Vicious Folly (MP3)
At a moment when cultural divisions seem increasingly tense and tribalistic, Vicious Folly explores a belief the Romans held centuries ago: homo homini lupus — man is a wolf to man. Whether the conflicts here are romantic ("Man Uncouth"), ideological ("Vicious Folly"), or familial ("Who Runs Wild"), the songs contemplate the disquieting idea that man himself is his own greatest threat.
Vicious Folly brings the resulting emotional complexity to life by expanding on the band's characteristically moody but vibrant color palette. Interweaving bass clarinet pulses and distorted tape loops move underneath minimalist patterns of chiming guitar and bass melody counterpoint. Singer/guitarist Brian J. Cohen's dramatic tenor pulls across the songs' brisk rhythmic foundations, which are more unhinged here than in previous releases.
The record's cover images, Peter Flötner's 16th century hand-painted playing cards from post-Reformation Germany, offer further support. Flötner used his cards to depict and denounce the perceived greed, gluttony, and folly of his time. That the imagery strikes a chord today — as it surely did then — is either deeply comforting, or incredibly disconcerting, depending on your information filter.
Perhaps only one thing is certain — we won’t agree on the answer anytime soon.