Lying Through Dinner EP
September 6th 2008
En Prise Entertainment
After missing his flight out of Austin after playing SXSW music marathon, Chicago’s Tom Schraeder made a deliberate decision to approach his next project with a synergistic attention to detail. His stay in Texas was serendipitous,
“It’s clichéd, but everything really does happen for a reason; I couldn’t tell you what pulled me to stay in Austin with two changes of clothes, a guitar, and nowhere to sleep.”
Tom’s time absorbing his environment produced Lying Through Dinner, a collection of intimate perspectives voiced with care, projecting the short lived narratives beyond the confines of a single song. Rather, each track seeks to exist in tandem with the next, so that each song serves the greater purpose of the record. Indeed, every song is a rebuttal of vanity and narcissism.
Even though his stay was unplanned, Schraeder’s experience instilled a sense of determination that served as an effective catalyst for his renewed creativity. He slept everywhere from floors, to couches, and even a homeless shelter. Speaking of how his journey contributed to this project, Schraeder says,
“I’m not saying I’d choose to spend the night in a shelter again, but something about the vagabond nature of the experience made this project happen with ease. We went from demo to mastered record in three weeks.”
The record opens with Needle Will Bite, a short and simple track that appeals to one of the most basic of internal monologs. The point of it all, what sticks in the brain, is the line “Something’s gotta give…” This is a moment that everyone has been through, and the song’s elevated tempo is perfect for the lyrics. The song quickly identifies itself with the listener and after only a few seconds makes clear that it speaks for the audience. People sing along to songs and memorize every word so that when they sing them, it is as natural as if they had written the words themselves. Schraeder should be proud; there is a certain beauty in being the guy who wrote the song that poor slobs across America sing at karaoke bars, wasted out of their gourd.
The metaphorical theme of the album’s next track, Guadeloupe Cries, forms the song’s backbone. Guadeloupe at once represents the pre-European peoples of Mexico, but she also represents the holy virgin of Christianity. She is a hybrid of an old world and a new one. She is the liminal space that exists betwixt and between. We imagine a familiar hotel room that has become somewhat lonely. We watch it rain out the window, as if Guadeloupe’s tears lament worldly events, what has been and what is to come.
Musically the record represents tradition and heritage, but in nearly every song experimentation is present. The folk, country-boy croon is at times accented with cavernous feedback, and in the case of Sorry My Dear, the distant and mournful wail of a magnetized guitar. The juxtaposition of the saloon–tuned piano and the fluctuating noise creates a beautiful atmosphere in which words are cradled.
In contrast, Don’t Look Back seems to be Schraeder’s shot at writing a standard, complete with a horn pick-up and a key change. The song says “move on, get over it, shake it off,” The song recovers from the melancholy and depth of the first few tracks, to turn the record face forward. This is a bar song. Not in the sense of alcohol drowned sorrows, but in that it celebrates that feeling you get when you realize the meaning of present and future tense. The past becomes irrelevant. The audience then becomes surrounded with possibility. The suffocating empty room becomes thrown into the social, recognition that a wider world awaits us.
Lying Through Dinner was also made possible by a number of local Austin musicians. While the heart of the record is clearly derived from Tom Schraeder, the rich Texan heritage that was brought to the table certainly added to the already excellent song writing. The challenge for Schraeder was not only to follow up to 2007’s release The Door, the Gutter, the Grave with a record as equally honest and soul soaked, but to also to step up the presence of a defined artisanship. Tom Shraeder has succeeded in this endeavor with Lying Through Dinner.
The Door, the Gutter, the Grave- 2007
See CMJ Music Review October 2007