There are beauty and ugly in the act of reflection. Looking back on a life lived is a nearly meta-experience. It’s watching a life happen that used to be yours but isn’t anymore. You’re the sum of that past you’s experiences and of years and years more. But as an artist creates over decades, they leave pieces of themselves behind in their work, concrete reflections, pieces of frozen time that can be re-examined both objectively and subjectively. You start to find common themes and enduring lessons once you connect the dots. Your history is evidenced. It’s hard not to.
This cyclical experiences of Soda’s life is evident in the rolling waves of languid melancholy, insecure whimsy, and furious self-determination that repeat over the course of these twenty tracks. Stuff like “Never Be Whole” and “The Troubled Mind Of You” lay down the overarching theme, while brief forays into pure anger like “Sucker (Live at CBGB’s)” and “The Worth Of A Heart” serve to reset the listener, and remind that Soda’s music is meant to be loud. I remember hearing “Sucker” live, yes that song is way loud. The Radio X bumpers are also a treat. Remember when radio didn’t suck, when they played local bands and represented small communities and gave the kids the spotlight? I don’t mean that to exhibit distaste for today’s internet culture, just a fond remembrance of a time that used to be.
That’s the thing about reflective art. It makes you reflect on yourself and your own experiences and find your own cycles, much in the way I looked at the back of the CD sleeve and saw the years the songs were produced and found common themes years apart. I found myself thinking about who I was and what my dreams were. It all seems so different, but how much is really that different? What do I have in common with the girl that used to see Violet Daydream with Theresa E? What do I have in common with the girl that watched the earliest incarnations of His Mighty Robot sitting on the floor of his living room? Am I still the same girl that wrote about “The Worth of a Heart” shortly over a year ago?
Many of these tracks take on a new feeling when presented nude. The passion in “All The Fires Burn” smolders in a way that makes it feel like a longing you have alone in the dark. There’s a disquieting sensation of being trapped inside one’s own self during “Play Pretend.” “The Great Lost Cause” is the anthem for all of those Monday morning downward spirals, when you can’t leave the bed but you don’t want to be there, or anywhere.
I’m personally most partial to the uptempo danceable chillable sounds, like the third track “Taste – Michael Violet Remix,” which I wish went on longer. “Birth” sounds like one of those great electronic tracks of the aughties that is both lashing out and pulling back, quite literally into the womb.
Actually, most of Soda’s tracks here indicate either a desire to retreat or advance, never in the middle. It’s that dichotomy that creates the kind of torture that makes great art. It makes sense for this part of his long career, too. Soda’s been in retreat, gathering himself after the demise of his most recent project, (e)motion picture, the most recent of five bands over twenty years, finding the patterns and organizing them into this audio swirl. Sometimes things become clear when you see the patterns; it is not incidental that the title of this piece is Rarity Clarity.
And if my penchant for pattern recognition has any validity to it, you can bet it won’t be too long until Soda breaks out again. Until then, sit back with your discman and enjoy the backward journey.