If this record could be summed up in a single phrase, that phrase would be: “a multitude of anxieties.” The places that Return To Cookie Mountain takes the listener are some very dark places indeed, filled with the type of imagery that calls to mind sci-fi films, or emerging from the other side of a war having seen and experienced horrors that you can’t even begin to describe.
The war in Iraq itself seems to have a presence on this album—witness the first track, “I Was A Lover,” a song that waltzes jerkily around, all bleating horns and waves of guitar fuzz, until it draws the sneered conclusion “It’s been a while since we knew the way / And it’s been even longer since our plastic priest class / had a goddamned thing to say.” On “Province,” after observing that “your history’s ablaze,” lead singer Tunde Adebimpe pleads (with backing vocals by none other than David Bowie) “Hold these hearts courageously / As we walk into this dark place / Stand steadfast erect and see / That love is the province of the brave.” These lines could be interpreted any number of ways, but it is seems very much more than just a simple love song.
In fact, every song on this record could be analyzed on a very facile level just by saying “this song is ____ but it is also more than ____.” While it is part of a music writer’s job to parse out exactly what that thing is, sometimes it is impossible to do anything but observe the blanks and ask the listener to fill them in. These songs are dense; the layers and layers of guitars and acapella choruses and little tweaks beg to be interpreted and reinterpreted and discussed endlessly, but above all, they beg for attention. They beg to be heard. There aren’t enough unwritten paragraphs in the world to convey that.