As concept albums go, it barely needs saying that Eulogy is among the less whimsical of its kind. But that is not to suggest it is a collection of songs burdened by the weight of their subject matter. With no wave poet Lydia Lunch, an ordained minister with the multi-faith Universal Life Church, fronting the most potent of the 10 tracks that make up this record, the overall mood is not so much sombre as reflective and feline, unafraid of allusions to the carnal impulses that can remain once a loving relationship is severed for ever.
Family In Mourning themselves are a funeral collective among whose ranks are an undertaker, a funeral director and a psychic adviser. They proudly tout their services for pre and post-mortem events starting at $5000, with prices for the higher end of their performances available on request. If you’re wondering how much of this is tongue-in-cheek, time spent with Eulogy should provide you with the answer.
It will also acquaint you with a sporadically devastating suite of songs that speak tenderly and eloquently to and about an experience common to every human being who ever walked the earth – loss – while making such sublime musical strides that it leads you to question why nobody has ever attempted such an undertaking before (sorry). This is music touched by echoes of Miles Davis, Swans, Johnny Cash and even glam rock. You might argue it is gothic in spirit, but sonically it is in a world of its own.
For an illustration of the sensitivity and acuity of Eulogy’s approach to death and mourning it is hard to see past Lunch’s lyrics on Dust And Shadows.
“What would you say to somebody who only had 30 days to live?” she purrs. “What could you say?/ That in this land of illusion/ We’re all just transitional creatures/ Peeping toms at the keyhole of all eternity/ That the past is only the present cloaked by invisibility/ And that the future is a murmur of a memory we will never possess.”
Thus she begins the 11-minute finale of Eulogy, a track fuelled by David Lackner’s keening saxophone, humid bass and jazz drums that builds in parallel with Lunch’s increasing distress, culminating in her promise to a departed loved one: “I won’t forget/ I won’t forget.” Questions of irrelevance, the cosmic hierarchy, purpose: all these and more are intrinsic to the grieving process and thus fair game for Lunch to mull over.
While Dust And Shadows is the highlight and emotional climax of Eulogy, the tracks that precede it only fall short by a whisker. Last Time We Met, a two-chord threnody garlanded by circling sax and ambient tones redolent of Oren Ambarchi’s sumptuously minimal In The Pendulum’s Embrace, gives Lunch’s mantra – “I’m making love to his ghost” – a suitably coital warmth, the introduction of queasy, off-axis drums merely adding to the low-level giddiness of the song.
Prey, which follows, finds Ben Lord posing as the Angel of Death armed with an acoustic guitar: “Come into the promised land/ Come into the promised land for you/ You are the prey that I have come for/ I wanna take your soul right now/ Push it in the fires that burn below.” Soon Lunch is repeating this reaper blues in a snarl Michael Gira would be proud of, psychedelic flute soaring and flipping like a leaf above a blazing pyre.
There’s also a poetry of sound at play within Eulogy that it would be remiss not to applaud, not least the opening Bell Tone, 19 seconds of crisp plangency that serves as the curtain raiser. The vignette Broken Glass pairs the sound of a broom on shards with portentous drone bass, while the apex of non-verbal grief therapy comes in the short intro to I Fell From Grace, wherein a disembodied choir emerges from heavily modulated noise and insistent organ, the cumulative effect being no less than euphoric, albeit at odds with the glam-rock ballad cum gospel of the song itself.
“Death is just a shadow,” Lunch repeats over and over as Eulogy arrives at its final resting place. If you find yourself in need of light, there could be no better place to start than this peculiarly therapeutic offering.