The idea of trying to tell you that the new EP from Jordan Mayland and the Thermal Detonators is great or good or awful or assigning it a 10.0 or 7.2 or 2.6 or an A+ or B- or D is, well, frightening. What right does anyone have to determine the value of someone else’s free-will creation? After all, we’re just little creatures scratching around a ball of dust trying to find pleasure in what we’ve got. The meaning of any so-called piece of “art” is so goddamned relative it may as well have no meaning at all! I like to think that Mayland understands this.
Listening to the tune “In Life/In Love,” I like to think he understands that a piece of music cannot change human nature, cannot fix the problems (if you want to call them that) of the universe. I know when listening to it that he completely grasps the concept that music exists to provide consolation, happiness, and refuge. When the ridiculously gorgeous strings flutter in over his beautifully picked guitar lines, he provides a hiding place, in which I feel only more safe and warm when the track continues on to deliver pizzicato strings in a deliberately lo-fi ending to one of my favorite songs of the year.
In the more simply arranged yet satisfyingly depressing “What Might Have Been,” the song’s protagonist seems to be singing with an extended hand from a couple bar stools down, offering you consolation in the form of a harmonica-laced drink and maybe a handful of pills.
To help that medicine go down, happiness is delivered in heaping spoonfuls of sugar in “Everything About Me,” which is one of those wonderful “fuck you” sort of songs that can only make you feel great about who you are. Unfortunately, if you listen a little more closely, past the deliriously happy trumpets and saxophones (a highlight of the record, by the way), you realize your feelings are misguided; Mayland is just saying that you “don’t need anybody but you, baby” to make you feel better. You suddenly remember the pills you guzzled down just a few minutes ago. . .
Don’t worry! Throughout the rest of this brilliantly produced pop record, Mayland and his Detonators offer you redemption in the form of a choice: Do you accept reality and make the best of it or remain blissfully ignorant? You can change your mind as many times as you like, too! Mayland doesn’t ask for commitment. And the best part is that it really doesn’t matter what you choose, because the meaning of everything is so goddamned relative it doesn’t have any meaning at all. Thanks for reminding us, Jordan.