Sarah Mary Chadwick
Me and Ennui are Friends, Baby
(Ba Da Bing!/Rice is Nice)
In my pandemic panic watching, I’m drawn to the polar regions. Endless white, howling winds, something really bad about to happen or to be revealed to have happened. The stoic Scandinavians and damaged scientists populating these tales of human erosion are equipped for taking the batter of life’s hostile climate, but they all crack at some point. The pale distant detective always weeps in his SUV. The mousy technician at the research station must always find a knife. Life will find a way and it is usually brutal.
Sarah Mary Chadwick’s similar exploration of the icy, hostile terrain of love has also been a grim companion during this plague age. She is naked about her nakedness, funny in her way, showing you the actual frayed edges of her nerves in that delicious New Zealand boing of hers. Her albums vary from rockish affairs like last year’s Please Daddy and atmospheric beauties like The Queen Who Stole the Sky where she accompanies her human suffering on a cathedral organ, but none of them have the edge of Me and Ennui Are Friends, Baby. This is a hard one.
She is tumbling out drunk from a taxi onto the endless ice, her and a clangy apartment piano... Autobiographical as a recent scar. Funny like a joke that is “too soon.” Her personal tragedies have been covered elsewhere and it is tempting to engage in armchair therapy here, but our needle is the one we put in the groove and the songs speak their own truths. The titles, even. “Every Loser Needs a Mother.” “At Your Leisure” about fellating a married man at a stoplight. “Always Falling.” In the title track, she gives the date of a suicide attempt. Supposedly, this album was recorded in a single day. This record goes there.
You’d think that would the hardest part of the record to get through (realizing we are just the listener and have the relatively easy role) but, the nadir of incandescent suffering comes with “That Feeling Like” - sing-song, almost, like something you might drunkenly join in on at a party That feeling when everyone’s falling apart! That feeling when no one knows their lines by heart! Great party, mate! You bellow along until you get to
That feeling like I don’t care if we all die
Fading curiosity as to if-slash-why
That she says “slash” is the glint of light on the raised blade when the song crashed into
Lets fuck, I said
Let’s fuck my friend
Let’s fuck, it’s dead
Lets fuck, I’m scared
And you and her are now alone and she is staring a hole through you. Sex is a lifeline and a gallows rope and even a rodeo clown act in Sarah Mary Chadwick’s melodrama songcraft, but the braid of these has never been this bare as this moment. Suit up. Code red.
“Full Mood” finds the piano at its most placid where you fear you might need to kick in a bathroom door, but the elusive sun peeks over the icy horizon wastes. Among the sexual bravado is this heartbreaker couplet
You don’t think you’re very bright
God, you’re shining like a star
And we'd rip this town to shreds
Cutting round into the dark
You are her. You are the person being addressed. You might be walking down the aisle or fogging up a mirror close to your face while striding into traffic. You might be staring naked out the porthole of a fragile subarctic research station with just enough fuel to keep you both from freezing (aka love). A few inches of insulation that keeps the wind and the wolves from your tender flesh. Ignore those alarms and get us a drink, love. There is only one thing what will keep us warm.