*Because I care for Amos Nadlersmith, the front man of Amos the Kid, and we’ve fussed around with songs over the years, two of which ended up on this album (I don’t write about those here for obvious reasons), don’t read this as a review proper, but as an appreciation of Amos’s songwriting and an interpretation of his work from my subjective position. *
by Noah Cain
Amos the Kid’s debut album, Enough as it Was, opens with the world on fire. Smoke hangs in the sky like clouds. In the choking heat, The Kid—the moniker I have for the album’s hero—feels drawn away from the city, to return home and reckon with what’s transpired, to square what he was taught about the world with his experiences in the world, to digest it all before riding out into a future all his own.
Unified by the production of Adam Fuhr at House of Wonders, Amos the Kid, which also includes Fuhr (guitar), Brian Gluck (drums), Jensen Fridfinnson (keys/vocals), and Jordan Cayer (bass) achieves a massive sound on this album. They blew the roof off a sold-out West End Cultural Centre on May 6, alongside special guests Boy Golden, Taylor Janzen, and Tired Cossack, in what was one of the most energized, intimate, cathartic concerts I’ve experienced. They leave on a Western Canada tour near the end of May.
Nadlersmith’s great accomplishment as a songwriter is to create from the place where language emerges. He distills the longing, love, anger, and pain that fuel this album into a wordless, cathartic bridge of the opening song “World Burn.” In this song, and across the album, he connects with listeners with an experiential grammar outside of the confines of ‘proper’ English usage.
The central image of “Hang Your Head” is The Kid with his head slumped in his chest, having given up on ever getting his point across successfully. Where before there was ease and excitement at the thought of an audience, now there is frustration and despair. He’s frustrated with the gathering, but he’s also frustrated with himself. While The Kid desperately wants to be seen and understood, there may be no thought more terrifying. Thankfully, The Kid is not left alone in this moment. Another voice enters to provide comfort and lift him from despair: “Cool it man you’ll be fine, everyone grows up in his own time.” There is no easy solution to the difficult, but there is hope in the support of those who care.
In “Well Water,” my favourite song on the album, The Kid has made it home. Here, the images become even more intensely elemental and concrete. Sensory snapshots hold decades of history and emotion:
“Red rust it bled from the faucet seal
And the birdhouse view from the windowsill
I still remember that metallic taste
From the old pipes at my parents’ place”
This image is emblematic of how memory functions across the album. As rust eats metal, causing seals to leak, the past bleeds into the present. Rusty water finds a way out. Memories surface. A sip of water can transport you back to childhood. After finding a sort of acceptance in “Well Water,” the raging song that follows, “Enough as it Was,” which I discuss in a previous review, gives The Kid the catharsis he needs.
Biblical imagery and characters blend in and out of The Kid’s journey. He takes on the destructive implications of contemporary constructions of heaven and hell in “World Burn” and “Point of Beauty.” Despite what he’s been taught to know, The Kid strives to live free from damnation’s trembling anxiety and salvation’s neutered anticipation, accepting the reality of death and finding beauty in his place in the family of things:
One day I’ll die. The plants will grow
all through my hands, between my ribs,
around my face and then my bones
will fade away from where I came.
Dust is where I’m gonna go.
The album’s closing song, “Western Store,” finds The Kid heading west. The tensions between rural and urban and the questions of authenticity that resound throughout the album come to a head in the concluding image of The Kid, hands softened by the city, wearing boots bought for him by his beloved’s mother, declaring he is worthy of love:
I went to the Western Store
With your ma’s money I bought boots.
Now I look the part, I do.
I don’t own no horse, I don’t own no land.
My hands are soft as silk,
But I can be your man
The final line repeats as the song and album move towards finality. The “Your man” is cut off from the last repetition, the album ending with The Kid, having reckoned and reminisced and wrestled, triumphantly declaring: “I can be!”