community college’s comco is an album all about the blanks, the missing pieces. Something of a Horse Jumper of Love switcheroo, John Maragaris takes the lead here, while Horse Jumper front-man Dimitri Giannopoulos takes over the bass and John’s brother Dan takes over the kit in lieu of Jamie.
Maragaris’ lyrics and vocals are disconnected and unsteady, but also potent and immensely evocative, painting character portraits with impressive efficiency. The philosophy behind them almost seems to be a game of “who am I?”, with Maragaris using every ounce of his strength to utter out only the most important clues (“Bagel bread, stray god-head / Cynic live, basin lid / Happy dog, Alex fought / Break my jaw, thumb a thought / Silent doubt, still devout / Martyr for a common cause”), his voice prone to breaking along the way. These songs feel like the dying messages left behind by murder victims, in hopes someone might connect the dots and learn why this happened. The differences don’t stop there, either. While Horse Jumper and community college share a similar sense of pacing, comco is a quieter, more spaced out effort, which accentuates its unpolished nature in a positive way. Every note is given plenty of room to breath, whereas Horse Jumper would often go for the Wall-of-Sound. What results is every note that is technically the same sounds different, simply because they’re played slightly differently and there’s nothing to bury this quality. There’s a clear sense that this cannot be replicated, that these songs can never be played quite this way again, which makes listening to comco a very personal experience.
comco’s greatest strength is how inviting it is, and not just in the intimacy of its sound, but in the invitation for the listener to piece together their own ‘Sad Libs’ with the few but effective details given. You have to participate more actively in the listening (and specifically literary) experience to get the most out this one, but if you do, there’s an entire world waiting.
Favorite tracks: “people pleaser”, “martyr”
Rating: Strongly Recommended
You can purchase community college’s comco here.