When a rabbit is pounced upon by a predator its spine will break almost immediately, allowing them a quick and often painless death without having to endure the horrors that lie ahead. Mister Goblin, the burgeoning recording project of Bloomington’s Sam Goblin, named their new album "Bunny" in honor of the pet he keeps and that in-built defense mechanism the small mammal possesses. “The idea is that being more conscious of the fact that we’re all going to die and keeping that at the forefront might help us to live more fulfilling lives,” Sam says of the link, “especially at a time when things are so hard and death is all around us.”
Released April 22nd via their home of Exploding In Sound Records, the follow-up to 2021’s "Four People in an Elevator and One of Them is the Devil" finds Mister Goblin in a more collaborative form than ever before. Where previous releases were fleshed-out solo efforts, here drummer Seth Engel and bass player Aaron O’Neill were given time and space to put their own spin on the blueprints Sam laid out in the initial demos, while other visions were also allowed to flourish – the likes of Andrew Krull, Matt Gatwood, K Nkanza, and Sadie Dupuis were given carte blanche to do whatever they wanted with their own guest parts.
That feeling of collaboration is tangible. Where previous LP "Four People" reflected the cramped apartment Sam wrote it in, this time around he allowed himself more space to sketch his ideas out, before taking the work to Chicago’s Ohmstead Studios where the album was recorded with Engel and Russell Harrison (and later mixed by J. Robbins). The result is an album that can be wildly, undoubtedly abrasive but is also chock full of (dark) heart. Melodies gleam and leap out of the swirling noise, out of the shadow – a nod to the louder post-punk outfits that inspired Sam on the new record: Failure, Jim O’Rourke, XTC, Burning Airlines, and Brainiac to pick out a handful.
That juxtaposition – the album’s visceral bursts of noise against an ever-present sense of exhaustion – is reflected too in "Bunny’s" overarching themes, the idea that death can also be something celebratory, as proof that we even existed at all. “I think it’s less about any particular death,” Sam expands, “and more just thinking a lot about death, in general, being surrounded by it all the time––individual death, death of institutions, death of the planet, etc. and thinking about how fragile everything is (especially bunnies) and how that could be spun in a hopeful way.”
"Bunny" takes no time in introducing itself, powering instantly into life with the rollicking ‘Military Discount, a sub-three minute burst of adrenaline somehow pulled from the mundane restlessness of the day-to-day. Elsewhere, ‘Holiday World’ reveals the album’s somewhat softer underbelly, Sam’s voice sounding weary and wounded, in place of the more visceral delivery that more often overpowers it. That sense of fatigue continues on ‘Red Box’, a quieter moment of reflection that feels pulled from the ashes; Dupuis’ voice winding itself around Sam’s somewhere in the background, like lingering smoke.
For all of its heavy, persistent weight, "Bunny" ultimately thrives because of that aforementioned idea – that wallowing in the death of things can still leave space for hope. “When I can’t stand and I can’t see / And I’m incontinent, confidentially,” Sam sings on ‘Temporary Space’, “I’ll still have air enough to blow / To blow a candle out and get on with the show.”
- Tom Johnson