Béret, "Fade Out the World" (Born Yesterday)
Ian Kurtis Crist used to front the Seattle band Health Problems, about whom Brittnie Fuller wrote in a 2012 Underage column: "Vocalist Ian Kurtis Crist channels demonic frontmen like David Yow and Iggy Pop, howling and contorting, climbing on monitors, simulating sexual intercourse with the stage, undressing himself, and pretend-crying in corners. The band's drug-tinged, stumbling abandon is also very tight in the way that a band like the Jesus Lizard balance their intoxicating noise stupor with rhythmic concrete." That sounds amazing, but if Crist's newest project Béret is any indication, he's mellowed considerably. Not that I'm complaining.
Crist's third album under this handle, Jesus White, is a modern-day reclamation of post-punk that slyly scathes and prettily broods in varying shades of brilliant gray. It's one of those slow growers that'll really hook you on the third listen. Fans of the Fall (pre-Brix), Protomartyr, Tyvek, and their ilk should dig it.
On Jesus White, Crist isn't singing so much as he's declaiming in stoic dismay or muttering in disillusionment. These default settings are common and understandable among young musicians who are getting shafted both from streaming services and inequality on the housing and employment fronts. Crist sounds as if optimism is an impossible dream, and who can blame him? But the most that he can do is make music for those who draw sustenance from stark songs that salve with a steely nerved poignancy.
"Fade Out the World" would be my choice for radio programmers, although it's too bleak for hit potential. Its silvery guitar riff recalls my fave cut from the Fall's Grotesque (After the Gramme), "New Face in Hell," and the nonchalant woodblock (or is it a castanet?) percussion accents surreptitiously spice up the track. Crist bluntly lays out the scenario, with keening feedback left in to let you know that shit happens. "Want some warm welcome/Ain't got no place to stay/Well, you won't like my hometown/Don't matter, no vacancy/Fade out the world and blame everyone else/I know a lot of people miserable without their prescriptions/It's okay, I'm the same way." It's a bracing anti-anthem.
In a press release, Crist says that "Fade Out the World" "is about vulnerability and accountability or a lack there of. Fading out the world is the action of giving into one's inability to accept reality.... [I]t is a response command... to live in one's own created reality rather than the truth. It is a painful self-absorbed place that is strangely human and oxymoronically comfortable."
Béret plays a free, all-ages record-release show Saturday, December 7 at Everyday Music, with Bad Luck opening. Béret's band will feature Dan Paulus (ex Licks), David Nielsen, Mike Bernatovicz, and Jacob Archuleta.