50 Acres of Pain

“Sometimes I need a woman, right now I’ll settle for a drink.” The chorus from track five (“Sometimes I Need a Woman”) of Christopher Scum’s new solo acoustic project sums up the overall sentiment of the record. Not quite halfway into the album, Scum lets loose the secret that informs the album as a whole: He could use a lot of things, but he’s ultimately going to settle.

The next song in the track listing drives the point home. “This is not the first time that I’ve let you down” is Scum’s unrepentant admission that he just can’t keep it together. The song isn’t an apology, it’s an explanation. In some ways it’s a manifesto for despair.

This album has the flair, sensibility and style of a gospel record. Of course, the ironic twist is that the “gospel” of these songs is turned on its head. It could be a cry for help, but it’s mostly a sob of surrender. Even the rollicking blaspheme of “Drinkin’ Beer with Jesus” has an undertone of self-loathing that betrays the swaggering rhythm and lyrics. “Jesus is my kind of guy,” Scum sings; and I think he really wishes that were true.

“Hate Me Kill You” is absolutely beautiful from a musical perspective. The lyrics undercut the music with Scum’s bitterly ironic cynicism. “I hate myself, I wanna kill you,” he sings. I wonder if this song is written to a lover or friend, or if the case shifts with the comma and Scum is actually talking to himself. These kind of questions pervade the record, and one listen won’t be enough to get any answers.

The whole recording feels about a sixteenth of a beat of kilter, and I imagine that is a creative choice. Listening to this disc leaves you feeling out of balance. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m making a trip through Christopher Scum’s psyche as I listen to these songs.

This album proves that an acoustic record can leave you reeling just as much as any full-on rock and roll onslaught.