Brett Netson is a name that should be familiar to anyone who grew up during and survived the alternative nation explosion of the ’90s. The Boise, Idaho native has, since 1993, played guitar with the long-running rock dynamo that is Built To Spill and has spent time backing up folks like Mark Lanegan and former Dinosaur Jr. bassist Mike Johnson. As well, Netson crafted over a half dozen amazing albums with his own art damaged, high desert blues/metal outfit, Caustic Resin.
For someone as prolific and creative as Netson, it’s amazing to think that he’s never released any material under his own name before. But that is all about to change with the buzz starting to build around his new album Simple Work, released via The New Black Records.
Simple Work is the culmination of Netson spending the past 15 years or so absorbing the varying styles and sounds that he has been involved with and having them finally bearing fruit in one urgent explosion of original material.
The doomsday, psychedelic drive of “Someone Else” could have come right out of a Caustic Resin set list, and “God Is Wrong” and “Piss Anywhere” both seethe and swoon with the bitter regret that has marked so much of Lanegan’s solo work. Netson’s inclusion of cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War” should give you a hint at Netson’s source of anger.
Comparisons aside, the vision for all these songs is all Netson. And to hear him tell it, the work featured here came to him quickly in involuntary fits of action. “They were mostly written as they were recorded and each song was usually done in one sitting.” It’s quite an achievement, especially as you dig into the dense arrangements that he cooked up for these tunes (he played almost all the instruments on the album as well). Songs are replete with multi-tracked vocal harmonies, droning keyboards and guitar feedback, and Netson’s pitch-perfect acoustic guitar work.
“It’s a meditation on the end of capitalism and cheap energy. Sad songs about Western culture’s craving for authority in the guise of convenience and comfort. We are infantile and helpless. There is no way to tell what even the near future will look like.” In anyone else’s hands, that could spell an album full of inchoate anger that is alienating as it is unlistenable. Not so with Simple Work. Netson explains, “My band Caustic Resin was more of a call to a feral subversive lifestyle, but the intent here was to make music for everyone.” The resulting work plays like an unexpected note from your neighbour. Not a complaint, but an observation and an offer of help, a sonic attempt to break through the barriers that isolate people – an affecting and personal soundtrack for all those like-minded orphans who act without permission.