His dancing words fall languidly from his lips,
slipping away scarred and lazy, as if he knows his life
too well to want to know it anymore, to even care anymore. But here it is anyway, the life he's found, the
one he's felt and wrapped inside beautiful prose that
falls away all tired and in motion, so simple,
so revealing and so true, it could easily be mistaken for
you. Do you really want to live it anymore when it
feels ill-fitting and blue?
The details, pain-stricken and despairingly real,
are as unmistakable as the taste of blood and the way
you know it's your own. He murmurs and speaks, not
like a speaker, but rather clearing his throat, fumbling his words and licking his dry lips like an everyday
someone who confesses their darkest moments, sorry and
sad, heavy and dumb, like he's suffering stuck under
someone else's thumb.
Sometimes he talks to you like he talks to himself,
without thinking, only expressing, just kicking it out
with unintended honesty and angry defiance. He
grumbles the way you grumble when the buzzer shakes
you from your slumber to remind you of the life that
you have to live and the whoever is responsible that
you'll never be able to forgive.
"Fuck your deadlines, fuck your editors, fuck friends,
fuck responsibility, fuck living long, fuck getting up
in the morning, fuck writing the big things," spoken-word artist Adam Gnade rants
on "Shout the Battle Cry
for Freedom." "Your wine bottle is rising from between
your legs like a dark glass lighthouse and you laugh,
your teeth slop red, black of wine and crooked smile."
He glides naturally between sneeringly cursing,
spitting back at the world, and delivering strings of
gorgeous, hand-picked words strung together like they
were meant for no other, like they invented each
other. He sounds somber and acquiescent, like he's come
to terms with what it means to be alive and has,
although pained, accepted being a part of it.
"From outside the window, you would see a symphony in
tragic comedy, and song and dance blues, election year
blues, wartime blues, love life blues, growing up
blues," he says on "The Winter," allowing his words to
slur together gently as a sad, dramatic guitar line
comes and goes like a rising lump in your throat.
He recorded himself raw and intimate; you can feel the
disappointment in his voice and the click of the tape
roll by, capturing the poems he scribbled in a
notebook on darker nights, maybe winter nights, maybe
drunken nights. He holds nothing back, intent on
sharing his love for words and the way they make
watery rhythms when combined just so, intent on
sharing his life experiences and the thoughts that
played in his head while enduring them, that played in
his head never knowing they'd ever be let go.
"Your parents are getting older, you see it over the
table on dinner visits, more like hospital visits than
family time," he shrugs as a tinny guitar groans gravely
behind simple taps at the hi-hat and bass, concluding
with strategically placed cymbal crashes.
"You need to go to the doctor, she says, I feel like
I'm losing it, you say," Gnade says, sounding aloof
and empty on "Shout the Battle Cry for Freedom." "I
feel like I got a demon in my head, you say, what do
you need me for, she says, I feel like I'm already
dead, you say, you're so selfish, she says, don't
leave me... don't leave me, don't leave me, don't
Listening to Gnade is hard and depressing in a
gracious kind of way gracious because it forces the
gap between artist and audience away, because it
captures so closely the anguished frustration inside.
Whether it's his or yours‚ it's difficult to decide.
"But then you're driving again, the sun is out, and
the summer shade from trees tiger stripes the road,
you are together again and you are heading home," he
sighs, like it's OK, or at least it can be at times,
while delicate acoustics tinkle behind him.
"Apologies made and nothing resolved, nothing is
resolved," he later continues, "Life is still a big
hanging, sulking mystery ... of too much damage done,
maybe, but together and heading home, you are heading