Fall is often a season of reflection and preparation. With winter around the corner, we find the primitive urge for survival lies deeper than one might expect in our modern lives. In many ways, The Getting Old Factory is a soundtrack to that instinctive compulsion to continue to exist, in spite of danger or hardship.
Before recording the album, singer-guitarist Rob Josephs and multi-instrumentalist Michael Barnhart both lost their day jobs forcing them to face financial insecurity and the uncertainty of what to do next. Throughout the album’s eleven tracks, they confront the false narrative that America is a land of opportunity where success is inevitable for hard workers. That connection between personal hardship and larger changes in the world is the thread which ties The Getting Old Factory together, as the band processes the past and think towards the future.
Make no mistake, this record marks a watershed for the band. After a series of self-produced lo-fi EPs, their debut LP is full of evidence of maturity. They shift away from the bluegrass sounds which characterized earlier efforts in favor of a countrified interpretation of rock and roll. The searing guitar solos and shouted choruses draw more comparison to Old 97s or Son Volt than the hazy psychedelia of contemporaries like Futurebirds. Barnhart and bassist Lee Berg have been playing music together since high school and have known Josephs almost as long. The history between these musicians come through in the tightness of the tracks which they recorded at Glow in the Dark Studios in Atlanta.
The opening track, “The World Still Looks the Same,” defines the album both musically and lyrically. It begins almost too cheerily, like some sort of car commercial Americana, but the bleak, stubborn lyrics give it a weight which counters the soaring musical layers. Halfway through the song, however, lies the evidence that the Quaildogs have some new tricks up their sleeves. Out of nowhere the sunny pop-country is replaced by dirty, barn-burning rock and roll. After that transition, the group spends the next ten tracks twisting alt-country stereotypes into a musical autumn, complete with all its sunshine, shadows, tenderness and tenacity.
The Getting Old Factory may shimmer on the surface, but one doesn’t have to mine very deep to find the vein of darkness which undercuts nearly every track. The impending destruction described on “Funnel Cloud” is poetic without being flowery, but the ache for release that accompanies this possible destruction makes the track truly stand out. On “Dance Like JFK,” Josephs and company allow themselves to cut loose, but the title itself evidences the danger and darkness hiding in the shadows when the party is at its highest point. The Quaildogs deliver their depression with a surprising amount of positivity, singing about the darkness without succumbing to it.
There is no hidden meaning in The Getting Old Factory. The band refuses to shield themselves or the listener from reality with symbolism. As we listen to the band observe and deconstruct the passage of time in their own lives and the world around them, we are struck by the frightening beauty of honesty, which makes this record worthy of repeat listens, especially as autumn’s chill begins to set in and the leaves fall.