Roy Montgomery - R M H Q: Headquarters 4xLP
Much of Roy Montgomery's music hangs suspended between the familiar and its estrangement, evocatively inhabiting the tension between rational thought and acute intuition. Montgomery returns with a tremendous 4LP set brimming with all-new recordings, collectively titled R M H Q: Headquarters, each record bearing a subtitle that reflects, or refracts, its content. The set's middle two discs work as interruptions or dilations of genre – Darkmotif Dancehall is reverb-drenched drum machines and crystalline layers of bled-out guitar, while Bender plays like an extended foray beyond Montgomery's 2012 release Hey Badfinger (the soundtrack for a film that doesn't exist) with tracks such as "Chasing Monica Vitti," "Cocktails With Can" and a pulsing ode to fallen compatriot Peter Gutteridge.
But it's the albums bookending R M H Q which at once channel and poignantly develop the very best of Montgomery's body of work. "Transient Global Amnesia" rounds out R M H Q with some of Montgomery's most affecting instrumental music to date – to wit, set-closer "Weathering Mortality," the capstone of a massive new work compelled by rounds of disaster natural and otherwise. "Tropic of Anodyne," meanwhile, harnesses a fierceness belying its title. The only record of the bunch to feature vocals, its standout track for this reviewer is "You Always Get What You Deserve," a woozy, oblique inversion of the Rolling Stones standby that serves up an acerbic commentary on Montgomery's own career and position in the international underground. Intoning "well, I woke wearing someone else's cliché/There were people staring at me gathered 'round," Montgomery goes on to parry anonymous recriminations ("you so rarely make a sound") and condemnations ("you say I reached my peak some years ago/and I never ran that deep") before rejecting any such baseless arbitration of talent or success and then dropping the hammer: "get back in your cages, my churlish little pets / you cannot live without me, I'm as something ... something ... something as it gets."
As far as this reviewer is concerned, he's right. For over thirty years, Roy Montgomery has fashioned a beautifully deliberate and indispensable body of work. Also deliberate is his hilariously cheeky refusal to predicate just what it is his work is ("something ... something ... something"). To borrow the title of one of his most arresting songs – one recorded, as it happens, in San Francisco – the Roy Montgomery sound suggests something submerged and colorful: familiar components (guitars, effects, sung-spoken vocals) so painstakingly and complexly layered that they take on entirely new shades of meaning and sound. It's tempting to think of Roy Montgomery as the thinking person's guitar hero. But his long (if fairly uncluttered) career offers a gently insistent reminder that too much thought – on the ideas a piece of music is intended to convey, rather than on the means of conveyance itself – comes at the cost of intuition and invention. Or, as he puts it on Tropic of Anodyne's title track: while "over and over the strumming repeats ... a new constellation is just round the bend." There are few starguides as patient and capable as Roy Montgomery; we remain gladly and gratefully under his tutelage.