Bad History Month - Old Blues Music Album Reviews

The Boston lo-fi songwriter’s latest project is a poetic and intensely personal rumination on selfishness, self-loathing, and self-forgiveness.

Most people don’t know Sean Sprecher’s name—not even his fans. The Boston-based lo-fi singer-songwriter uses fleeting pseudonyms like Sean Bean or Jeff Meff to mask his solo project Bad History Month, itself a twist on Fat History Month, his avant-folk duo. Yet his influence in the New England scene speaks for itself. Bad History Month is the one-man show that snuffs out chatter during a five-band bill. Artists like Sadie Dupuis and Krill offer eager endorsements of his music. Fans recount his lyrics like they’re quoting cult-classic TV characters, be it a sweet-toothed romantic or a guilt-ridden cowboy. His spiraling drum-and-guitar epics wring poetry from psychological breakdowns. But it’s only now, on Old Blues, his seventeenth release and the second full-length Bad History Month album, that Sprecher has revealed his real name. He’s also resigned as his own worst critic to try something new: attempting to forgive himself.
Old Blues began as a concept album about the childhood immaturities we carry into adulthood: selfishness, grudges, confusion that manifests as disapproval. Across seven songs, Bad History Month analyzes previous poor judgements to imagine healthier ones. “Low Hanging Fruit” struggles to fathom others’ lived experiences as being equally real as one’s own. “Childlike Sense of Hatred” uses war (particularly the Israel-Palestine conflict) as a metaphor to explore how anger and lack of empathy fuel arguments. It’s easy to misread Bad History Month songs as misanthropic, but Sprecher knows where and when to come up for air. As he chronicles the evolution of his personal philosophy on “Want Not,” the 15-minute closer that confronts body acceptance and capitalism-induced shame, it’s clear some wounds remain open. But if Bad History Month songs are a way of holding humanity accountable, then Old Blues is Sprecher finding motivation to follow through in his own life. “Why are people terrible?” has become, “How can we fix ourselves?” Perhaps that’s why he finally felt comfortable crediting himself.
Bad History Month’s self-reckoning succeeds because of its musical interplay. “The Road to Good Intentions” matches ruminations on life’s warped chronology with yawning keyboard ambience, a finger-plucked heartbeat, and an unstable tempo that suggest the soundtrack to a time-lapse video. “Childlike Sense of Hatred” flips moods with its lyrics: hesitant, acoustic guitar for hope; blown-out distortion for rage. Recorded with Fat History Month drummer Mark Fede and Dimples member Greg Hartunian, Old Blues is a careful balance of refined minimalism and raw takes, like Jim O’Rourke improvising with the Microphones while journaling.

Old Blues introduces Sprecher as a grounded poet, turning his usual Bad History Month quips into curt yet detailed sentiments. Each song stems from Sprecher’s low-stakes pursuit of his own aspirations, in hopes that maybe he’s not alone in them. In opener “Waste Not,” he’s a whale “beached on the shore of a backward glance,” reminiscing about being a beach ball. Soon after, he recalls he’s neither, singing, “I’d better get to work on learning to improve/And move, and make use of my new limbs.” In these moments, it’s hard not to compare him to Silver Jews’ David Berman. “Everyone looks ugly when they’re close enough to kiss,” Sprecher sings on “A Survey of Cosmic Repulsion,” a song that began as revenge against a neighbor blasting Grateful Dead records but ends up as a rosy reflection on shared love: “Luckily for me, I’m into ugliness.” Old Blues isn’t a pity party for lingering blind spots; it’s a public call to mend them.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Bad History Month - Old Blues Music Album Reviews Bad History Month - Old Blues Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, May 14, 2020 Rating:

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