Perhaps the only thing worse than Satan showing up at your front door with a legion of fire-breathing angels is Satan showing up with his legions and asking for you by name. And even then there’s a chance you’ll have to stand outside of your dead body and watch as it crawls across the floor.


    Don’t be scared. Sometimes this stuff happens, and when it does, it cries out to be expressed with a level head. David Pajo coolly details these happenings on 1968‘s opener, “Who’s That Knocking,” a wickedly calm, detached and deranged pop song that envelopes the identity of the rest of the album. It builds with real drums, full arrangements and vocals that sound like they’re being whispered by an underwater ghost. There’s a reason for that. The album is reportedly inspired by the poetry of Hafiz — even to the extent of metering some Hafiz’s lines into Pajo’s lyrics. But 1968 doesn’t sound like fourteenth-century Persian poetry because, like its self-titled predecessor (released in 2005), this album was recorded on a decidedly twenty-first-century laptop with hissing vocals sung directly into the computer’s microphone.


    Instrumentally, 1968 is meatier than Pajo’s previous outing, and lyrically it’s more clinical than contemplative — right down to the guts of the horror movie content. Pajo uses keys over a campfire strum to chronicle the exploits of a hitchhiking cannibal on “Cyclone Eye”; he moves through the black with beating wings while surrounded by the dark sounds of night on the soft, achy balladry of “Walk Through the Dark” (“La, la, la, la, I can’t go on”); he alt-rock riffs about cancer on “We Get Along, Mostly”; and he hides from shotgun-wielding hillbillies under the cover of a cranking acoustic guitar on the Eliza Dushku-inspired “Wrong Turn” (“Now my fingers are starting to bleed from all this hiding out in the trees”). He does all this with the same rue and gentle, matter-of-fact vocals that have instigated comparisons to Elliott Smith’s Roman Candle. But Pajo does here with nightmarish narratives what the Jesus and Mary Chain used to do with sex and drugs: It’s filthy content put to solid pop melodies.


    With 1968, Pajo — the shape-shifting contributor to such varied acts as Slint, Zwan, Stereolab, Royal Trux, Palace and Tortoise and the moniker-fickle shadow-man behind M, Papa M, and Aerial M — may have finally found a style he feels comfortable putting his name on.



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