Hailing from Kansas City, Mess is an indie rock four-piece consisting of Allison Gliesman, Kevin Briody, Tanner Pinkerton and Evan Velasquez. Last month saw the release of their debut album, Learning How to Talk, a record concerned with the influence of a negative relationship and the struggle to communicate when trapped in such a situation, working on the logic that to open oneself up is to begin the process of extrication and healing.
The dreamy opener ‘Becoming’ imagines a blank slate, the pain of the past wiped away, before ‘Dead Space’ follows with a bleak take on the cathartic process. Far from being a sudden, fulfilling experience of freedom and clarity, here the end of the relationship is a slow uncoupling. When Gliesman sings of layers of skin being removed, the image is not the complete renewal as seen in moulting snakes but rather a gradual shake of dead cells, the past shriveled and flaking, falling to the floor like dust.
As we described in a preview last year, ‘Cave’ is a dichotomous song, “the tender-yet-fierce sound portraying two levels of a relationship—the old, true affection driving a desperate plea for change.” This fondness is warped on ‘Godsend’, a track of strange imagery where compulsion becomes a kind of incarceration, and the pain continues into ‘Drown’, where love and loss are the twin horrors of a particularly vicious double bind.
The lasting images of Learning How to Talk relate to knots and tangles, how clean breaks prove impossible after a certain amount of history is made. To pull away is to complicate matters, tightening the snarl or else tearing some piece of the other in the effort to retrieve yourself. “Yeah, you’re choking me with the parts of you,” sings Gliesman on ‘Whole Again’, but far from some outward aggression to act is unintentional, an inadvertent consequence of trying to separate into two people once more.
Learning How to Talk is out now and you can get it from the Mess Bandcamp page.
Artwork by Lisa A. Ryan