The Provenance – How Would You Like To Be Spat At
19/04/2005 § Leave a comment
Artist: The Provenance
Album: How Would You Like To Be Spat At
Genre: Progressive Metal
The thinking man’s metal band have returned and things have clearly not been well in their absence. How Would You Like To Be Spat At is another sensory onslaught, communicated through the medium of disassociated, disorganised song-structures and some terribly bleak and unhappy lyrics. The Provenance are masters at washing their dirty linen in public, in fact, their entire neighbourhood must be a veritable laundrette by now. Each song is full of some of the most personal and poignant sentiments that I have ever heard in music, but make no mistake, none is positive or optimistic.
And this is something that, in an unusual way, I imagine they are quite happy with. The Provenance are cathartic geniuses. Their previous record, Still At Arm’s Length, was pensive and introspective, and had some really quite touching moments to it. How Would You Like To Be Spat At, as its name unfailingly suggests, is a far more angry record, stuffed to the brim with vicious, angry declarations, but in the kind of way that genuinely makes you believe that something has gone wrong in these peoples’ lives. There is no irony, no jest and no respite. Even the softest, most thoughtful passages on this album carry some weight and negative resonance. However, though The Provenance may wish to proclaim this as their greatest record, and though it may be lyrically impressive, musically it lacks the fervour and ferality of its subject matter. Nevertheless, in concept it is still streets ahead of many metal albums being produced at the moment, even though those streets may be full of dirty washing.
Tobias Martinsson – Vocals, Guitar
Emma Hellstrom – Vocals, Keys
Joakim Rosen – Guitar
Joel Lindell – Drums
Jonnie Tall – Bass
1. Woh II Tsc 5:59
I have no idea what the title of this song could be about, but it welcomes us in affably with some very warm rhythm chords that instantly make you feel at ease and as if you could really settle down with this record. Emma’s vocals, caressing the lines “you’ve become an obsession now, the taste of your lips is still here, I need you one more time”, are as composite and beautiful as ever, and I am reminded in a very short space of time as to why she is one of my favourite vocalists in metal. However, though the verse is underlined by a shimmering, twinkling guitar line, The Provenance set the theme for the album very early on with what is unfortunately a slow, inactive and actually quite bland chorus with a melody that could hardly compliment any song. And indeed, many of the songs on this album suffer from the selfsame affliction.
2. Herione 5:24
Heroine is a faster, spicier song than its predecessor – at least to start off with. After the promising snare-staccato’d intro, it slows down for the verse before picking up again for the chorus, and it’s one of the most unenticing and unusual choruses I’ve come across since, oh, the last song. By now I’m wondering whether The Provenance are intentionally writing music which is so insipid so as to not actually register with any part of the listener’s brain. Maybe this is because they want the listener to concentrate on the lyrics more, who knows, but this is difficult to do because the vocals aren’t quite high enough in the mix, so something is definitely awry and what we’re left with, unfortunately, is a really dull song.
3. Catching Scarlet In The Sun 4:00
This is the first semi-interesting song on the album and I would go so far as to say that anyone purchasing this disc should ignore the first two tracks outright. Emma muses over some definitive, punctuating drumming from the outset, and it’s good to see that the Provenance really haven’t lost their touch when it comes to shaming people in public: “Are you really that stupid? Such a fool to think I give a damn. What’s yours in yours and not mine, I really can’t be bothered anymore.” The chorus is equally unforgettable, being driven by some quite fuzzy guitar and the immortal line ‘you look pretty with that gun in your mouth’. However, even though the tune is better than in the previous numbers, it’s actually not that commendable, and certainly not in the same league as anything on their previous album. The song may start off well, but by the second time that Emma sings ‘I really can’t be bothered anymore’, you’re starting to empathise.
4. How Would You Like To Be Spat At 4:06
This intro to this one is a little disconcerting since the sound effect of someone plugging a guitar-lead in could fool many a listener into thinking that it’s time they got their speaker system replaced. This is another slow number with Tobias crooning over the top of the verse, climbing the scale and all of a sudden we experience the first flushes of a decent song. Tobias actually sounds rather good, better than on previous releases, and the higher notes really suit him, so it’s a shame that the song doesn’t let him make more of it. It’s quite a short song, and it feels it, ending a little prematurely. From what is actually quite a decent chorus, and a powerful one, it’s a shame this number doesn’t last longer.
5. Some Gossip On Stealing A Spouse 6:16
This is easily the best song on the album and is consequently way ahead of the other tracks. It begins with a ropey, climbing and diving bassline before Emma’s vocals come in, almost jazzlike, over the top with some eerie, atmospheric distortion in the background. The verse is quite beautiful, and the use of the double-vocals in the chorus is really quite effective. It’s an inventive, atmospheric journey and really shows that The Provenance can write decent music, though there’s just not enough of it so far on the album.
6. Going Down 5:21
Going Down is a punchy song, but although the pace and tempo are quite authoritative, the guitar lines are really quite unusual. However, this is not to say that they’re unusual in an interesting or captivating way, since they fail to hit the right spot, and you get the feeling that if they just went up or down a semitone here or there we’d have quite a decent song on our hands. It’s almost as if The Provenance are geared towards writing uninteresting music and by now I’m starting to praise them for their ability to do this, it must take a lot of concentration. Still, we do get some flutes, but over lines like ‘I swear I didn’t mean for them to die, they just collapsed between my thighs’, which make me wonder what the hell this song is about.
7. Considering The Gawk, The Drool, The Bitch And The Fool 5:55
Kudos to The Provenance for having one of the most inexplicable song titles I’ve seen for a long time. However, the intriguing nature of the title doesn’t really match the content of the song, and such lyrics as ‘call me a geezer, call me a fuck, tell me I’m crazy, tell me I suck’ seem quite out of place against yet another boring melody. However, if anyone knows what a gawk is, do rush to let me know.
8.Kick You So Hard 4:51
In spite of the angry/macho title this isn’t a bad little track and this is chiefly because Emma just sounds wonderful in it. It’s starts as quite a quiet, plucked number with some trippy drumming in the background, before the tension mounts for the chorus – at least I presume it’s the chorus since sometimes it’s hard to tell in these songs. After this we’re treated to one of the most beautiful moments of singing on the album, which – for once – is in stunning contrast to the violence of the lyrics ‘you should know I will retaliate, I’ll stomp your bloody face into the ground’, and the way in which Emma sings the line ‘kick you so hard’ is just dreamlike before a perfect crescendo of an outro.
9. About A Whore, About A Kill 6:04
This is the last of three genuinely decent songs on the album. It starts with a phased, echoey guitar line before what is unfortunately a linear verse and chorus. However, at least this number sets itself apart from many of the other songs by having an essence to it, a centre, which is something that is lacking for much of the album as a whole, and there are quite a few beautiful moments here as a result. Halfway through, the song falls into a trickley guitar session with some more choice lyrics, ‘poor thing was ill, had to do her in – peaceful and still – I love a good sin. Poor thing was sick, I put her down, bashed her with a brick, then stole her crown’. The Provenance certainly have some interesting, though slightly disconcerting, things to say.
10.Speeding To Get By 5:25
Maybe another reference to drugs, and a token one since this song is by far the slowest of the album. I imagine such a pace is in reference to its title and the effect that certain drugs can have on the mind. In fact, the slow, unrelenting guitar chords are so monotonous that they are actually quite painful. This song seems to be more about making a statement than good music and it’s really quite dreary and tedious. It’s by far the least interesting song on the album and, apart from a nice riff in the middle, it just wastes your time. It would have been better to round off with the previous number, since this one is just a torrid, cacophonic mess.
Total playing time: 53:21
Total tracks: 10
In spite of the fact that there are some quite wondrous moments to this album, it really isn’t much of a triumph. How Would You Like To Be Spat At is more about what the band have to say rather than how they are saying it. Though numbers like Speeding To Get By and Kick You So Hard are quite clever in how the music intentionally does or does not reflect the lyrics, this isn’t enough to keep you interested, in fact, the whole album comes across as being just a little self-indulgent. However, The Provenance do show quite a few sparks of talent and there are a few moments in the album where they manage to create a welcome atmosphere, and this is because the songs’ subject matters are from the heart. This is an album about real anger, real pain and real torture, with nothing of the gestured pretentiousness that other metal bands seem to fill their music with.
Still, even though The Provenance are good are writing about just how terrible things are in their lives, this isn’t enough to make the album good. It’s all very well to be clever and to create lyrical and musical contrasts, but there has to be a trade-off between creating artistic contrasts and interesting, listenable music, and as far as How Would You Like To Be Spat At goes, there’s very little of it, with most of the album being actually rather boring and intolerable. Nevertheless, I do have respect for The Provenance for trying to do something heartfelt and different with what is most of the time quite an uninventive genre, though they’ll need to work at it a little harder in order to really succeed. If they could marry interesting lyrics with interesting music, we would indeed be privy to something very special indeed, but to have the former without the latter makes this quite a dull journey in spite of the occasional bright moment.