The nature of this Work Clothes thing–on record, Jenny and Lee Waters, and live, a rotating cast anchored by keyboardist Jil Sanders–is elusive: Sure, the music itself is lovely, but it doesn’t sound as if its about love. Instead, it sounds as if Work Clothes turns trusty deep-soil plowshares into a fertile terrain of lonely, into a place that’s not as cold and dark as it is dark and oppressive. Guitars trod one and two; some scatter around beneath humid clouds of reverb; drums occasionally rattle behind it, Lee’s sure hands (the same that guided the latest Rosebuds sessions) pushing things along with a weathered persistence.
Pianos earmark the pages with quaint accents and the occasional mellotron pedal point washes in the tide. The voices come together and pull apart, two searchers riding the dark horses, meeting in the shady corners of hushed harmonies. Things sustain and hover, pregnant, quietly suggesting that nothing is settled or decided, that the axis of the Earth may falter or hold.
But therein is the key to Work Clothes–the axes. For Lee it’s Jenny, and for Jenny it’s Lee. “I’m a better man when seen through your eyes … And Jenny I love you honey,” Lee twinkles in “Over the Moon,” a true love song if such a thing will ever exist. The dark side of the instrumentation, it’s seen, isn’t a dark place at all, but instead, it’s the low-light comfort of a day on the dawn of breaking.
That enduring sense of content love is contingent upon a sense of seclusion, a sense of staying true to oneself, a sense of trust. Neighborhood pop bands going prematurely for global glory earn scorn, and old friends too busy to find time for home are mourned. But the neighborhood kids trying to make it in love and in life are heroes, no matter what the scene says.
Home is the haven, two cats (Rudy and Frieda) with lots of “Warped Records,” a tune Mark Kozelek should have written about selling off old books and buying older records. Lee and Jenny join voices on the last line, an inviting intimacy and transcendent grin apparent: “I can’t believe how adorable that dress is when you spin around.”
In this context–a hushed cradle of two people (more than lovers, beyond friends) with each other always–the effusive sentiment works. To be so sincere and not to be awkward, gloating or invasive is a hurdle, and its accomplishment here is more of a testament to the Waters’ bond than to any playing, production or writing mentionable. And that, appropriately, is a beautiful thing.