Friendly Savages go on a lyrical journey with O, Joshua


O, Joshua has a familiar and appealing sound that flows from a Head and the Heart indie folk/rock feel to a more sophisticated vibe at times, reminiscent of Wilco’s The Whole Love or indie-folk up-and-comers The Vespers. The most interesting part, however, isn’t Friendly Savages’ sound – though the random track will have an unexpected danceable rhythm such as “I Have Your Ghost” or the eerily solemn “Joshua Plays the Pipes” that completely takes you by surprise. The hook for me is the album’s quirky, haunting narrative found in the rise and fall of the music and lyrics. Being the sci-fi enthusiast that I am, I have spent, perhaps too long, analyzing and re-listening to the lyrics from beginning to end of O, Joshua. Call me crazy, but the ultimate narrative arc seems to be about an asteroid coming to earth and challenging the inhabitants to reflect on love, loss, compassion and even their own imminent death.

The album starts with a purely musical 30 second bit entitled “To An Asteroid” and immediately dips into “Counted Lost”, a folksy ballad setting the scene for rest of the album, describing an image of nature and open air as “The smell of the sea and the light of the moon are pockets of America that still feel new / they whisper all night that the clouds above us aren’t the end of the earth / dust catches the light of suns beyond our sight.” By the end of this track the lyrics urge the listeners to allow themselves to “lose their way” in this narrative, so that the rest of the album will chronologically take them on a journey of the asteroid accelerates toward earth, casually being mentioned once in a while in the lyrics.

Love and regret comes in throughout the middle of the album, most notably and heartfelt in “The Hold of the Lord on My Sparrow” and “Ten Natives.” Then finally we get to “Natchez Trace” where the narrative picks up speed again with the narrator declaring “I’m just an earthstronaut / I know this rock is not my home / I’ll tear my earth suit off / peel the fabric past my bones.”

Probably the catchiest of all the songs on this album, “Natchez Trace” is also the turning point in the narrative, allowing the narrator to separate himself from earth and its material means. “My cigarette – it sparkles to the ground” implies leaving something behind that is still burning but ultimately useless to you.

“Asteroid J30” wraps up this complex story as the final track on the album. Most notably the lyrics profess “Asteroid J-30 had it out for us / Where it saw man, it wanted dust / We were busted / We were busted / NASA ran the model a million times / They said the stars had been aligned / and we were busted / Very busted.” The fatalistic narrative arc is the interesting edge that this band of witty, creative young men has to differentiate them from all the other good indie-folk bands out there.

Friendly Savages will be playing again Friday, September 6th at Stubb’s with Penny and Sparrow and Brave Baby.

– Bailey Cool