If you gave your closest friends and family each a tape recorder, and asked them to talk about whatever they felt should be said, what would you get out of it? For San Francisco’s Great Apes, the answer is their debut LP “Thread.”
On “Thread,” all the lyrics are ripped from the mouths of the band’s friends. The band states the album is “inspired by interviews and casual conversations,” so that “each song on Thread is representative of a different person, and encapsulates narratives from their lives or a subject matter they deemed important.” Paired with music that is stripped down, upbeat, and a little poppy, the lyrics are surprisingly enlightening without becoming cheesy or overwhelming.
Born from dialogue among real people, this unique approach to lyricism is inspiring. As an album, “Thread” reminds me a bit of the photo project “Humans of New York” where the viewer is given just a tiny taste of someone’s life so as to make things personal, but so little as to remain mysterious. Hearing a song about someone’s most personal thoughts without ever knowing the person’s name is much like watching only the end of a film; I’m left wanting to meet the muse and learn more so the picture can become clear, more vivid, and more personal.
This communal style of producing songs serves the band well. Songs sound respectful without being indulgent. On “Yellow Ribbon” the pace is manically fast as biting vocals spit out “Hail to the heroes, albatross of death.” Tracks such as “Withering Heights” and “San Quentin” are equally as hard-hitting and venomous. Hot Water Music sounds like an obvious influence.
My favorite track “Vial of Life” is less than three minutes long but spins into a tale of long term illness. Singing out that “death hides in my shadow” with a lifetime of “swollen feet” while questioning if the ability to live a healthy life is “not a basic human right” the song is thoughtful and unique. Ending with the notion that “I live for the people I hold dear,” the song is not a preemptive funeral dirge but a catch melody from inside the mind of a patient, as sung by a friend.
Great Apes’ music itself is the sort that digs into your head and holds on tight, until you hit repeat and play it a little louder. Boiled down to simple hooks, the honesty of the musicians’ attempts are well showcased. Overall, the music sounds like a return to West Coast punk roots from the 90’s and early 2000’s.
“Thread” is out September 17th. You can pre-order it here.