Linus Pauling Quartet Releases a Most Mysterious EP
Linus Pauling Quartet live in Fort Worth
Photo courtesy of Ramon "LP4" Molina
Find What You Love and Let it Kill You it the 17th release by the psychedelic whatchamacallit that is the Linus Pauling Quarter, and it's a 3-song quick and wonderful ride that is surrounded in a mystery that singer Ramon Medina would not divulge.
"Honestly, I'm not too concerned if others get things right or wrong because this EP isn't written for them," he says via email. "Let people create their own narrative if they want. These songs are written for one person; she'll understand and that is all that matters.
"And yes, I am fully aware of how utterly nutters it sounds to release an EP for one person given that we are selling this but, you being a musician will understand, the work and cost in creating a physical object has more meaning than just tossing someone an MP3 in an email," he adds.
It's clear from the tone of the EP that Medina has lost someone very special to him, though whether she's alive or dead is impossible to tell. The EP opens with the Beatleseque song "The Road," which has '60s rock guitars over a toy piano and rhythm section. It's a sweet and affirming tune with a good guitar solo by Clinton Heider. In it, Medina calls on his subject to not let herself be defined, and to rewrite her history. It's not the greatest track in the LP4 catalog, and at times becomes damn near skippy, but in the moments when it hold onto its solid rock groove it has the legs of a classic.
Shorter and punchier is "USA," which is a Houston song. The fast, almost punk pace feels somewhat out of place on the album without a build-up towards such a high-speed tune. It shrieks of wasted youth and days spent just living the life of H-Town right down to seeing a UGK show. Despite my condemnation of the brief composition, you have to recognize its overall importance. Just minutes after mentioning day trips and good times is a reference to the grave of our own Pimp C. That sadness just builds and builds in the background in spite of the speed and pop that LP4 crafts.
The best moment on the record, indeed its whole point is the final track, "La Jetee." The song's title comes from a 1962 Chris Marker film of the same name. Told mostly in photographs, it's a tale of time travel where a man is sent back to discover a cure for the dystopia he lives in, but winds up falling in love with a woman he vaguely remembers from his childhood. In the end, it's revealed he remembers he because she was present when time agents murdered his adult self in front of his childhood self's eyes. Terry Gilliam was inspired by the movie to make 12 Monkeys.
The song "La Jetee" is one of the saddest things ever crafted by a Houston band. Mlee Marie drops in to lay some backing vocals, and the angelic tones that she weaves between guitar feedback and the broken melodies of Medina as he intones the EP's message of "Find what you love and let it kill you," is an album performance that I think people will hold up as a masterpiece for many years to come.
It's the sort of song that when you listen to it you know all the words even before it's over. It has an empty power that carves out whatever hole is in Medina's soul right into a matching one in yours. Though he wouldn't go into more detail, there's not doubt that there is a girl out there, in the angelic ether or maybe if God is good alive and well but away, who he still burns for.
Or maybe not. Maybe Medina is like Tucker Crowe, the protagonist of Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked, and the music that was inspired by this girl is more important than she ever was. I doubt it. Medina isn't as broken a man, as far as I know him. I think that Find What You Love and Let It Kill You is a brief look at a still-open wound, and for my money "La Jetee" should already be in the running for song of the year for the next HPMAs.
You'll never forget the line, "Everything dies, even the stars/ Everything dies except you in my heart."
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