Album Review: Distant Train – Congratulations on Your Suicide

Distant Trains
Congratulations On Your Suicide

Distant Trains is the solo project of Iowa musician Chuck Hoffman, who plays in Des Moines band Why Make Clocks, among other varied musical projects around the state. Web developer by day, rock and roll animal by night, Chuck is the sort of musician who keeps the Iowa rock scene exciting: he knows everyone, has been in a band with almost everyone, and he’ll be down front at your show grinning and head-nodding, even if he has to work in the morning.

Congratulations On Your Suicide is a departure from the last CD-R I heard by him, which was a collection of sunny, up-tempo pop songs, roughed up with lo fi samples. Hoffman’s bass guitar dominates this album, both as a pure sine rumble and as a fuzzed out lead instrument. The songs owe a debt to sludge-rockers like Soundgarden and the Melvins, but Hoffman is more of a surrealist, incorporating cruddy samples of evangelists on the monumental “DDDE,” which sounds like the fade-out of the Beatles “I Want You” played at the wrong speed. “ABX” combines a herky-jerky drum machine beat with a muffled vocal before breaking down into rumbling and whispers.

“When did you finally realize you were grown?” Hoffman asks at the beginning of “62MF” and it’s an open question. There’s nothing childish about Congratulations’ songwriting; Hoffman has an ear for satisfying riffs that develop and modulate, and while he loves his distortion pedals he never uses them to screech or scream. He retains a childlike affection for the direct sensual pleasure of sonic texture–loud, soft, distorted, pure, all dancing together.