Jackson Parten, the creative center of Jackson Parten Catastrophe, doesn’t talk up the country roots of his forthcoming disc, Melody and Metaphor. He understands it to be the shoe-gazy, pop opus that fans will see it as. But he maintains that it’s a distant yet natural destination any Brit-rock lover would come to after nearly a decade of playing Americana.
“The response to the first record was pretty unbelievable,” Parten said of his eponymous 2001 debut, which he recorded with a guitar and the artistic direction of fellow musician Bobby Flores. Together, they produced a country album with all the familiar elements: banjos and fiddles, southern drawls and blue-collar philosophy. On the emblematic “Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em,” Parten told the story of one Nickel Bag Willie who “moved a lot of grass … but he pissed off his Mexican connection/ Now he’s moving six feet in the wrong direction.”
Parten’s traditional Western sound and Keen-sian wit resonated with fans of Texas country and brought quick success. But Parten’s sophomore Americana effort, Sum of All Parts, received a mixed response from the same crowd.
“We played a lot of shows in that circuit,” Parten said. “As we were still playing those `venues` after the second record came out, people were saying, ‘Why aren’t you doing this? Why aren’t you doing that?’ And there are those people that only have the first record, never heard anything else, and have heard me `now` and gone, ‘Now what the fuck is this?’”
Melody and Metaphor is that record, the one that transcends genre expectations and ignites a flame war on fan forums. Parten presents the songs as sweet, catchy open wounds detailing love, loss, and the desperate feeling of discovering too late that you’ve picked the wrong life. He reveals no trace of his country lineage and even less of his token humor. Often borrowing the lyrical hat of the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, Parten delivers musings with an unapologetic romance. But where Finn tells cautionary tales of willful self-destruction, Parten admits that the world has already handed him his ass.
“Won’t you take the time? I think you’ll find something missing in your life,” he pleads on the colossally lonesome “Companion.” “And all the dreams you’ll see, the cold reality, still you won’t see me.”
But elsewhere the album is filled with peaceful resignation. Anthems like “Burn Me Alive” and “Stay” are loyal to a “happiness, anyway” philosophy. They beg to be shouted by a drunken chorus of 20-something servers and call-center employees on a Wednesday night.
“Overall the record is more of a ‘real’ look at things,” Parten said. “It’s not painted one way or another. Saying it’s honest is a little trite, `but` I didn’t color it with any undue optimism or melancholy. Whatever the song is saying, it’s saying it plainly.”
Recorded at Ramble Creek Studios in Austin, Melody and Metaphor is still in post-production, slated for a fall release via iTunes, Lone Star Music, and local retailers. The album is what Parten calls a “perfect balance” of musicians working with a producer. Parten recorded with Britton Beisenherz (engineer), Ryan Shortt (guitar, lap steel, backing vocals), Will Kelly (bass and brass), and Kyle Thompson, a session drummer who hadn’t heard Parten’s new material. Thompson required no second takes.
“`It` took three times as long to set up the kit as it took him to record,” Parten said, laughing.
In fact, the whole project took one week, leading Parten to call it the most focused, consistent record he and his bandmates have produced.
“Chalk it up to age,” Parten said.
He considers the album’s speedy production and overall tone the result of growing maturity on the brink of a 10-year career in music. So what would Tyler say to an angry Texas Country fan who finds Melody and Metaphor a spineless sellout move?
“Thank you,” he said. “Mainstream anything, that’s where you want to be. Accepted by the masses. My favorite artists are the ones that are some of the most successful in music history. If you look at the Beatles, I don’t think there’s any finer example of artistry in music.” •
Lone Star Bash w. Jackson Parten
8pm Thu, Jul 15
Sam’s Burger Joint
330 E. Grayson