We live fragmented lives. Everybody knows this, but few understand it. We’ve become atomized individuals, where when we punch the clock our whole humanity becomes nothing more than electrical impulses that can be displayed on an excel spreadsheet. Our lives become segmented parts of a clock: where an 1 hour is spent getting ready for work, 45 minutes to commute to work, 8 hours is work, 2 hours is spent watching TV, 45 minutes at a gym, 1 hour for dinner, 3 hours on video games/movies/youtube/whatever, 30 minutes for a shower–go to bed and then repeat.
Yet we aren’t clocks, we aren’t piano keys, we’re human beings, and as human beings we need something greater. We all know this. Yet time is money, and whether you want to be a clock or not–the choice isn’t yours to make–like sheep navigating the maze of an abattoir, you’re going to end up in the same destination regardless of whether you want to or not.
So with Tristan Welch’s 40 hours paints a clear vivid picture of what it means to be an atomized individual in today’s corporatocracy. Starting with Monday you can feel the ticking of the clock as he plucks away on his delayed/reverbed out guitar. The repetition feels both weary as though you stayed up too late trying to squeeze the last bit of joy out of the weekend, and dehumanizing like the march of the proles in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
You can feel every sensation of a Monday on this track. The synth in the distant background has a droning effect, like the sun coming in through the window pane of a car–that at first feels pleasant–then as the commute drags on, it gets slightly hotter in the car, slightly more uncomfortable. Then the distorted guitars began to pluck away like guitar from the beginning but with it’s distortion takes on a more sinister quality. As you drive up to the building you work at, it takes on a menacing quality, it becomes the main antagonist of this song. It’s a building that seems all so powerful, and oh so omnipotent–yet to anybody else it’s just a regular building that has no special significance. But you know what it is. You know what it represents to you.
The next track Tuesday starts slowly with it’s guitar swells, like the turning of a rusted gear. With the realization that–no, there is no avoiding it–you’re stuck in the 40 hour work week, and it’s only Tuesday. Then the choir synth begins to sing it’s haunting song, like the call of a siren to a sailor out to sea. The saxophone sounding like something out of a noir film, continues this siren’s call of a romance once lost. Perhaps it was a beautiful woman–whose name you can’t recall–you met at a bar after a long shift at work, and she led you on a night of spontaneous adventures. Her spontaneity, freedom, personality, and humanity made her even more beautiful as though she existed outside of time. But that’s in the past now–nothing more than a day dream–a recollection of your own self. For now you are not yourself, you’re employee number 55265.
Then Wednesday comes around. It’s Hump day, yet the glass is both half full and half empty. The guitar plucks like the tick of a clock, then synths swirl around in a malaise, and then it happens. High pitched keys begin to play almost out of sync, it’s the beginning of the end. It’s the hope that it will be over, it’s the triumph of the human spirit over the regimented nature of our lives. Where time and space compress, and the 15 minutes before you can go home can feel like an eternity. Now it’s Thursday, it’s almost over. The plucking of the strings is now being replaced with the strumming of a chord, slowly you feel a sense of victory. So when the distorted guitars return from Monday it’s no longer the menacing presence it once was, but more like the siren of an ambulance going down the street. It isn’t over, but at least now you have the upperhand.
So when Friday comes along there is no ticking of the clock, it’s almost over, the guitar is heavily delayed with a sense of giddy anticipation like the last day of school before summer break. The saxophone swells up, as you realize that the romance you fantasized about on Tuesday can actually take shape. Maybe it will be with that mysterious woman or maybe some new adventure with some new person. Or maybe you can just finally be yourself. Exert your own individuality, even though it’s two days, it’s YOUR OWN TWO DAYS. It’s something that’s yours and entirely yours, something that can’t be put into an excel spreadsheet, something that can’t be quantified. Then at the end it all crashes down, as your boss tells you that you need to come into work for the weekend.
With Overtime Tristan Welch plays a guitar that is both dispirited, and burdened. The promises of Friday are gone. Your job took everything you had, and everything you could have had for that weekend. All the romantic notions dashed before your eyes. The synth choir sings a haunting melody that is no siren’s call. Instead it’s the choir of dead souls singing a eulogy of everything that was, and could have been. Tristan Welch’s 40 Hours ends on an even bleaker note. Minimum Wage begins the same plucking of the guitar, as time continues on, with a melancholy realization that the most precious thing to you–your time–is only worth the minimum amount of dollars that the corporation is forced to pay you by state law. Even the choir of dead souls seem weak now, as the distorted growl of the guitar–the building you work at–drowns everything out. IT still has the finally say in your life, IT is the one that dictates what your time and life is worth. Then at the end you hear the faint echoes of a guitar softly playing, it’s that part of you that won’t give up, it’s the part of the human spirit that still shines through no matter what you go through. It’s the last glimmer of hope, and that hope is yours and yours alone.
Tristan Welch’s 40 Hours is an excellent album. Beautifully constructed, and so sympathetic to the average working Joe, that it can’t but be admired. Tristan Welch who is of himself an inspirational person, who battled addiction and homelessness, worked his way up from jailhouse, to doing grunt work at a funeral home, to eventually become a license funeral director and embalmer. If anybody has a story to tell, it would be this man, and this album.
For the depth of emotion, sympathy, and sincerity. I give this album my full recc.