With the head-bobbing backbeat and the guitar-based, sing-along vibe of a hippie anthem from 1970, “Navy Parade” is something of an antidote to the synthesized gravity of “Year Off.” Instead of two-person, California-cool digital manipulation we get a Portland-based septet recording live, singing into one microphone. But hey: the fact that each kind of song exists makes the other all the more powerful and appealing. That’s something that the diversity-averse among us never seem to understand.
But I digress. As for “Navy Parade,” while it has that Grateful Dead meets Neil Young kind of hippie-dippie orientation (and not that there’s anything wrong with that!), there’s also something grounded and purposeful in the air here. Actually, as falsetto-y front guys go, Tim Perry oozes more Thom Yorke than Neil Young; he’s got that kind of edge if you listen for it, and the song, without abandoning the central shuffle, builds in intensity. This is not merely a question of volume; the structure here is built to acquire potency as it progresses. Part of this has to do with the verse’s melody line, which extends a full 16 measures and includes a nice modulation away from resolution halfway through (first heard with the words “hour finally came” at 0:25; it’s even more satisfying the second time, when Perry sings “and that’s the worst thing that you could do,” at 1:00). The rest has to do with the song’s overall framework: there are two distinct halves, and once we arrive at the second half, featuring an accumulating repetition of ensemble singing, we do not return to the first. The linear movement can heighten a sense of climax. All those voices singing together in real time don’t hurt either.
“Navy Parade”—which carries the parenthetical words “(Escape From the Black River Bluffs)”—is from the debut Ages and Ages album, Alright You Restless, which was released back in February on Knitting Factory Records. (Okay, so the album was sitting on my desk for a little while. Better late than never.) And while “Navy Parade” was not the first single from the album, it was in fact the first video. As often noted, I’m not a great video fan but this one I’m fond of, both for the storyline and for the authentic Portland imagery, with the splendid St. Johns Bridge serving as a backdrop for the song’s climactic second half.