Marconi was born during frontman Luke Kirkland‘s first viewing of Blue Velvet.
In the film, characters played by Dean Stockwell and Dennis Hopper employ Roy Orbison’s masterpiece “In Dreams” as a soundtrack to harrowing performances of their sadistic urges. Referring to the song simply by its first words, Stockwell and Hopper transform the sweetness of “Candy Colored Clowns” into a twisted film memento. Kirkland explains: “It wasn’t until I was much older that I was able to recognize the difference between the meaning of that violence and the occasion for it.” Nevertheless, the recontextualization of that classic pop epic threw the subtleties of Orbison’s composition into overdrive: the majesty of the song’s many secreted sentiments radically informed Kirkland’s approach to songwriting.
Cultivating this influence in the years following, Kirkland would pen a series of solo rock compositions while drumming in Boston post-punk/math-pop act Night Rally. In the Spring of 2005, he dubbed the project Marconi, after the street that provides the main access to the one family home that had remained consistently so throughout his life: his Grandmother’s house in New Orleans. When only a few months later Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the name proved fortuitous. As terrifying images and stories filled the news in the storm’s wake, a family member forwarded to Kirkland a satellite image of the southern shore of Lake Ponchartrain: the water had flooded surrounding neighborhoods, rolled down Marconi Drive, and stopped at the corner of his Grandmother’s block, leaving her house undamaged.
Kirkland began recording and arranging around acoustic demos in late 2005 and into 2006. In August, Night Rally disbanded and Kirkland returned to Santa Fe to complete the final year of his undergraduate degree. There he reunited with former schoolmate Robert Peckham. They quickly struck up a musical camaraderie. For about a year, the two worked together casually, sharing projects and discussing ideas as Kirkland finished recording the first Marconi songs. When Kirkland decided it was time to return to Massachusetts, Peckham offered his support to a full-band outing. By October the two had relocated and rounded out the lineup with friends from the local music scene drawn from a veritable who’s who of Boston royalty: Piles, The Bon Savants, Mystery Roar, These Thieves, The Campaign For Real Time, Drug Rug, and George Lewis Jr.
What the new recruits encountered was a fully-formed brain-child: nine meticulously crafted songs built on the mirroring of opposites. Familiar chord relations dive together through winding phrases punctuated by striking key changes. Sections combine and vacillate between softness and loudness, ease and tension, atmosphere and foundation. Equally fed by the influence of forebears and peers, old-guard standards like Roy Orbison, Scott Walker, and David Bowie engage old-soul contemporaries like Neko Case, Spoon, The Walkmen, and Department Of Eagles.
Similarly, the lyrical motifs–geography, communication, migration–convey an old-world narrative pregnant with new-world concerns. Individual stories are abstracted to mirror larger historical events. Recurring personal themes of isolation and relocation find themselves party to studies in territorial expansion. The building of the Trans-Continental Railroad becomes the scene for an impossible romance; the migration of early humans across the Bering Strait to North America occasions musings on risk and opportunity. In these artificial contexts, each song extends personal moments and periods into metaphors for the quest to achieve some measure of great and summary personal fulfillment.
The album is not much more than what its title suggests: some several songs in search of security, or many Minutes To Manifest Destiny. But as the success of the compositions will surely not suffice for the achievement of their lyrical concerns, Marconi have set their sights on breathing life into the music. In performance, the five-piece band renders the thick textures of the recording for a more visceral experience attuned to the dynamics of mood and the power of restraint. And while the band has cut its teeth on the debut album, Kirkland has prepared a bevy of new songs for the creative input of the new members. With the band hot on the trail of their growing catalog, the quality of material and their early success suggest a burgeoning whirlwind in the Boston music scene. The five are eager to combine forces to raise a project that has been gestating for nearly a decade. And sufficed to say, it’s about time.
In the end, the music speaks for itself. Marconi’s is a brave new world of wireless telegraphy and transcontinental vocal conveyance. It is a world where references to Batman and B.I.G. sit side by side an interpolation of the mythology of the Trojan War. It is written in a poetry that foregoes simple politics for the uncertainties of the human condition. It is told with yearning and tempered by poise.
And they’re leaving it to posterity for you and yours.
Luke Kirkland – Vocals, Guitar
Robert Peckham – Keyboards, Vocals
James Towlson – Bass, Vocals
Jason Perry – Lead Guitar
Jeffrey Walsh – Drums