When first asked to write about the Kris Bach Extended Play, I agreed without any hesitation. This is, after all, my twin’s project – my brother who was there all those many years ago when I met the woman who would later be the most important person in my life.
More info about Kris Bach
Kris Bach, as neither did I at first, could not remember this “meet cute” as we both were in a state of inebriation that would have made the valkyrie and pirate kings of yore very proud. But before you question what this has to do with a music review, allow me to take you back in time: this happened eight years ago at a pizza shop on South Street, Pretoria.
For it was at Bravo Pizzeria that Kris Bach took the brave and uncertain leap that has led to the gathering all of these words – and your undivided attention – at this place. Kris flogged his guitar and tore into the night with a combination of covers and his own original works. For those who knew him through various incarnations (Aandklas, Hotbox Studios, Park Acoustics, Arcade Empire) were introduced to Kris Bach, the musician.
In hindsight it was a natural progression for here was a man whose life was measured (at least to many of us) in the musical events he played a significant role in bringing to the people of Pretoria. So when I got a phone call last year in late October in which he told me that he’d be heading to Cape Town to record this EP at Kill City Blues, I was excited and offered both he and Estiaan Van Rooyen any and all assistance I could muster.
When the time came to record this EP in December 2017, you can imagine how much “celebrating” was conducted
At least we came out of it all relatively unscathed. This piece began with a request for a review and the immediate “Yes” that followed. When I first received the file with all the songs there was a level of trepidation in opening it because unlike the famous Forrest Gump quote on life, reviewing any projects from those closest to you is never easy.
All you can rely on is your ability to speak truthfully on the end result presented to you and hope that neither favour nor emotion played a significant role in your critique. And they don’t come any closer than brothers from different mothers – as clichéd as that may seem. It took me 15 minutes to grow a pair and then I listened to the songs: “Innocent”, “Roofs”, “Stab at The Fire” and “Wheels on the Bus”.
The first chords of “Innocent” had my brain scrambling attempting to place them in my musical “familiar”
My mind palace was closed for renovations and the more I searched for their inspiration without any success, the more frustrated I became. And then out of the blue the universe whispered “John Rzeznik”. Eureka, or should I say “Iris”? It reminded me of Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris”. I was back, and I could continue to listen to this song.
“Innocent” (the song, and not the naughty boy who is always in trouble in the township school) had me take a moment and really think how far so many of us have lost just that – our innocence in all its connotations. Our gods seem to have taken leave of us and left us to our own devices and to the machinations of our fears, and the judgements of others. This song speaks at the times within which we find ourselves.
We meet so many people and we assimilate to the various situations because we want to fit in, and in so doing we lose the way back to ourselves – our home. The many things (lies) we tell ourselves further rob us of our innocence. Can we just take a moment of introspection and hope that we can still find our collective way home?
“Roofs” opens with an organ…
Immediately I await my deliverance and boy (or girl, or gender neutral person) am I delivered. The following lyric has me still reaching back for meaning and with every understanding I return with something new: “These city lights you never showed me where to hide…”
We live in a world where we hold safety to be a most important, and non-negotiable, right. It comes immediately after the right to life. The lyrics of this song paint for the listener the image to a greater need to feel safe – not only a physical safety, but the often underserved assurances for a mental solace. These lights, and walls, and streets and indeed these roofs connect us but also can isolate us at our times of need.
We share these streets but at times the lights that line them shed light on that which at times we would wish hidden. Under our different roofs we can hide from the sight of the light.
Surely we all have heard the saying regarding pissing against the wind and its ultimate futility. This was the saying that came to mind when I first saw the title “Stab at the Fire”. Our parents taught us that fires are not to be messed with, and some of us did not want to believe it so we gave it a go.
An error that can only be attributed to age. So what business does a grown man have with a fire, and taking to stabbing it? The answer is as simple as listening to the song, and as complex as trying to either prescribe a way with which we as individuals choose to fight our “demons” that challenge us at every given turn, or how to continue to keep the spark that fires our souls alive.
The duality in what fire represents (imminent danger and life) is masterfully curated in the lyrics: “I’m under fire, the fire burns my skin/… You don’t own, you don’t own my soul”.
This song is not a grown man’s folly at something that will eventually prove to be futile; this is a defiant stance in refusing to allow that which drives him (and the listener) does not necessarily have to consume him. Perhaps when water can not quell the fire that threatens to engulf you, what can stabbing at it hurt?
The post apocalyptic tone of the final song on this EP, “Wheels on the Bus” is ephemerally suspended by the inclusion of lines from Verna Hills’ 1939 folk song “The Wheels on the Bus”. Broken windows, busted doors and abandoned rooms – people once lived here. Not only did they live here, they loved here – “If these walls could talk”.
Time has a way for either teaching us, or depriving us of that which we once held dear – our memories. This song is Kris Bach’s long walk, and during this walk he encounters Mr Morningstar himself, the Devil at a bus stop.
I cannot quite tell if they were headed in same direction or whether Lucifer had missed his bus earlier, but fate would have it that they met, shook hands, and Bach’s fever was cured.
Many would choose to focus on the Devil in this instance, but Robert Johnson also allegedly met the Devil and we all remember how that story ended. This is by no means a comparison, rather it is a poignant way to admit to having accepted all that has come before and the role the musician has played in the past events.
Time serves as a rear view mirror in which we can see the effects of our actions, and it also serves to compound the regret we feel from errors in judgement. All that we can do, however, is to strive to be better than we once were – stare down our demons and accept our devils, make a certain level of peace with our journey so far and move forward.
“Wheels on the Bus” is the perfect way to end off this EP, this deeply personal journey that started many years ago and thanks to the incessant fire that burned (and keeps burning) deep within Kris Bach’s soul has brought us to this place. Kris Bach’s voice on this EP is unrestrained and unrelenting.
It is a voice that has waited long enough to be heard. I cannot wait to hear more music from Kris Bach. I cannot wait to hear the stories he still wants to tell.
Well played Brother, well played.
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