It is Friday and we’re in Rob’s room, so we’re drinking. “Is this my wine?” “It’s the bottle with the bird on it (if it’s not the whisky).” And we’re playing all the classics (our own classics), to the disapprovement of some of those present who then leave for a cigarette. Other times we play Jenga and read manic poems by Ginsberg out loud to disturb the players. Inevitably we’ll start loudly discussing why this band is better than that similar sounding band, or why this artist is part of this or that genre. As if it matters. In my mind, these nights are chaotic moments of friendship. Accidental stories. But I’m sure anyone sober walking in would just hear a pointless discussion about music and the same songs every time.
Antlered Aunt Lord – the moniker of Jesse Stinnard – reminds me of all that. I played it that Friday but we didn’t really listen, although Rob did tell me they don’t sound like Neutral Milk Hotel at all. But they do (c’mon, that guitar in the opening track! the last bit of ‘Monopilot’!). It’s the way the beauty seems to be purely accidental, as if these people never set out to write beautiful songs, they were just strumming guitars and trying to sing and by a cosmic coincidence, something that exceeds the sum of the parts came into existence.
And sometimes these people truly sound like they’re drunk. It’s not just the messy playing, the messy singing. There is also the violence and unpredictability. ‘An Impersonal Appeal’ suddenly turns dark and heavy. ‘Monopilot’ goes from pretty harmonies to desperate mumbling. You’ve got the jolly “boom chicka boom” in ‘Epa’, but also the threatening whistling in ‘Don’t Ever Have to Wait’. There is no way to predict from the previous song what the next one’s gonna sound like. But everything’s said and sung as if it’s something Stinnard just blurts out because it had to be said. The accidental kick in the heat of the moment.
And if it reminds me of one thing it reminds me of so many things. ‘Questions From Our Publicist’ sounds like Guided by Voices. Actually, there is a lot of Guided by Voices on Ostensibly Formerly Stunted (and on fire). And not just because, just like GbV, Stinnard’s songs are mostly closer to one than two minutes long and often sound completely unfinished. It’s because they are clearly the losers of this story. Otherwise they wouldn’t scream, they wouldn’t sound so raw. But the world’s at fault, the world is unjust, and if that’s so then what else can be done except futile nothings and writing songs?
Ostensibly Formerly Stunted invites a kind of existentialism. Is there any sense in all this? Is there a point. There has to be, right? But why a song like ‘Classic Nu New Uncomfortable Dumblebee Dub’ or ‘Pray for Glam’? Aren’t these just the ramblings of an insane or insanely drunk mind? It is madness to be angry at the world for being unjust. But sometimes we are mad. And then we will need Antlered Aunt Lord.