Beautiful Gloom

Comfortable Skin (Big Whoop)
Jeff Sears

By David Lilly

I'm warning you with a grin: Jeff Sears' Comfortable Skin is not a CD of "feel-good" songs. Nonetheless, his music feels good enough to give melancholia a good name. It reminds me of a radio moment 15 years ago when I heard a DJ introduce a new song, stating "here's another happy song from Neil Young." Sears looks like he could be Fred Schneider's brother, but that's where any resemblance to the B52s ends. The mood that Sears' music suggests is more like R.E.M. doing variations on John Lennon songs like "Working Class Hero" or "Mother." Sounds grim, but you'll do yourself a favor by going beyond the melancholy surface to get acquainted with the heart of this music. Even if it isn't inspirational, it can be cathartic - or even entertaining because at least you know it isn't about you.

Most of the songs feature acoustic guitar, but Sears introduces himself with an almost metal guitar sound on "With You Always" and suggests that the listener "Turn yourself into the drug that makes you dream." And don't let titles like "Bad Decision," "Fall," "Uptight Again Today" and "Finished With Today" turn you off. Gloomy as some of this material sounds, or might be, it is also full of beauty. Even "Deeply As They Hurt" offers advice on perseverance with "Another rainy day, so don't cry anymore / Another phase to run its course / I've heard it all before." "Acoustic Slow Song" offers introspective advice in the lines "If you break down and nurture your doubt / Stop - breathe - and feel your way out" as catharsis for the doldrums. At least that is encouragement to work through your problems rather than ignoring them by keeping so busy you don't have time to think about what's bothering you.

I have found no biographical information on Sears, but I recommend his music. When you first hear it, think of the ocean. Regardless of what the surface looks like, it is full of beauty beneath.