reviewed by Michael Thomas
Sometimes, you think you’ve left music, but music can’t release you just yet. It’s been six years since Satnam Minhas released an album under the My Lovely Son name, and you get the sense listening to Hell is Other People that this is an album he had to make.
Much like the ocean charter of values record I reviewed last week, this album also feels like it was a form of catharsis. But here Minhas channels his emotions and themes into moody alt-rock. He looks at a world that doesn’t make sense and provides meditations on how that world can fuck you up.
In more than one instance, the musical cues lead listeners into thinking they’re in for something positive. The strumming in “Confession” and Minhas’ words like “my love” might make it sound like a pastoral ode. But subtly that mood shifts; before you even know what’s happening, the song has gotten darker. As though Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 was upended, Minhas sings “but you talk too much for me…” later on in the song.
“Children” also sounds like it’s going somewhere warmer, but though it remains sounding positive, it’s hard to get past the clear words Minhas says more than once: “the world will burn the children of me.”
In other areas, you can sense the relief Minhas feels in putting these songs out into the world. Opener “Communion” begins slowly, with the sounds of children playing. It’s as though Minhas wants to go back to a simpler time, but cannot. He’s communing with something, but who knows what?
Minhas also has a knack for turning messages on themselves. “My Youth” sounds like it could be a religious hymn, but one deeply sarcastic line shows Minhas is not worshipping at the same altar: “It’s only my one life we’re throwing away.” The song also features an intense section with some outstanding drumming from Mark Nelson; the skeletal taps makes the words feel like they’re of dire importance.
One should also note Minhas shows a huge musical range, from the eerie synth-like sounds of “Heart of Clay” to the string solo in “Confession.” The guitar work overall is just as moody as Minhas’ vocals, creating expansive worlds to get lost in. Hell can most definitely be other people, but you’ll find bliss here.
Top Tracks: “Confession”; “My Youth”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)