Released November 2016
Price 13.99 $
Label Drag City
Catalog Number B01LEFKILK
Papa M? Are you serious? The last time we said "Papa M," it was 2004 and we were talking about a retrospective compilation album! There were no expectations, and none given! Sure, Papa M was attached to some of the 80's and 90's greatest no-core records, especially if you consider his imaginary alter ego, one David Pajo. But that was a long time ago! So why then does Highway Songs spill into our ears with a newness, a vitality that only fresh blood can bring? Could it be because of all the blood?
David Pajo's been writing lines on the guitar since he was a bitty little kid. It sustained him through a lot of groups, like Maurice, Slint, Aerial M, Tortoise, The For Carnation, and Dead Child. He's played live too, and on records. And now that he's grown up to be a bitty little man, what's he gonna do, change? If you think so, you don't know Pajo - or as he's been known to sometimes go, Papa M. The instrumental sounds he's made in the name of these names - on albums with names like Live From a Shark Cage and Whatever, Mortal - implied danger, violence, and total alienation, alongside a peaceful, easy, good-willin', and wide streak of broke-toothed black humor. So, after those classic albums, followed by a long silent phase, broken only by a steady stream of sweet (and terrifying) pictures on Instagram, we've now got Highway Songs. Sounds pastoral. Bucolic, even. What's become of the implication of mayhem in this title?
Don't worry. This album could be called Wreck On The Highway Songs. Or Live From An Oxygen Tent. You get it right away, when "Flatliners" bursts into full metal jackin', igniting the Pajolian doom-rock inner magma into fiery evidence. This is something new again, extra savage - like the kind of record you might record in between a suicide attempt and a severe motorcycle accident. Add in a little time for a few sessions to finish the album AFTER the bike accident, and you are literally talking about Highway Songs!
With a humble combination of sources, Papa M has traditionally traced his music from aboriginal blues all the way through to rock and on into 21st century classical (wait for it), exploring moments via an audio-diary verite. With each encroaching moment of Highway Songs, it sounds to us more and more like good old Papa M, as David throws back the veil of tears from recent times to bear witness to miasmic mood-clouds passing not over but THROUGH him. Music from where the mind goes when the body is broken. Reflecting time spent hooked up to machines. A good person with bad thoughts, a story told in fragments picked up off the bathroom floor. Smashed cuts.
Highway Songs is the songs of a new man, but one made up of the old man with a few new metal parts inserted in key areas of the legs. There's kind of a "Rear Window" quality to the record - watching suspiciously from a wheelchair at the comings and goings of the world around you, sorting out where the bodies are buried, making wild accusations, almost dying, and eventually falling in love again and gaining release from the bondage of your own body.
Whew! Right? It sounds tough, but the Papa M approach is laced with fun amongst the bristle, with loads of tasty playing and a dynamic that pits darkness vs. light vs. irreverence in a Mexican standoff. As before, it's pretty much all played by Pajo, whose multi-instrumental flair (and Def Leppard-inspired one-legged drum technique!) speaks of the gumption and optimism that has always run under his bridge - along with the blood and water and sperm, massed together in a hypnotic flow. All these things are what makes Papa M, and it's damn good to hear them, and him, again.