Preview Youth Detention by Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires.
Youth Detention by Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires
The sound of the new Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires album is the sound of rebellion and righteous anger. In other words, it’s the sound of rock. Or to be more precise, it’s the sounds of rock. Bains and his compatriots are schooled in a number of styles and they channel them all, from the melodic strains of folk and pop to the thrash and swagger of punk and arena rock.
Most of the 17 tracks on the album resound with the crunch of distortion, squeals of feedback and the boom of the drums. The songs lyrics can be difficult to understand with Bains’s voice submerged in this wall of sound. But it’s clear from the torrent of words that he has a deeply-felt message. Fortunately, the lyrics to all of his albums are published on his website, a fact that underscores how serious he is about what he has to say.
As with his previous two albums, Bains’s songs are rooted in the reality and imagination of the south. His lyrics are rife with vivid evocations of the region from old plantations with kudzu-laced columns and abandoned mines to wisps of steam rising from trays of cornbread and collards. He claims his southern identity with pride, but decries myths and misperceptions of the south. The song “Whitewash” says it well, as the chorus evolves throughout the song to puncture stereotypes.
I don’t want to be a whitewash / Turning places into sets
Turning people into objects / I want to be
During the songs, amplifiers straining at full volume create the noise; between tracks, collages of feedback and “found sound” create bridges from one song to the next. In the opening of “I Can Change,” the chants of a civil rights demonstration (We have nothing to lose but our chains) are replaced by a buzzing guitar and a furious punk beat and shouted lyrics reflecting on a public debate over symbols of the Confederacy. The most striking use of sound collage, however, is the song “Crooked Letters,” in which a children’s schoolyard chant is cut up and looped to form a beat that sets a foundation for the entire track.
Ultimately, the album exhibits a belief in the power of rock and roll to speak truth to power, to offer inspiration and a means for exaltation, which Bains addresses directly in the final track, “Save My Life.”
Don’t you tell me, “It’s only rock and roll” / When I’ve seen it wrestle truth from noise
Save my life
From the urgency of the music, it’s clear that Bains and his band believe it.