Music has the ability to be completely trans-formative and drag you into a story. It triggers emotion, it changes our brain chemistry and it alters and nurtures our imagination. Music has evolved with us over thousands of years and continues on as an essential form of communication. Musicians often write albums with particular story-lines and moods in mind, or with a coherent narrative they tell throughout. Those narratives often mirror our human fears, hopes and doubts, but few topics are mirrored in music as much as death. Described as “a broken man singing like a child,” I, Useless is a one man band from Clermont-Ferrand, France, who is currently finishing his album “Twister” set for release sometime within 2017. Recorded between Clermont-Ferrand, Paris and Montluçon – by Tweed Music, Loic Bénart and I, Useless – the album’s overarching theme is centered on the death of his closest friend, and how to get on with life thereafter. Though not entirely completed some songs from the upcoming album have been released via YouTube, including the title track “Twister”, “Because Of You” and “Out Of This”.
The moments that tear us down to practically nothing determine who we are. They strip us of what is comfortable and familiar while forcing us to draw strength from within. One of the harshest realities facing every human being is death, and that includes the occurrence itself as well as grappling with its implications.
Our brains aren’t programmed to comprehend something so linear, unforgiving, and unflinchingly certain as someone ceasing to exist. On the song extracts I heard, taken from the album “Twister”, I, Useless seems to tackle all of these ideas as a way of dealing with his friend’s death. His attempts to exactly fathom out the situation among a myriad of other issues and personal demons all unfold like little anecdotes in his mind.
I, Useless takes his inner thoughts and emotions and then translates them into lyrical and visual imagery via his music and video clips, with the collaboration of music arrangers and videographers. The performances use many contrasts to make an indelible impression on the listener.
Foremost is I, Useless’ voice. One would expect somber themes like this to be voiced by a deep, dark and moody Nick Drake-type vocal. Instead I, Useless brandishes a high pitched phosphorescent tone that is as whimsical as it is wistful – hence the “a broken man singing like a child,” description.
On the occasion the music may match the melancholy content you expect from a death-themed album, as on the slow piano-driven “Twister”, which presents a homogeneous assault on your emotional sensitivity, and is perfectly supported by the accompanying video clip.
“Because of You”, on the other hand, is an upbeat jangling-guitar dominated romp, with I, Useless’s voice playfully caressing the lyrics in an ode to love, while the macabre imagery of death still lurks ominously around the song.
When I, Useless isn’t writing thoughtful odes to honor the absent-in-life, he’s often found battling his own demons of loss. Yet through all of the despair that emanates from “Twister”, not once does I, Useless ever sound like he’s reaching out for your compassion.
If there’s one thing that is abundantly clear, it’s that he did this for himself. It may even be a safe assumption that this record would have happened no matter what; regardless of whether it saw the light of day and reached his fans’ ears. I think these are songs his heart desperately needed to sing to his soul…