Owen FitzGerald: Body, Child, Light, Crime

★★★ 1/2 

[Sleepy Cat Records; Oct. 16] 

Owen FitzGerald is a longtime fixture of the Triangle music scene. His first project, Jokes&Jokes&Jokes, found him performing rootsy Southern Gothic material with biting comedic commentary. In more recent years, his indie-punk outfit, Salt Palace, has showcased his songwriting with a fuzzed-out veneer. 

FitzGerald’s latest solo work, Body, Child, Light, Crime, is a fitting intersection of his previous musical excursions, and his first on the Carrboro-based label Sleepy Cat Records. Each track on the EP features clean guitar lines peppered with distortion and rhythms that bounce between driving drum hits and shuffling percussive brushes. The record brilliantly highlights an aural dichotomy between punk and folk, giving way to an Appalachian dystopia.

Body, Child, Light, Crime clocks in at just 12 minutes and 10 seconds. Each of the four tracks follows its own titular theme but falls within a cohesive narrative that circumnavigates society’s underlying anxiety and the struggle to find solace within uncertainty. These are songs about finding your place in a country on fire. 

“The Body” outlines a struggle with body dysmorphia and a longing for freedom of self-expression in a society where “God’s image doesn’t match what [you] imagine [yourself] to be.” 

“The Child” traverses an array of dream-like thoughts where “Cool Hand Luke descends from the clouds in a cast iron time machine” to kill presidential cronies by stuffing them full of eggs. 

“The Child” stands out as a lyrical highlight and the pinpoint of FitzGerald’s unique dark humor and blunt political perspective with the unforgettable lines, “I hope my kid’s first word is ‘Fuck Donald Trump’/I hope my kid’s second word is ‘Fuck Donald Trump.” 

We then find “The Light” exploring mortality. “What happens when the lights turn off?” FitzGerald asks, leaving no stone unturned as he explores life’s many chapters, from “learning death’s first name” to wondering “what happens when you’re born.” 

“The Crime” closes the EP with instrumental minimalism and lyrical maximalism, as FitzGerald tackles the bureaucratic machine of politicians that sit just outside of the spotlight, promising them “a shining brass guillotine.” Fitzgerald packs a punch in these 12 minutes, making this a special record. Flowery language is supplanted by precise and carefully collected words, allowing him to paint a vast picture on a small canvas.

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