Album Review: Long Neck - Will This Do?
“I wanna say this simply/ I wanna make it pure/ I wanna be mine/ And I wanna be yours,” sings Lily Mastrodimos in the chorus of ‘Mine/Yours’, the opening track of her second album as Long Neck. It’s a bluntly honest summation of her torn emotional state, the first example of the unwavering truth that she brings to light in bracing ways throughout Will This Do?. The truthfulness of the line is intimate, sung as if being told to a secret to a close friend, and that is her usual approach here; it’s a record sung both to and about dearly departed loved ones (she lost three beloved grandparents directly preceding the writing), leaving her with her songs as a place to confess the demons they've let her with. Through Will This Do? we follow Mastrodimos’ across a year’s worth of loss and gruelling self-rebuilding, told in lightly poetic and heavily uncompromising terms, bolstered by the addition of 3 new bandmates.
Mastrodimos’ often treats her listeners as the surrogate for her tragically lost human connections, to whom most of the album is addressed. This becomes clear in ‘Elizabeth’, where she beseeches “Oh Elizabeth don’t tell anyone,” before admitting “I dig holes in the bellies of men/ Who could not care less.” The breeziness of the track belies the intensity of the lyrics, and the catchiness of it allows it to ring like an upbeat pop tune until you take a closer look.
Death and absence play a huge role on Will This Do?, and Long Neck play both to the misery and catharsis of this feeling, but whether the songs are loud or skeletal, Mastrodimos keeps her emotions right on the surface. Sometimes this manifests in brash pop-punk songs; in ‘Lichen’ she envisions her own burial, asking “won’t you miss me?” She seems to be asking this in jest, but also with a pique of anger that her dependables have left her alone, and this roiling emotion is captured by the snarling that rises up after this simple question. On ‘Ashes’ she relives merry times with a lost ally, affectionately remembering her messy hair and dirty fingernails, a crunchy downbeat chord progression underscoring her poignantly recalling “we had a song we used to sing/ fill our lungs, it was everything.”
Sometimes her grief comes out in quieter, acoustic songs, which are no less excoriating in their content and delivery. Prime among these is ‘Matriarch’, again directing her words straight to her departed, juxtaposing the divine (“you summon roses from the ground”) with the utterly desolate (“You asked me why I didn’t write a ballad yet/ I wish I could’ve answered you right then… Will this do?”).
When she turns her focus more directly upon herself, for Will This Do?’s concluding and crowning triumvirate of tracks, the result is shattering. ‘Hive Collapse’ details the harshness of her grief, asking “what’s a body without sleep?” and answering “No buzzing and no sweet dreams/ Just empty space where there should be honey.” Rather than take on a depressive slant, ‘Hive Colapse’’s ramshackle guitars and Mastrodimos’ heroic retelling turn it into an anthem of overcoming. The dissolution of ‘Hive Collapse’ opens up to ‘Milky Way’, a song as grand and sky-searching as its title suggests. Flitting between a slovenly bass-heavy crawl and a tight pop-rock jaunt, Mastrodimos details the numbness of her solitude (“Sometimes I feel so little/ Watch myself fold and curl”) as she goes in search of salvation, looking to the Heavens for peace “I gazed deep into the black/ The belt of the milky way/ Billions of bright blue stars gazed back.” All of which leads to, for my money, the most cathartic moment in music of the year, as the band vaults up to a coda, in which she simply describes “I sat to watch the sunset/ And I just fucking lost it,” repeatedly yowling that last line multiple times in a moment of humanity so raw and real it sends a shiver down my spine.
Following ‘Milky Way’, Mastrodimos brings us back down to Earth with a thud on the solo acoustic closer ’10,000 Year Old Woman’, in which she shows off the beauty in her voice previously unheard on the record. “Cigarette smoke lingers longer than you do,” she sings wryly, and the same could be said of Will This Do?, which is done in a brief-but-dense 32 minutes. We would happily take another 30 minutes of it, but by this point Mastrodimos’ emotion and grief is running dry; she finally seems to be coming back to herself as she concludes “let me walk home alone/ let me walk home without you.”
This article was originally published on The 405 - 26th November 2018.