American guitarist-singer-songwriter-political activist Marc Ribot called the new album of his trio Ceramic Dog «Hope», but chose to open it with the most depressing song he has ever written, «B-Flat Ontology», or as he defines it, «much more depressing than Gustav Mahler’s «Kindertotenlieder». In this song, Ribot flexes his minimalist storytelling skills to sketch life’s ennui—a kind of pointlessness that goes far beyond existentialism and satirizes trendy, postmodern philosophers Slavoj Žižekand Bruno Latour (« …Žižek says that Donald Trump is the Lenin of today, isn’t it amazing?, What will Latour and Žižek think of next? Vegetables are people in a Flat Ontology, isn’t it amazing?»).
But «Hope» is Ribot’s and his comrades – bassist-multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith – way to get rid of this kind of existential depression. The trio met in Ismaily’s Figure 8 Recording studio in Brooklyn in late May 2020, and these sessions already yielded the EP «What I Did On My Long ‘Vacation’» (Northern Spy, 2020). «Hope» reflects Ribot and Ceramic Dog resistance as an essential state of mind, as well as resisting any musical, historical and political categorization. It is a sort of testimony to the effects of the political burnout and of the former American idiot president’s deliberate embrace of untruth that reduced what little hope was left for avoiding global warming catastrophe.
But as soon as Ceramic Dog began to jam and play it had tons of fun, and the righteous fury was warped with sharp, cynical and sarcastic rants and texts – «You can’t fight Cindy Sherman, Kanye?» at the end of «Nickelodeon» or «I vote no, I break consensus, I refuse, I resist… I don’t accept gravity, or even teeth!…» in «The Activist», addictive, funky grooves on «Wanna» and «Bertha The Cool», and burning, bluesy instrumentals like «The Long Goodbye» and «Maple Leaf Rage» (nodding to Scott Joplin’s iconic «Maple Leaf Rag»). Ceramic Dog ends «Hope» with a sober and ruminative, spoken-word reimagining of Donovan’s flower-power, the psychedelic folk anthem «Wear Your Love Like Heaven».
Taste Ribot and Ceramic Dog miraculous medicine for the ones who still feel depressed from the Covid-19 pandemic depression. The passionate, joyful performance of this great trio may convince you that there is still some hope for our planet.
Marc Ribot (g, v), Shahzad Ismaily (b, keys, backing v), Ches Smith (dr, perc, ele, backing v), Darius Jones (as), Rubin Khodeli (c), Gyda Valtysdottir (c), Syd Straw (background v)