If you’re looking for an album to brighten your day, Columbus freak-pop band This Is My Suitcase has you covered with their first LP release in nine years.
Unleashed on June 21, Who Cares About Anyone But The Freaks is a delve into the mind of the band after an almost-decade-long hiatus. Despite the playful nature of This Is My Suitcase, the group has always carried a mature ethos about them when delivering their music. It’s done with the care and intimacy of musicians who know nothing more than to put their entire beings into art.
Who Cares About Anyone But The Freaks is like a Where’s Waldo of pleasing sounds. The intro track “Work In Progress” is an aesthetically pleasing display of this; a collage of unabashed madness. The roster for the record includes the five members of the 2009 touring group—consisting of Joe Camerlengo, Mary Lynn, Joe O’Riordan, Nick Manos, and Jeremy Skeen—a big green piano that was entrusted to Camerlengo’s home upon moving in, a blue recording studio in their basement, a few special guests, and cats. Naturally.
The jovial jangle of the piano and a guitar that soars through a bright blue sky on the intro “Work In Progress” is the first painting we’re greeted with, which is something that this album nails down: painting idyllic blues. From rivers to skies, the blues that are portrayed throughout the record lead to much mirthful introspection.
Ruminating reflections are heartily represented throughout the album, with “Memories” being a prime example of showcasing deep, pleasant thoughts. The waning, talkative guitar dances and sways throughout the track, while the words, “My memories are only as good as the people inside of them,” float by like the retrospections we so hope to hold on to and cherish for life. This is also a major theme of the album, as painted by the words that came accompanied with a zine for the album’s release. It talks about how the lead singer’s forgetful memory led to a paranoia: “How much more difficult will this become in time? Am I going to one day lose the memories I’ve managed to retain.”
From listening through the discography of Camerlengo—the voice of This Is My Suitcase—you’ll find yourself discovering that they are obsessed with sound. In the past I falsely attributed the magic of their music to its volume. (I talked with one of the This Is My Suitcase musicians about this for my own zine, but I’m not about a shameless plug—this anecdote is more to right the record of this writer’s mistake.)
Upon hearing the first words of the record—of Camerlengo questioning how the new record should start—a response goes: “I always like a catchy, not like loud,” bleeding into a UFO-sounding waver. “Work In Progress” doesn’t come in blasting your eardrums. And this is the moment where I found out how wrong I had been about their music. The magic of This Is My Suitcase and Camerlengo’s other projects is deeply seated in the intricacies and directness of the eclectic sounds the groups pull from. Leading up to the final screams on “Work In Progress,” it almost sounds like there’s a chorus of animals in the background. Sounds evoke emotions throughout, with church bells ringing near the end of “Slippin” that allude to a happy ending for This Is My Suitcase. “Big River’s” huge, exuberant chorus even cuts out into what appears to be a child’s voice, rosily proclaiming, “We’re out here on the big river.” And the keys—every single time they appear—sound so, so happy. It just makes your heart melt.
The colorful, childlike enthusiasm and mature songwriting of The Keys to Cat Heaven is still here. The sappy, heartbreak pop of In The Wake Of Atrophy is also somewhat present near the end of the record. Who Cares About Anyone But The Freaks delves the line between these quite beautifully but with a much more profound sense of introspection. Between the innocent character of “Big River” and the deeply emotional “Elise,” the components of what made This Is My Suitcase special are all still here. What is present now that wasn’t before is the happy ending fans were always pulling for.
In its zine, which also serves as liner notes for the record, a passage following the song “Slippin’” reads: “Time is a slippery plague. It moves too fast and too slow. It doesn’t wait for you, and it only moves forward.” And that about sums it up. Give the record a spin.
This is My Suitcase isn’t on Instagram, but you can follow Joe Camerlengo here.