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Soundbites: The Cush Return

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The Cush - COURTESY OF THE CUSH
  • courtesy of the cush
  • The Cush

Absence, as the saying goes, makes the heart grow fonder. That particular quirk of human emotional machinery, longing for something we've lost or not fully appreciating something until we no longer have it, has been the cornerstone of rom-coms and torch songs since time immemorial. In the sage words of 1980s hair metal cheese merchants Cinderella, "Don't know what you got, 'til it's gone." Also, "Whoa-oh-whoa, yeah-uh!"

Of course, intense longing makes it all the sweeter when the object of your affection comes back. But the thing about longing is that we tend to drift through the haze of memory wearing rose-colored glasses and recall things more generously than they might deserve. We remember the sweetness and passion of an old flame but gloss over what a colossal ass that person could be. We get excited when a favorite band reunites after a long hiatus, only to be disappointed when we see them again and discover they're old and lame. Sometimes you meet up for drinks with a high school buddy and discover he's become a Republican. Sometimes you bury the family cat in a creepy Indian burial ground and she comes back as a demon kitty. That's just how it goes.

But every once in a while, faith is rewarded: You get back together with an ex and it's better than ever. That reunited band is every bit as great as you remember them. It's like you and that high school bud never missed a beat. Beware demon kitties, though. Always.

All of which brings us to the Cush, the beloved, formerly local psych-rock band who make their return to Vermont this week, four years after leaving Burlington for their native Texas.

It's hard to think of a local band, past or present, more highly regarded than the Cush. The husband-and-wife duo of Burette and Gabrielle Douglas, along with the constellation of musical stars that swirled around them in various incarnations of the band, were musical cornerstones for the decade they resided in the Queen City in the 2000s. Even now, scenesters speak of them with a reverence typically reserved for the dearly departed. And here's the crazy thing: When they take the stage at ArtsRiot in Burlington on Friday, November 7, even amid those heightened expectations, there's a good chance they'll be better than we remember them.

The Cush will have a new album in hand, Transcendental Heatwave, that, to these ears, is the band's finest to date. It's got all of the narcotic ear candy we've come to expect from a Cush record. But, as Burette Douglas noted in a recent phone call — on the couple's wedding anniversary, no less — the song construction is leaner, more focused.

"Sometimes I write in more poppy song structures, which gets boring to me. So I usually want to fuck it up a little bit," he says. "But I didn't really worry about that as much this time. I just kind of let it go."

Lynguistic Civilians - COURTESY OF LYNGUISTIC CIVILIANS
  • courtesy of lynguistic civilians
  • Lynguistic Civilians

You can hear it. While there's no shortage of fearsome psych riffage, dreamy vocals and other hazy sonic hallmarks, beneath that kaleidoscopic exterior is a sturdy framework built on some of the group's most powerful and evocative songwriting.

Burette Douglas explains that his writing for the new record was primarily rooted in the same theme on which he typically muses: holding onto the innocence of youth in the face of growing up. But he notes that recent life changes have altered his perspective, most significantly the passing of his mother.

"That changes you, man," he says. "You can't be the same person you were before."

This, too, is evident in the Cush's latest. The stark quality of Douglas' songwriting is made all the more compelling by the duo's signature vocal blend. One example: the album's closing track, the benedictory "Distant Light." Here, funereal organ ebbs and flows against a rudimentary synth drum pattern. As it washes out, the duo's vocals are left bare, contrasting with the tick-tocking beat below. Then, a wave of bright, ringing guitar rises as a sinister synth growl lurks, building to a torrential climax of guitar and finally crumbling into a sonic abyss. It's dark, moody, achingly beautiful stuff. This is a phenomenal record from one of Vermont's all-time great bands.

BiteTorrent

Happy birthday, Radio Bean! The little coffeehouse that could turns 14 this Saturday, November 8. Sticking with tradition, the joint is celebrating with a daylong party featuring, well, pretty much every band in town. And, as always, free coffee.

Earlier this year, local genre-mashing indie rockers Invisible Homes released an exquisite record, Song for My Double, which should garner plenty of year-end best-of consideration. This week, they'll follow that up with an intriguing companion EP, One on the Skyline, featuring famed jazz drummer Ra-Kalam Bob Moses. In a recent email, bandleader Sean Witters explains that the original plan was to record one six-minute song with Moses, but that "his spirit moved us" to turn it into a three-part, 22-minute suite. We'll have a full review in an upcoming issue. For now, let's just say the EP offers some spacey soundscapes that I'm finding a cozy soundtrack to stick season.

Invisible Homes play Nectar's in Burlington on Wednesday, November 5, with local rockers the Parts. Coincidentally, that's the same day the new EP is available for download via Bandcamp.

It's also Guy Fawkes Day, in case you'd forgotten.

File this one under "WTF?" DJ Qbert is spinning at Positive Pie in Montpelier this Saturday, November 8. If you're unfamiliar, QBert is on the short list for greatest DJ alive. He's a three-time winner of the Disco Mix Club World DJ Championships. His first title in that competition came in 1992 as a member of the Rock Steady DJs crew with Mix Master Mike (Beastie Boys) and DJ Apollo. His next two wins, in 1993 and 1994, came as Dreamteam, a duo also with Mix Master Mike — with whom he was later inducted into the DMC DJ Hall of Fame. QBert was also a founding member of the groundbreaking DJ band the Invisbl Skratch Piklz. In short, he is one of the finest and most innovative and influential turntablists on the planet. And he's playing a pizza joint in Montpelier. How cool is that?

Dept. of Corrections: Last week's review of the Burlington Bread Boys' nifty new album Pushing Rope incorrectly identified Max Krieger as the band's lead vocalist. While Krieger does contribute backing vocals, the band's lead singer is Ethan Tapper. Apologies, Bread Boys.

Dj QBert - COURTESY OF DJ  QBERT
  • courtesy of dj qbert
  • Dj QBert

Last but not least, local hip-hop heavyweights the Lynguistic Civilians are not only awesome, they're altruistic. This week, the band begins a monthlong New England run they're calling the Tossin' Out Turkeys Tour. At every show on the 10-date trip, the band will raffle off prizes to raise money to buy frozen turkeys, which they'll donate to a food shelf in each town. The folks at Switchback Brewing, by the way, are donating all the prizes. The LCs play Zen Lounge in Burlington this Thursday, November 6, and Charlie O's in Montpelier on Friday, November 7. For the full list of dates, check out thelynguisticcivilians.com.

Listening In

A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable, eight-track player, etc., this week.

The Cush, Transcendental Heatwave

T0W3RS, TL;DR

The Maytags, Nova

Black Milk, If There's a Hell Below

Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2

The original print version of this article was headlined "Coming Home"

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