My friend Bill Meyer (who wrote this reoord up for Magnet) thinks that Stitches is maybe not so personal and direct as Rutili is giving out, and it is fairly cryptic for a confessional..I might have gotten sucked in by the one-sheet on this. Anyway, really enjoyed the album, another good one from Califone.
Califone has always worked in the subconsciously familiar, hammering together folk memories and spare industrial parts to create altered-but-recognizable textures. Yet here on the collective’s seventh full-length, Tim Rutili seems to have taken the same approach with his words, eschewing the vivid abstractions of past work to talk more plainly about his own condition. Despite its references to Chinese opera and deep-sea divers, the album’s title track is a love song, pure and simple. “Didn’t we fit together like someone else’s sweater?” he asks, likening stitches to sutures, needlework, embroidery in the way they connect and enhance disparate beings.
Stitches, then, uses large-scale mythological imagery to hone in on concerns like love and mortality. Its lyrics are unusually direct and readable, at least by Califone standards, but infused with a collective conscious’s ghostly imprint. Here, monumental figures like Moses, Jacob and Esau and Mary Magdalene give resonance to Rutili’s queries about life’s meaning (or lack of it). In “Moses,” for instance, the prophet forever exiled from the Promised Land is a stand-in for an ordinary man’s inability to commit to a lover. Califone’s hoarse-shouted chorus of “if I let myself need you, how long before we die?” feels personally, individually true, but also archetypical and vast.