Showbread is a relentlessly creative and underrated band. These facts can’t be disputed. Even as their audience dwindled record over record, and their line-up changed as often as the band mixed up their stage outfits (often, but less often than they change their underdrawers – though one can never be certain, no), the group remained undeterred, delivering No Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical and its solid follow-up Age of Reptiles.
Where No Sir was a band attempting to create the shape of punk that never came while still sticking to their guns (haha, it’s a pacifism joke, ya turkey) in the form of a concept album, Reptiles was a much more traditional rock album. It still had its screaming flairs (“Naked Lunch”), but was a significant departure from the unyielding shrieks that littered its predecessor.
I don’t think the problem with Reptiles was the band’s direction. Considering the fact that they are the artists, they did what musicians do best: flipping off convention (yanno, using the Christian middle finger. It’s the ring finger, FYI). The fact that it wasn’t well received by an audience expecting No Sir, Nihilism is Still Not Practical – or by press, for that matter – wasn’t on the band. The expectations for Reptiles were ultimately what doomed it.
As a fan that followed the band all over this country, that was to me, the beginning of the end of the band’s explosion of popularity. No Sir shot them to relative “Christian music” fame and garnered primo spots at the summer fests (Cornerstone, Purple Door, Sonshine). The overwhelming indifference to Reptiles killed all their momentum.
Which, in turn, created issues with Tooth & Nail. In an attempt to fulfill their contractual obligations, the band decided to do a double album: Anorexia Nervosa. A return to the concept album, Anorexia Nervosa is a complex and ambitious set.
While I won’t go far into the specifics of Anorexia (because of how well crafted the story is), I will say that it’s imperative to at some point listen along with the booklet. Included in the set is a story of two sisters: Anorexia and Nervosa. As you might have guessed, Anorexia tells the story of the first sister.
Within the booklet, there are specific times denoted where listeners should be at a certain part in whatever song to really capture and emphasize the moment. It’s an enthralling and rich experience, and one I’ve found best enjoyed in the dark with a flashlight.
All that is not to say that it can only be enjoyed while reading along with the story. But once you know it, you know the twist and conclusion, and the mystery is gone. That doesn’t take away from the music, though. After the completion of the story, I’m under the impression that the music is what most will take away. This may be due to the fact that the story isn’t especially long, but for what it is, it’s well-written. The identical track names make for a confusing experience at times, but especially for someone trying to review the albums. That’s more of a selfish thing than anything else (for us writers, that is).
The Anorexia Nervosa set bares little resemblance to the rest of the band’s sound. It has a strong Nine Inch Nails vibe, and is steeped in an industrial state, but maintains flashes of the raw rock for which Showbread are known.
Anorexia launches with the tremendously creepy “The Journey.” If the reverberating sound of children’s laughter don’t deter you, you’ll make it through this thing in one piece. If you think the first sound you hear on this album is a child’s doll laughing, you should probably sleep with the light on tonight.
The industrial influence is best evidenced by tracks like “The Flies” and “The Goat” which both sound like the sonic representation of dingy factories – gritty and dark.
I’ve always been a fan of the band’s fast and loud approach, so I tend to gravitate toward tracks like “The Sky” (the first of two so-named). That is where I feel the band does their best work on the double album set, but I do understand that within the scope of the whole project, the stripped down tracks like “The Beginning” are necessary to facilitate the story’s progression.
It’s an ambitious project, almost to the point of becoming overwhelming for listeners. It’s not something to digest in a quick, half-hour session. But it sticks with you. It’s a story of redemption and acceptance, a metaphor for the story of Jesus Christ, and one that is more than just an album.
It’s worth your attention, I think. And of the two albums, I actually prefer Nervosa – which is saying something, because Anorexia is quite good. It just serves as the “lighter” version of the two.
From the first half of Showbread’s double album Anorexia Nervosa, this is “The Pig” –
Standout tracks: “The Sky” (#1 of 2) “The Dirt” and “The End” (#1 of 2)
Weakest track: “The End” (#2 of 2) or “The Sky” (#2 of 2) – though, in their defense, I understand their place within the construct of the story.
RIYL: Ambition. Post-hardcore. The Blood Brothers, Fear Before the March of Flames, Nine Inch Nails.