'Four Seasons Con' finally surfaces after a four-year wait
There was a point in 2017 when Comrade Question singer/bassist Lee Mason questioned if the band's third full-length would ever see the light of day.
The musicians started demoing tracks for a new album in 2014, but, absent a deadline — and with the band members adjusting to career changes, moves and lineup shifts — the record idled for the better part of three years.
“We just sat on it for so long, and when you do that it's like, ‘Well, we can do this one part better. We can do this better.' And you can't do that or you'll never finish an album,” said Mason, who launched Garbage Greek in Comrade's downtime, releasing a pair of albums, including this year's It's Not Always Being a Ghost. “We spent so much time just messing around with stuff. … After a while you're like, ‘We need deadlines. We need something to keep us motivated to finish.'”
Mason said the timeline was further disrupted by his decision to mix the record himself, and he'd often spend hours tinkering with a single track only to find that nothing with it had changed. “It was like, ‘There is no goddamn difference in this. I don't know what I'm doing,'” Mason said.
Eventually Alex Douglas of Miranova and She Bears stepped in and offered to mix the record, Four Seasons Con, which band members Mason, singer/guitarist Katie Baillie, guitarist Patrick Koch and drummer Matt Whitslar will celebrate with a release show at Rumba Cafe on Saturday, Nov. 3.
The album still contains many of the elements present on Comrade's sophomore album, Pepe Polo, from 2014, notably the Beauty and the Beast vocal interplay between Baillie, who has a sweet, steady voice, and Mason, a self-admitted mumbler who often presents a gruff counterpoint. (“People ask if I sing the way I do because I'm trying to mask the lyrics,” he said. “No, I'm just a mumbly motherfucker.”)
But there are welcome new wrinkles, with some songs stretching beyond the four-minute mark and incorporating multiple passages. “Strange Place (Oh No),” for one, sandwiches a Paisley Underground-conjuring guitar jangle around a more adrenalized passage that hits like the trippy boat ride in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Additionally, the lyrics are often more politically motivated — much to the surprise of Mason, who said, “I'm not a political songwriter, at all.”
Still, the musician found himself writing songs loosely inspired by everything from the 2013 shutdown of the federal government (“Lockdown”) to political apathy (“Head in the Sand”) and, on “Strange Place,” a surreal experience from a past day job when he was asked to create a negative and a positive political ad framing the same candidate.
“I was like, ‘Weird, but it sounds challenging. Tell me about this person?' And they were like, ‘We don't have any information for you. They just want you to write a positive and a negative ad.' ‘Well, what's her platform? What the fuck am I doing?' And they were like, ‘You have to figure it out. Just Google it or something,'” Mason said. “I was like, ‘Is this how this works? Are there 23-year-olds everywhere just dying for a paycheck that are somehow shaping the entire political climate?'”
In a sense, the songs on Four Seasons, many born of confusion and disillusionment, sound even better suited to current times following the various delays.
“In hindsight it's even weirder because you're like, ‘Oh, wow. All those things I was writing about that I thought were terrible are now a big part of society,'” Mason said. “Any time someone says, ‘Donald Trump has done something crazy,' they're always like, ‘Can you believe it?' And it's like, ‘Yes. I absolutely can believe it. Why wouldn't I?'”