WATERS is the band that emerged after Port O’Brien dissolved. Founding POB front man Van Pierszalowski fled the States for Oslo, Norway after the breakup before continuing his travels to Alaska where he’d spent time working with his father, a commercial fisherman. Then off to his hometown in Northern California, over to Brooklyn, then back to Oslo to put a band together and form WATERS.
Port O’Brien was a band near to my heart after discovering them shortly after I moved to the Bay area in 2007. I saw them in four different cities, had a few pints with them in Boston, and became a close enough acquaintances to garner a bear hug from Van every time we crossed paths – although I don’t think he’s stingy with his hugs. Needless to say, I was devastated to hear that Port O’Brien broke up and I became extremely nervous to see Van’s new band name in all capital letters. A band name in all caps? I was picturing neon colors, LOTS of synthesizer sounds and the word “experimental” in the genre description.
Out In The Light turned out to be better than any Port O’Brien record. According to Van, “The record is about waking up. It is about getting out of a situation that seems endless, and realizing you’re not too old to make dramatic and sudden changes in your life. It is about starting over.” It’s also about unleashing something more bold, loud and complete than anything he’s released before.
Out In The Light makes a statement with the fuzzy “For The One.” The familiar sound of the acoustic was set aside for brash guitars, clashing drums and harsh vocals that put your speakers to the test. “O Holy Break Of Day” is the signature tune on the album, balancing tempo changes, heavy handed guitar solos and poignant lyrics:
feeling reckless but there’s a light at the edge of my room
i never imagined i could be a free man this soon
take my warnings just to find my way back through
home isn’t waiting oh lord i am overdue
oh i can’t believe this all was for free
i dreamed the fucker right out of me
i can’t believe i took it for granted
o holy break of day
feeling weezy but there’s a way i can’t let it go
hold my hand softly if you hold my hand at all
never imagined i could be a free man this soon
wade through water, there’s a light at the edge of my room
The album lightens up on songs like “Out In The Light,” the acoustic ballad, “Ones You Had Before,” and the liberating anthem “If I Run.” The closer, “Mickey Mantle,” is the clincher. It’s a beautifully crafted solo acoustic number with light keys, late blooming percussion and female vocal harmonies. Van’s songwriting is showcased again:
never thoguht to light a candle
never thought i’d have to gamble
I was feeling micky mantle wasted
driving up the 1 and frantic
turning into an old romantic
I was sleeping n the attic waiting
can’t nobody ever see
don’t make a mess of me
i ain’t to old to give a shit
i could turn a train around
i could take your country down
i aint’ too young to regret
forever, forever, forever
i ain’t too young
The song will resonate even more with you if you’ve been belittled by Mickey Mantle after asking for an autograph. But enough of my emotional scars.
My hat goes off to Van Pierszalowski. WATERS is a triumph and one of the year’s best albums.