Stream/Download: The Human Fly - Everything Feels Bad All At Once (2012)
The Human Fly is Robert Mathis, a Harrisonburg, Virginia-based musician who hails from Connecticut. Or is he? What is The Human Fly, exactly? The first thing that Mathis sings on his new record Everything Feels Bad All At Once is “I don’t feel quite like myself,” but who is “himself?” Although Mathis drops more than a handful of extremely, almost uncomfortably personal lines on this album, he maintains a shroud of mystery that serves as a defensive wall for both Mathis and the listener. While listening to this album — a sprawling, 16 track doom folk epic — one wonders what facets of Everything Feels Bad… come from Mathis, and which come from the Fly, his self-appointed stage name. This dichotomy permeates the album, immediately recalling the similar phenomenon of Dan Barrett/Giles Corey’s self-titled LP, my favorite album from last year.
But the Giles Corey/Dan Barrett comparisons don’t stop at the mysterious air that surrounds The Human Fly. Mathis also seems to take some serious influence from both that project and Barrett’s better-known band Have A Nice Life, which presents itself both in the lo-fi recording style of this album and in its impenetrably dark, melodramatic themes. Like Giles Corey, listening to Everything Feels Bad All At Once is a thoroughly painful experience, but one that ultimately rewards in spades.
It is best enjoyed — or perhaps “experienced” is a better word — as a whole, thanks to the brilliant sequencing and overarching concept, but it’s also full of highlight tracks that stand out among the rest. With its depressingly repetitive chorus, the second track “Tiger” channels early 90s grunge through an acoustic filter. The drum backed “Severed Hed” is similar, with a looping acoustic guitar riff that matches the earworm vocal melody. That said, the best tracks on this album are the the slower, more contemplative numbers. “Moth” is one such track, and it happens to feature the album’s most individually heartbreaking line, delivered with utmost bitterness — “Well I’d love to be a butterfly, but I am just a moth.” Coming from someone who calls himself The Human Fly, this kind of dehumanizing self-deprecation is certainly expected, but it still makes me tear up a little every time I hear it.
The supremely lo-fi recording quality of this album definitely aids its thematic message, but it still makes one wonder what these songs would sound like if given a little more ‘space.’ Thankfully, Mathis has promised an entirely new, re-recorded version of Everything Feels Bad All At Once due out in a matter of months. If that makes this version a “demo,” then this is the best demo I’ve heard in a long, long time.
Stream Everything Feels Bad All At Once and download it for free at The Human Fly’s bandcamp page. Seriously, if you enjoy any kind of heavy, melancholic folk music, you should love this record.