Glossary, For What I Don’t Become

glossary-dont-becomeGlossary
For What I Don’t Become
(Undertow)

After nearly ten years, Glossary are as close to being an institution in whatever-you-want-to-call-the-college-rock-scene as any band could be. With their fourth long-player, For What I Don’t Become, they officially part ways with any indie-rock trappings – the record is as pure and solid an alt-country record as one could imagine. And the band jells as they never have on record before. Having weathered several lineup changes over the past few years, the new record reflects the live band sound better than previous efforts.

It’s easy to compare Glossary’s somewhat messy roots rock to Uncle Tupelo and early Wilco but there’s also a Mellencamp vibe to the proceedings –- a broad, down-home perspective that makes much of their small-town (well, Murfreesboro) living while aiming for popular appeal. “Shaking Like a Flame” and “Poor Boy” — in addition to being two of the most rocking songs on the record –- capture that spirit with their crackling electric guitars and drawled vocals.

“Days Go By” was the first song Joey Kneiser started for the record. “The song is about being envious of those who have their own concrete ideology,” Kneiser says. “Maybe life is easier when you know there’s a God in heaven; when you feel like your life has a clear path.” If there’s a theme that defines Glossary’s sound, it’s that search for life’s purpose. It’s fitting that the band considers their records as “documentation on this journey.”

Most of Glossary’s material is slow to mid-tempo – an easy-going interpretation of country rock that dwells in sadness without ever directly expressing it. Kneiser’s voice and lyrics paint melancholy scenes that are visually rich (“Telephone poles lift out of the earth like a crucifix”) and add to the small-town feel of the band. As Kneiser explains, “the songs are an attempt to find out what’s worth waking up for, and once you’re up, where your happiness comes from.”

One wonders if Glossary could cross over to a wider audience, perhaps even mainstream country’s. After all, they’re certainly more genuine than much of the genre and For What I Don’t Become is an earnest embrace of their roots and the best quality recording they’ve done. Till greater success comes, Glossary will be content playing “anywhere people listen.”

[This piece appears in All the Rage.]