Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Pinkerton Raid’s fascinating, unique breakup album

June 16, 2017

Breakup songs are a inextricable part of the American id, and as such they are a dime a dozen. However, sometimes a collection of breakup songs can emerge from the pack by tweaking the formula of “introspective exploration of emotional brokenness” in ways that shine a new light on the situation. Josh Ritter’s The Beast in Its Tracks pulls this trick by focusing on all that happened after the marriage ended, while The Pinkerton Raid‘s Tolerance Ends, Love Begins joins the category by focusing on the specific history of the relationship instead of the narrator’s emotions. These solid lyrics are floated by great indie rock arrangements that call up comparisons to “serious music” like The National and Fleetwood Mac.

While the songs don’t seem to be in strict chronological order, the narrative of a whole relationship can be pieced together from the nine songs of the record. (I’ll leave the details to you, because that’s part what makes this record so engaging.) In that way, it shares some thematic and emotional connections with movies that are interested in the same thing, such as 500 Days of Summer. The most difficult emotional punch of the non-linear chronology comes from the back-to-back listing of the exuberant microcosm (“meet cute“-to-breakup) of “Deeper than Skin” and the tumultuous, angry argument of “Don’t”–it recalls the big leap from “Riches and Wonders” to “The Mess Inside” on The Mountain Goats’ All Hail West Texas. The move seems calculated to show just how high the highs were and how low the lows were. That’s a rare thing from a breakup album.

Even within songs, the focus is shifted off a single narrator. While “we” is invoked in places (“Crazy”), the most intriguing turn lyrically is that both the man and the woman in the relationship get their own songs. This is facilitated by Jesse James DeConto and Katie DeConto sharing lead vocal work throughout the album; sometimes doing a duet (“Deeper than Skin”), but often exclusively in their own tunes (“Don’t,” “Tolerance Ends,” “Ghost in My Bed”). This fills out the album in a unique way, giving it that pop which pushes it beyond a standard breakup album. It’s the idea of the Postal Service’s “Nothing Better” extended over a whole record, which is cool.

The lyrics on their own are almost enough to recommend this record to you, but happily there’s even more to commend. The indie rock that The Pinkerton Raid plays draws on a deep well of minor-key indie rock forebears to form the basis of their work. The band layers dense, marching-band quality horns and the aforementioned excellent vocals of the DeConto siblings on top of these immediately recognizable forms to create whirling, intense tracks. Jesse DeConto is prone to roaring vocal lines (“Righteous Rain,” “Ghost in My Bed”) while Katie DeConto is more incisive and subtle in her delivery; their talents are paired with tunes that play up their strengths.

While “Deeper than Skin” and “Tolerance Ends” are both impressive tunes, it’s “Crazy” where this album really comes together. The DeContos’ vocal performances are intricately intertwined, and the volatile arrangement provides a complex framework that allows both of their vocal strengths to shine. Katie also gets a chance to roar in the chorus, too, which is a bold move. Lyrically the tune draws the listener into the narrators’ complex relationship, focusing on multiple meanings of the word crazy and the fact that we’re all a little crazy at times. The whole thing comes off as a thunderous turn, not dissimilar to Fleetwood Mac’s high-drama work.

The Pinkerton Raid’s Tolerance Ends, Love Begins is not your everyday breakup album. By approaching the lyrics and arrangements from unusual angles, they create a fascinating, unique record.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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