifs, desires and questions that are prevalent throughout many of the tracks, the song elicits a post-punk sound. With a loud bassline, thumping drums and more biting projection of the vocals, the song establishes almost a tone of bitterness, one that does not wish to be placed within the confines of the mind. Not wanting to feel allows the instrumentals to reflect this sort of predicament with ease, reiterating the frustrations of this time.
Indeed, “Are You Sure?” is one of the fundamental songs in which the narrator questions himself. Almost ruminating, the continuing use of the question within the chorus draws more and more emotion. The interplay between his own thoughts and ‘you’ is vital in portraying an idea of desire as a dual mechanism—one that reflects one’s own desires and the vulnerability of being perceived by another. Even as the progression of the song’s chorus grows noisier, as more synth interrupts the bassline to harmonize with the verses, there is still a profound sense of urgency. When thinking of a lack of human interaction, the idea of desire becomes ever-forbidden, something that perhaps implicitly adds a sense of heavy weight into the song.
By contrast, “Try Harder Still” is a much more pop-rock inspired song. Remarkably catchy, the synth has a sense of playfulness that is refreshing from the other tracks. With parallelism being a key to the song’s verses, there is a sense of confusion. Just as the lyrics describe the differences between being in a crowd and being alone, the instrumentals are diametrically opposed, bringing a sort of disconnect that is reflected in being uprooted. While much more subtle in its lyricism than the following tracks, it stands out in its candor.
“The End” is a much more explicit depiction of these anxieties. The nearly-screamed lyrics describe a sense of hopelessness. The drums dominate the song, with the bass more toned down than the opening tracks. Its loud, pressing instrumentals give a sense of urgency, an overwhelmed sense of power over the listener. It is much akin to the idea of being unable to not think of ‘the end.’ It is perhaps a true testament of our time, to become so absorbed within the loud noise of anxious rumination that one cannot move beyond it.
Perhaps it is most surprising that the only instrumental on the album, “Birdsong,” remains one of its strongest. A little more than midway between the album, there is a profound sense of questioning within it that connects it with the rest of the album. It begins with a whining synth, before being overlaid with loud drums and reverberating bassline. The simple chord progression later underscores it, giving a sense of sonic discomfort.
However, the titular track, “Life Is Not A Lesson,” outlines an acceptance; rather than frustration, one’s lack of control around them. Disowning the popular epitaph, Russin’s toned-down lyrics gain a more profound understanding of its lyrics—to understand the world is to let go of one’s complete control. Its cheery one-note synth melody contrasts with the bass chord progressions in a way that shows the unsettling, yet freeing notion that satisfies many of the anxieties that are described in the album. Yet, the most stand-out moment is in its final notes that mimic a nursery rhyme or a hymn. Trying to revert back to the familiar, it is a harrowing portrayal of what it means to come to terms with the new world.
Overall, Life Is Not A Lesson provides great insight to the near-universal thought process of those under lockdown. In a bass and synth-fueled instrumental soundscape, Glitterer aims to tell its audience that it is not alone in their own desperation at this time. Truly, it is fascinating which perspectives take shape and hold within the inspiration of artists’ during this crisis—Glitterer simply proves that all of these ruminations are necessary, as it binds us with one another.