Home Demons Volume 1 by Kevin Tihista
Kevin Tihista: Home Demons Volume 1 (Parasol)
I’ve raved before about Kevin Tihista at iJamming! before but, in case there remain any confusion on the issue, I will state my opinion of him in these unequivocal terms: if he is not the greatest singer-songwriter of the contemporary American underground, he is surely the most under-rated.
Proof comes in his recently released collection of home demos, most of which wipe the floor against “properly” produced competition based on all the vital criteria: music, melody, lyrics, vocals. In my review of last year’s superb Wake Up Captain song cycle, I noted Tihista’s singing similarity to Stephen Duffy, and that comparison is yet more evident on Home Demons, where the arrangements are restrained, the voice comparably relaxed and the lyrics mostly given over to love. In this regard, the Chicago-based Tihista frequently sounds like the ideally empathetic partner. He acknowledges the beauty of the fall on the song ‘Sweet’ (“Run home and tell your mother I’m the one,”) but is also generous in defeat: when his ex-lover comes to collect her possessions on ‘I Don’t Blame You’ he observes, “I’m not here to judge you on what you do with your life/Just know that I’ll always love you and I know you’re going to be just fine,” while on ‘Disagree’ he sings a line of apparent detachment with the utmost passion: “There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy, there’s only you and me and we just disagree.”
But something must provoke these well-documented break-ups, and on the medley of ‘Jim Henson’s Blues/You’re Not Bad’ Tihista reveals a personality even more frightening than that which cut through last year’s ‘Family Curse.’ The highlight of Home Demons, it opens with a cheap drum machine and upright piano, as Tihista pays presumably deliberate homage to ‘Who Are You’ – “I woke up on a Soho sidewalk, a beer bottle stuck to my hand,” – before heading off on a London day of hard-core drinking, pot-smoking and sex with a 50-something partner he later relieves “of her money and booze.”
Tihista’s naturally plaintive voice, which recounts these adventures as if they’re everyday occurrences, then reduces itself to a whisper as the piano segues into a separate song of admiration – “You’re not bad, in fact you’re good, and all the things that you want will come to you as it should” – which builds through repetition and the gradual introduction of a live band, until admiration is replaced by infatuation, and Tihista can hardly keep himself from screaming. At this point, there is nowhere to go but madness, and the group effortlessly returns to ‘Jim Henson’s Blues’ which reaches its lyrical apotheosis as the instruments break down for Tihista to shout: “met some motherfucker looked like Bryan Adams, and I slapped that bitch in the teeth.”
Under-rated he may be. Unsure of himself he is not. My money would be on Tihista should he and Adams ever square off in some back street bar. And if they battled in song, it would be no contest.
The seven and a half minute long ‘Jim Henson’s Blues/You’re Not Bad’ is available through iTunes USA for just 99c. (Hopefully it’s available through iTunes Europe and other legal download sites as well.) This is the cost of a 7” single – many moons ago – and less than the cost of a coffee in most parts of the world these days. Live up to your principles, support non-mainstream music and spend some money on the man. If you don’t feel you’ve gotten get your buck’s worth, you’re visiting the wrong web site.