“Liberty Ashes”
(Northern Spy)

“So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.” If Padmé Amidala was a historical soothsayer rather than a fictional senator-cum-queen (you’d have to research the politics of Naboo, I’m not 100 percent clear on the succession thing either), we’d all be praising her premonition and lamenting the present it foresaw, all Sith lords and jackboots. While I kid, a little bit, Horselover Fats (more on the heaviness of that moniker in a minute) appears to follow Padmé’s lead and extend it just a bit further – that thunderous applause has become thunderous drumbeats and guitar shredding, and liberty has been stomped to death, spat upon, and burned to a crisp, leaving nothing but its ashes – Liberty Ashes, yes – to disperse upon the wind over the everlasting march of time. And that’s just the A-side, the title track! You don’t need Jar-Jar Binks to stumble all up in your business, blabbering incoherently before inadvertently saving your life as the so-called “surveillance state” swoops in to gather up all the bad apples, no-goodniks, and countercultural warriors. Any way you look at it, “Aria for the Surveillance State” is an ode to chaos in a time after the hammer’s been dropped, a neo-future wasteland like the ones Los Angeles and New York became in 1980s sci-fi action films. Oh, sure, you can exist in it, but it’s not the greatest existence you can imagine. Horselover Fats, the name lifted from Philip K. Dick’s semiautobiographical character in VALIS, oozes paranoia over unseen forces as the musicians conjure unease in every conceivable capacity, but these days we don’t need to be drugged out to hallucinate the madness – it’s already in front of us. Liberty Ashes is like a road trip away from the decaying metropolises and toward some distant unseen rural hope – you steal car after car to keep the authorities off your tail, you hitchhike when you have to. Before you know it you’ve been stabbed in the ass by a stranger at the bus station. Hey, he’s just as freaked out as you – put some Bactine on it and give him a break.

--Ryan Masteller