Black Box Recorder – England Made Me – Review

Black Box Recorder

England Made Me (Jetset)
by Jamie Kiffel

Black Box Recorder‘s mysteriously gentle chords with nearly folksy alto vocals are definitely not what you’d expect from the English. Without a single techno hop or skip, Sarah Nixley croons a slick murder confession with the title track “England Made Me,” where tool sheds and jars get eerie. Rarely do the lyrics get as specific as their simple singability would imply. Lines like “The kid is gone/he’s not my son; your father is a famous man… I know he loves me, now I’ve got the proof” hint at a slightly dotty groupie mom with vacant eyes. “Stuff that’s too boring to trash – it’s clah-ssless and crass; it’s only the end of the world,” is whispered half-humorously over a sweet tune made slightly ghastly with the addition of an occasional high, falling whistle (bombs? air raids? aliens?). It’s heaviness made silly, fears made too light with major key music box tunes to evoke a full shiver.

Drawing on the chilling quality of everyday life, Nixley sings, “In an ideal home, nothing you do can go wrong.” A sweet tune reveals the softly smiling insinuation that something in those walls is just waiting to slither out and choke the baby. “I stopped talking when I was six years old. I didn’t want anything to do with the outside world… but of course they wouldn’t leave me alone,” starts another ghostly-humorous number, which goes on to preach, “Life is unfair/kill yourself or get over it.” The stories are weird, realistic, and leave plenty of room for your mind to color in the humor with a black marker. “An artificial tree that played Silent Night over and over again” exemplifies the under-the-surface sickness here, bubbling up in a vaguely insane giggle. The line “I still love you/love you, love you, love you… to death” calls up images of the Manson girls, thrilled with the everyday nuttiness spinning round and round in their own heads. But after all, isn’t this so laughably upsetting because… it’s just what we’ve been thinking, too?
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