Pete Fij / Terry Bickers
Broken Heart Surgery
I’ve been sitting in front of my laptop for what seems like forever, trying to come up with something clever to say about Broken Heart Surgery - this collaboration between Pete Fijalkowski (formerly of Adorable and Polak) and Terry Bickers (of the House of Love and formerly of Levitation), which has been on repeat the entire time. Luckily, it finally just dawned on me that I am incapable of cleverness, so I should just get on with it.
These two guys are behind some of the most exciting, influential and amazing music I have ever encountered. I get misty eyed when I think of the first time I heard the House of Love’s stunning “Christine,” or the thrilling drive of Adorable’s “Sunshine Smile,” but those songs were a long time ago and I hate to say it, but sometimes “super groups” or collaborations between musical heroes are often lackluster or disappointing. Wisely, Fij and Bickers have slowly and quietly unveiled their shared musical vision. It now seems like ages ago that the embittered ballad “I Don’t Give a Shit about You” reared its sardonic head teasing us with its tasteful simplicity. And it’s this simplicity that makes this album so damn perfect. Instead of each of them trying to somehow recapture their youthful exuberant work and potentially creating a mess, they instead have created a singularly focused album, where every damn song is about breaking up and dealing with the notion that if you’ve just broken up with someone, then that means that up to that point, well, you’ve failed in that department every step of the way for a lifetime. In other words, the entire collection deals with that fine line of self doubt, disgust, anger, sadness and hurt of a freshly collapsed love affair all wrapped within a wry sense of humor.
The opening “Out of Time” sets the mood for the entire album. A softly strummed acoustic guitar guides the way as Pete Fij states reasons why this latest relationship has failed entirely in terms of technology vs. romanticism, while Bickers’ stellar guitar melody elevates the song to a higher level. Similarly, “Downsizing” places this failed relationship into business terms, which then sends our broken hearted narrator into seeking love rehab at “Betty Ford.” Elsewhere, in “Breaking Up” he laments how she gets all the good stuff from their split (“she got the car keys & I got run over”), while “Loved & Lost” is two minutes of quiet clichés (“It’s better to have loved and lost…”) that abruptly ends with a threat to those who perpetrated such notions. It’s this sense combination of humor and sadness that keeps this album from falling into a complete abyss, as well as the restrained, but subtlety fleshed out melodies of each song.
Naturally, I gravitate to the real heartbreaking moments of fragility of the collection. “Parallel Girl” evokes heaviness with a tasty John Barry guitar line and a descending atmosphere, while Fij sings of the one that got away and imagining a parallel world where things actually turn out right. Meanwhile, “Sound of Love” begins with a sense of hope (“the licking of her lips / just before the kiss”); before we soon learn that the sound of love is really the lingering memories of the good moments and the sounds of his former partner leaving. Then there’s the painful realization in “Gravity” that we rarely can have what we most want.
Broken Heart Surgery is, simply put, pretty damn perfect. I recommend you find out for yourself.
Pete Fij / Terry Bickers "Betty Ford"