Music

Scott Kelly

Taking the Road Home

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Who: Scott Kelly and the Road Home, Casey Proctor
When: 8pm Mon., Feb. 2
Where: The Shakedown, 1212 N. State St.
Cost: $8
Info: http://www.shakedownbellingham.com

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

To me, musicians’ side projects have long been a source of fascination. Since I’ll probably never get to go rummaging through any of their medicine cabinets or read their diaries, side projects are one of the means by which formerly familiar musicians reveal the deeper mysteries that drive them.

Even for those auxiliary bands whose intentions are only half serious—take, for instance, Queens of the Stone Ages’ Josh Homme’s Eagles of Death Metal—the devotion of time and precious creative capital to another effort when their primary band almost certainly utilizes a fair store of both those things signals an inescapable need to scratch some kind of itch.

Sometimes, a side project can be an escape from a situation that has become stifling in some way or another. It’s no secret that Lou Barlow started Sebadoh as his relationship with Dinosaur Jr. bandmate J Mascis was melting down (Barlow would later be fired by Mascis), with Sebadoh’s lo-fi style providing a telling contrast to Dinosaur Jr.’s distorted and feedback-laden music. While she was still in the Pixies, Kim Deal started the Breeders to find a place for music she’d written that didn’t fit the mold of the Pixies.

Occasionally, side projects can even eclipse the primary band, if not in popularity, then in quality—although this is almost always a subject of heated debate. I’d go on the record as saying my Mariachi El Bronx albums get more listens than do those by the Bronx, and I’m probably not the only one who’d rather hang with Father John Misty than the band that spawned him, the Fleet Foxes. And while I may not agree that the album put out by the Postal Service surpasses the body of work by Death Cab for Cutie, I know plenty of people who’d make that argument.

However, most often side projects arise from the simple motivation to stretch as an artist and explore songs and styles outside those of a musician’s main band. Their existence is proactive in nature rather than reactive, and, as such, these are the efforts that tend to be the most illuminating.

For the past three decades, Neurosis has been one of the most hugely influential heavy bands in existence. Known for their ability to marry their doom metal style to their ambient, industrial and even folk leanings, they are a post-metal band often described using words not always applied to that genre, such as “cerebral,” “dynamic” and “arty.” Because of this, and a boundary-pushing nature that causes them to constantly evolve, Neurosis is a desert-island band for many metal fans.

During the course of their long history, Neurosis has spawned a host of side projects, the most well-known among them being Shrinebuilder, a stoner metal band featuring, among others, Neurosis frontman Scott Kelly and Dale Crover of the Melvins. However, the most interesting (at least to me) of those is Kelly’s mostly solo effort, Scott Kelly and the Road Home.

For the past 15 or so years, Kelly has devoted his non-Neurosis hours to songwriting of a wholly different kind. While it’s not unprecedented to see a dude from a metal band with an acoustic guitar in his hand exploring his singer/songwriter sensibilities, it is certainly unusual. But for Kelly, the fit is a more natural one that you might think.

The Neurosis singer is known to be a contemplative guy, someone who openly speaks of the struggles that have both given him character and given birth to his demons, and who isn’t afraid to peer into the darkness of his own psyche and the world around him. And considering Neurosis’ aforementioned deliberate inclusion of folk elements in their music, the Road Home seems to be less a departure and more a continuation of something already in existence.

However, even slowed down and strummed softly, Kelly’s power as a songwriter and singer cannot be denied. When he softens his heavy metal howl, what remains is someone stripped down and laid bare, a voice deep and guttural, and songs that are spare and haunting. If Neurosis is Kelly pummeling audiences with big sound and big emotion, the Road Home is him fixing them with an unblinking gaze and sharing his secrets, a thing that is appealing and unnerving all at once.

When Kelly takes the stage for a Mon., Feb. 2 show at the Shakedown, he won’t be doing it alone. Joining him will be Neurosis cohort Noah Landis and Munly Jay Munly of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, who are the other two members of the current iteration of the Road Home. I’m not going to be foolish enough to suggest that the Road Home is superior to the band that is Kelly’s day job—they are, after all, two wholly different animals—but seeing one might just deepen your understanding of the other—yet another unintended side effect of side projects.

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