“Brattleboro Is Flooding.” The phrase sounds like a warning cry, a sort of call to arms akin to “the British are coming” or “Eat your Wheaties!” In fact, our listen to The Lentils’ full-length album brings us to the realization that the phrase is less a warning than a state of being, a headspace which the band invites us to partake of as they construct a proper soundscape to accompany the rich and nuanced environs that Luke Csehak alludes to in his literary style of songwriting.
By the time that Csehak and company address the album title, they do so in a manner both general and personal: “Brattleboro is flooding/And so am I/Brattleboro is flooding/Well, don’t ask why.” It is, for sure, a declarative phrase: the Connecticut River simply does not accumulate enough water (even in the wet season) to overtake the charming Vermont town, and there aren’t any tributaries around that would pose a threat to her, either. What remains is an emotional flood; an overtaking of the self by forces surrounding it that the individual must wait out, resisting until dry land presents itself once again.
From the outset of the album, a sort of modal quality emerges that takes hold and does not subsist until the dozen songs are over. Indeed, right within the opener “I Lost My Favorite Enemy” are intense string arrangements reminiscent of 1966’s Beatles, easing in and out of the melody. The off-kilter counterpoint continues into “The Bed is the Killer,” a completely self-conscious track (which seemingly narrates the awareness of songwriting with lines like “Now I know that music itself/is wrong”) that resigns to its own fatalism as the last minute-plus of the song eviscerate itself to a saxophone rave-up, descending into the mandolin/string Eastern madness of “The Unit is Unborn.”
Once the band finds the title track, it is seemingly in control of its own powers, unleashing the irresistible hooks of “Brattleboro Is Flooding” without dipping into the overuse of its own catchiness even once too much. The album carries on into the angular, painful shapes of tunes like “Madeline” and “She Never Was There to Begin With” without overemphasis on the dramatic flair that the songs harvest effortlessly. By “The Parting Glass”—a perfect-fitting folk tune originating somewhere back in the 18th century—we are there with Csehak, alongside the horrors of emotional cruelty and isolation for the sake of sanity. It is the perfect closing tune, somewhere between “bonus track” and “absolutely mandatory track to complete the crystalline brilliance of this song cycle.” Bravo.