The Age of Adz
It’s interesting to try to figure out how I felt about this album in the beginning because I was originally sitting in the car, driving and trying to ‘decode’ what I was listening to. It isn’t everyday that someone receives something like The Age of Adz for review. The whole listening in the car was a huge mistake, too many road distractions, not focusing enough on the content and this album even for heavy dub and electronic beats with a dash of autune is so far away from danceable even head bobbing-it’s almost confusing.
One night, while being incredibly medicated for my cold and a baby on top of me with a quiet house I decided to take some pagan advice I received about meditating. I just laid on the couch for the duration of the album with my eyes closed, focusing on the music which almost seems unnecessary but honestly had I played this and been distracted, the whole feeling of the album would have been lost.
Age of Adz rapidly began feeling like a stage production emanating from my speakers like in the days of ham radios before television. Each songs just blended in as if it were a scene and the play was set in a working town with working people and blue collars with tons of mental issues. It was a play about disconnect, about longing, about self-frustration. There are moments where you just imagine seeing half of these songs being acted out as if it were Broadway, but really this album feels kind of depressing where our main character is so fucked up by the end you wish there was just a restart button on their lives. Such button never restarts and songs never fully end, rather they seem like very small intermissions.
The entire album carries such a heavy feeling for me of self conflict like the paintings of people who were painting subjects who were in cities, alone even when they were clearly in the company of so many other people. Like a human, like a worker who lives in a city yet feels so alone, vulnerable, lost and depressed. I was thinking of Sufjan traveling back and forth from a car plant or a factory, living alone, making scrap change just trying to enjoy life but really he couldn’t because he worked all day with a massive amount of people who never spoke. His co-workers never knew his name, how he felt, a factory full of people so disconnected from each other yet so connected to their given task and machine. Around the 14 minutes of “Impossible Soul” he sings, ”boy we can do much more together, it’s not so impossible” while being backed by a chorus of what seems a chorus of people, strings, horns and a factory just making beautiful music like in Stomp. All this though, feels like inner dialogue, a fantasy or desire for everyone around him to enjoy each other, supporting and motivating their fellow co-workers even if they do make 80 cents a day while working 16 hour work days. The entire song hits about 25 minutes and becomes so dark, romantic on the point of just too sad but it get’s followed up by “Too Much” which strangely feels a lot more optimistic.
The thing about The Age of Adz though is that even though it seems like an antiquated story, it’s all the more real now except factories have become a part of our everyday life. Our houses, our lives, our commutes we ourselves are starting to feel, at least I am, some of the issues most people felt back when they were making hardly enough money to have a life. Isolation, frustration, self-loathing and inferiority of not being able to change your future almost as if you were born into a caste system. Where we once had factories and felt alone, now we have our house and our friends yet we can not relate to each other or connect. The Age of Adz almost foreshadows a collapse of self but really if we all self collapse does then not the world wither away? “Vesuvius” the volcano that seems like a mist of dewy rain feels like the only thing that can save you through this drama. The only difference is that where this album ends, our lives do not.
For me this entire album just struck a chord of economic hardships and poverty and all the mental issues that people fail to look at because we’re too busy just trying to live. The sounds of machines blaring behind us, almost confusing or mocking your sanity while we wait for our superhero or that restart button. The album though never has a point of where Sufjan just gives up, he fights and fights through the very end noticing the crows feet on his eyes and the cough that develops as he gets older realizing that those are the only things he has to show for such a long time on earth. There even comes a point, where I imagine he is staring into his 50 year old eyes chanting “get real, get right-with the lord” which gets accompanied with ghoulish howls introducing “Now That I’m Older”.
For the sake of not ranting or describing this entire album anymore I will say that if someone asked me to describe what this album was about in one sentence I would say, “it was an album that was like a journal of a working class figure who realizes that their life was nothing but work and trying to survive who then realizes that they have become old and then just wither away.”
What Sufjan did in The Age of Adz is so beautiful and rich and complicated ; he ended up telling the story of what life is for so many people who just end up turning the gears of the larger machine. Age of Adz is a masterpiece, a novella and worth upwards of 100 dollars. I’m glad the pricing though is fit for most working class people who will surely appreciate their struggles being expressed in less than two hours.
The Age of Adz is set to be released on October 12th and you catch Sufjan Steven on tour this fall.