As a general rule, musicians should never write, record and play all the instruments on an album. Sure, music writers tend to glorify the true lone-worker visionaries — revered names like Tom Waits, Brian Wilson and Jimi Hendrix get thrown around. But for every Waits or Wilson, there are a 100 other artistic individualists who are so convinced of their own unfiltered brilliance that they can’t recognized that what they’re recording sounds bad — really bad, in fact. This is why writers have editors, why Sting’s solo records can’t hold a candle to his work with The Police, and why Bryan Scary’s debut record The Shredding Tears is so frustrating.
Recorded almost completely by Scary himself over a period of roughly three years (Jeremy Black of Apollo Sunshine overdubbed some of the drums on the record), The Shredding Tears is far from short on good ideas. In fact, it’s full off them. Scary has mastered the art of mixing beautiful, Fab-Four-reminiscent melodies with indie pop. When he croons “Three little boys in a wishing well/ are secretly gathering wishes to sell,” on “The Lessons I Learned,” it’s hard not to picture Paul McCartney leading his former bandmates in a rendition of the track. But all too often, just when a song is hitting its stride, Scary introduces a new melody, section, or tempo — sabotaging a fantastic tune by turning it into sub-par indie prog.
It’s a problem groups like The Fiery Furnaces and The Decemberists have had their entire careers. And it’s hard not to think that if Scary had made this record with a few other musicians, one of them might have leaned over and said, “Hey, that track sounds fine without adding a coda. Or a second chorus, for that matter.”