Posted on November 13th, 2017
[as seen on NPR Music]
"The value of Death," wrote songwriter Sean Bean, of Boston's Bad History Month, in a dense, intimate introduction to new album Dead and Loving It, "is that it's an infallibly reliable fixed point on the horizon to navigate by when I'm lost at sea."
Dead and Loving It is an anti-folk tale, of optimism by way of mortality. That may sound heavy, but Bean looks at it all askew, grounding his songs in the particular absurdities of daily life. ("When I'm in bed with you I don't give a s*** / about brushing my teeth," he sings on "A Warm Recollection," the album's penultimate track.) And if the existentialism sounds like well-trod territory, Bean acknowledges that, too. "All the things I'm thinking and writing about have obviously been thought and written about for thousands of years," he writes. "I take comfort in the fact that nothing I'm thinking or saying or feeling is very unique, and that long dead people were recording similar thoughts and feelings long ago, and I feel less alone."
For all its morbidity, Dead and Loving It is an optimistic album; over guitars that sometimes churn and sometimes whisper, Bean explores a charmingly contemporary style of existential enlightenment — the kind that might help you see, as Bean describes, the "cloyingly cheerful woman ringing me up at Trader Joe's [as] ... a precious, temporary, poignant, pitiable, tragic miracle."
Bean calls Dead and Loving It a "self-help album." It's an antidote, of sorts, to 2013's Bad History Month (released when Bean called the project "Fat History Month"), which was a convincingly wry and depressing take on the frightening consequences of stagnation, intimacy and modern life.
"A Warm Recollection" considers love and meaninglessness in relief to humanity's entire timeline. Its video follows a cartoon cowboy — who has served as an avatar for Bean on album covers and in artist portraits — as he considers his place in the universe. Bean says the song is about "remembering all the love and sex coming down through the ages in the form of fertilized eggs growing into the bodies of hundreds of generations of forgotten ancestors who fertilized more eggs, eventually resulting in you, here in bed, having escaped rejection, warmly connected to someone special for a moment, soon to be a forgotten ancestor yourself, perhaps to be envied by future generations of bodiless energy-beings who don't get to enjoy the thrills of sex and and the high stakes of living life in the face of certain death, bored in their endless existence, unable to end it."