Free Range 

Murfreesboro stalwarts continue to make glorious noise, and this time it’s free

More than a week before Radiohead dropped In Rainbows via the Interweb, Murfreesboro’s Glossary unleashed The Better Angels of Our Nature on the world as a free download at their website, glossary.us.

More than a week before Radiohead dropped In Rainbows via the Interweb, Murfreesboro’s Glossary unleashed The Better Angels of Our Nature on the world as a free download at their website, glossary.us. Though they’re operating on a different scale than those monsters of British rock, the impetus remains the same—divorce yourself from the withering, traditional system of distribution and get the music into the hands of the fans.

In addition to the free download, the band is commissioning graphic artists to design packaging for limited runs of physical albums, which will be on sale at their shows. The first run is courtesy of bassist Bingham Barnes’ Grand Palace Silkscreen; round two will be designed by Sasha Barr of The New Year.

Recorded by Brian Carter in Murfreesboro, Better Angels, Glossary’s fifth full-length, serves as an interesting companion piece to last year’s excellent, woeful For What I Don’t Become. Whereas that record languished in limbo waiting for distribution and dealt rigorously with the frustration and malaise symptomatic of being in such a hardworking grassroots rock band for almost a decade, this one offers a much more optimistic take. Yeah, it might suck to hit the road on a budget, to work day jobs and always feel on the edge of validation, but hell, it beats the alternative. And whereas For What I Don’t Become’s magic was in its melancholy, Better Angels revels in resplendence.

Frontman Joey Kneiser’s wily, forceful guitar lines carry the whole enterprise. From the opening riff of “Only Time Will Tell” they shine through, more memorable than any lyric or crescendo. Coming in all shapes and sizes—playful on “Little Caney,” satisfyingly heavy on “Shout It From the Rooftops,” calculated on “Valessa,” exuberant on “Nothing Can Hurt You Now”—they are the glue that holds together Glossary’s signature rocking, rootsy palette. Kelly Kneiser’s backing harmonies continue to mature, while Todd Beene supplements his pedal steel work with increased duties on the guitar and Ghostfinger’s Matt Rowland adds additional flourish on the keys.

Lyrically, Glossary are in familiar territory: Southern tropes such as graveyards, booze, church bells and forgotten dreams alongside intimations of family, love, companionship and rock ’n’ roll. But the tone is different—there is a palpable shift in attitude and, seeing the band take the stage these days, it is obvious how much fun they have playing these songs. After the fruitful toil of For What I Don’t Become, this album feels like a reward for perseverance, both for the band and their fans.

“Blood on the Knobs,” the album’s closing track, offers a treatise on the continuing battle: “Shake up the future and rattle its cage / Roll down the road to the next show that doesn’t pay / Still holding onto rock ’n’ roll.... / Fifteen years growing up in bars, sleeping on floors and playing cheap guitars.” After a laundry list of aggravations, doubts and pain, we get a final sentiment. It’s the perfect encapsulation of this band: “We’ll walk on that stage and play like it’s the last time / ’Cause it might be…. Turn the amps on and count it out / Close your eyes / Take a breath / This is what it’s like to live without doubt.”

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