The Avett Brothers: Fate And Consequences

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Friday's Pick

  • Song: "Tear Down the House"
  • Artist: The Avett Brothers
  • CD: The Gleam II EP
  • Genre: Folk
The Avett Brothers 300

In "Tear Down the House," The Avett Brothers' members again ruminate on the nature of memory. courtesy of The Avett Brothers hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of The Avett Brothers

For guys at the epicenter of so much music-world chatter — they just signed to a major label amid the buzz surrounding their frenetic live shows — Seth and Scott Avett sure spend a lot of time ruminating gently on the nature of memory. Performing as The Avett Brothers, they split their time between full-band albums and stripped-down acoustic EPs, but both approaches find them delving frequently into matters of fate and consequences.

The Avetts' 2006 EP The Gleam featured a harmony-drenched little gem called "Yardsale" — a bracingly unsentimental ode to rounding up the past, gathering it up into a great big pile and (both literally and figuratively) setting the whole lot on fire. The new, appropriately named The Gleam II EP opens with "Tear Down the House," which starts as a thematic rewrite — "Tear down the house that I grew up in / I'll never be the same again" — as they list a few of the possessions they'd best leave behind. (In case the undercurrent of self-pity isn't clear, one says of a beloved car, "It's funny how I have to put it to rest / and how one day I will join it.")

But the Avetts are too savvy for a mere retread: About halfway through "Tear Down the House," having set the scene, they let a deeper narrative unfold in a way that reveals their bravado as a desperate plea for escape from the past. As they tersely acknowledge the grief that follows a relationship's end — "I'm talkin' about collapsin' and screamin' at the moon" — it quickly becomes clear that these emotions are nowhere near as unsentimental as they seem. It's one thing to flush away nostalgia and barrel onward; it's another altogether to purge it as a dramatic gesture once the memories are too painful to keep around.

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This story originally ran on Aug. 1, 2008.

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