The Daredevil Christopher Wright – ‘The Nature of Things’

Review by Jordaan Mason

What does it mean to say that you aren’t proud of what you’ve done? Does the lack of pride necessarily mean that what you feel is shame, or is there perhaps something more intangible in between? Would you rewrite your own history if you could? The past is the past is the past: one can only dwell for so long.

The Nature of Things is neither proud nor ashamed. Accidents happen. People hurt one another, often unintentionally. Pain is passed without profit. A transformation occurs: the body is distributed, dissected. The self is always in conversation with another, but it shifts between argument and dialogue. It is both tender and tumultuous.

For brothers Jon and Jason Sunde, this is something to celebrate as much as it is something to mourn. These songs traverse the space between finite categories by wandering through fractured and often surreal narratives: brothers swap blood, wives and winter leave, and machines take over the world.

On opener “I & Thou,” amidst a steady rhythm of maracas and interlocking guitars, a declaration of sorts is given: “I am looking for the thing in itself: not healing but health; the other, not self.” The “thing” is born from the promise of progress—from an imperfect state to a complete one. There is an impatience here that is acknowledged, but not scolded.

“Divorce” follows by immediately asking the second person to forgive past mistakes, marking the first song as anthemic to a yearning for something wholly superior. The song solidifies one of The Daredevil Christopher Wright’s greatest strengths: an incredible rhythm section. The bass and percussion work together here to keep things charged as the lyrics move into darker territory. This is followed by “Blood Brother,” which has some of the most inventive vocal and guitar melodies to be found on what is largely a “folk” record.

The rest of the album continues to be incredibly eclectic, but it works more often than not because of how tight the compositions remain. “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” continues the percussive work of “Divorce” while strengthening it. “San Francisco Bay” uses the ringing of a trolley bell as percussion over lilting piano and guitar. The three-part harmonies excel on tracks like “Ames, IA,” where they remain ethereal and hymn-like, recalling warm summer nights in the Midwest.

In closing tracks “The Birds of the Air and the Flowers of the Field” and “The Animal of Choice,” doubt still remains. The past cannot be forgotten or easily forgiven. The brothers transform into beasts, returning to their nature, while they sing together: “I will hurt when you hurt.” The self and the other finally coalesce through the act of sympathy, a kind of kinship that is shared through pain. And it’s up to us to decide whether or not this is in our nature.