For the last few years an old friend of mine has been working on a musical project under the name Passive Aggressives Anonymous On the group’s bandcamp page you will find this bracingly honest bio of its creator:
John Valenti is a songwriter from Rochester, NY. The world inside his mind largely consists of 60s bubblegum pop, Cole orter music, and black & white melodrama. While preferring this world of fancy to actual reality, but not so escapist or delusional as to ignore the responsibilities of the everyday man, in creating music Mr. Valenti has found a way to strike a compromise with life. To impose his relatively immature view of the world upon reality as much as possible, while still being a productive member of society, Or at least carrying on the appearance of one pretty well…
Years ago I would spend time with Mr Valenti discussing the nature of God, why Radiohead is categorically the most important rock band of the 90s-2000s, commiserating over being not-tall men and, naturally, our frustrations and difficulties regarding the finding of romantic partners. Past relationship beside I was blown away listening to his PAA album (beautifully mastered by the incredible Alfred Brown), a crooning affair that marries contemplative singer/songwriter guitar plucking and electronic swells as the backdrop to Mr Valenti’s earnest lyrics. The project brought to mind the criminally under-appreciated namelessnumberheadman, the Magnetic Fields or Sufjan Stevens by way of Scott Walker. I am refreshed to hear anyone being as self-consciously sincere in their desire to hide/escape their problems by sharing them with those who would listen.
We’ve all heard songwriting-as-exorcism before (comparison’s to early Bright Eyes would not be without merit) and I want to celebrate John Valenti’s contribution to the litany of songwriters who have looked the Sisyphean task of “figuring themselves out” directly in the face and made great music from the process. He might be putting us on a bit in “Attracted for Morbid Reasons” when he all but meditates: “Making sense of things in your life/ Isn’t so easy/ Is it?/ Making sense of everyone else’s screwed-up life is more appealing/ Anyhow”. By the end of the Passive Aggressives Anonymous there is no promise of redemption, no fully confident understanding of things, no “pure” love. What we have, instead, is an interaction between the songwriter and a roller-coaster operator who shares a bit of wisdom (“I rode this ride when I was your size/ I wish somebody would have told me no.”) followed by the joyous yelling sounds that one associates with carnival rides. It reminds me of something incredibly profound that Bill Hicks said…and which I never tire of hearing again.
If you want to hear heart-on-sleeve lyrics that aren’t impressed by their own cleverness and have been looking for something new to listen to, I am excited to recommend Passive Aggressives Anonymous. Listen to the album below or over at bandcamp and if you like it don’t hesitate to buy it and become friends with Passive Aggressives Anonymous on facebook. This album dates back to 2012 so here’s hoping there is some new music in the near future.