Like a brilliant, single-minded artist who paints the same image every day, Freddy Ruppert plays pathos-driven tearjerkers about one tragic event: the death of his mother.
Sonically, his songs simulate the act of mourning, tending toward chaotic commingling of harsh noise and pretty pop ping-ponging from The Smiths to lawnmower music in a big, confusing blur of emotion.
Lyrically, the 21-year-old Louisiana native's one-man venture, aptly dubbed This Song Is A Mess But So Am I, isn't surprising: Anger gives way to nostalgia and then to grief, but never acceptance. Ruppert misses his mother, and he's mad that she's gone. The music matches the mood.
Still, when a record--or in this case, a band--focuses its songwriting on a single event instead of a lifetime's worth, things obviously get a bit monochromatic. Concept albums are tricky, but concept bands are trickier. No matter how innocently (or tragically) conceived, it's hard to sustain a body of work on the strength of a single concept. Ruppert would do well to take notes from the ever-macabre Owen Ashworth and his synth-pop act Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, or like-minded noise-pop pornographer Jamie Stewart and his Xiu Xiu. They've both mastered the democratically depressing diorama. To be sure, the process of writing and recording his first release, Church Point, LA, was healthy therapy.
One begs for more from Ruppert, something maybe he just isn't ready to show us. But one thing's certain: Underneath the mourning and this mess of scar tissue, some pretty incredible songs are waiting to get out.
This Song Is a Mess But So Am I plays at Nightlight in Chapel Hill on Sunday, July 30 at 10 p.m.. For more, see www.thissongisamess.com.