Ron Gallo Foreground Music
I listened to Ron Gallo’s Foreground Music on repeat today while hustling around New York City for the various required peregrinations of my own late-stage-capitalism gerbil-wheel (I have a lot of jobs), and I have to say, there are many moments on this album that land extremely close to home in a rough week. Gallo tells the truth about the sorry state of the world, and sometimes a very harsh truth. But he’s not a hypocrite or a megalomaniac; he turns his sharp and poetic critical eye on himself, as well. And somewhere down deep, under the fuzzy guitars and quest for something better, Gallo finds love, and not the saccharine corporate bullshit that pushes spending insane amounts of money on Valentine’s Day, but a love of humanity, and our rare but real potential for beauty. In his own words, “The world is completely fucked, but the universe is inside you.”
However, before you arrive at Gallo’s unique affirmations (that are a perfect blend of hopeless and hopeful for these times), Foreground Music takes you on a tour of the post-modern Western world through Gallo’s ironic and philosophical lens. Society may be dealing out a lot of shit, but Gallo is not taking it lying down. He’s dancing, he’s crooning, he’s pumping out the distorted guitar riffs. He’s telling it like it is, and few are spared. The first ones he brings to the fire of his words are all the toxic men out there. “Entitled Man” rocks out with urgently, and aims its energy to call out sexism in a way that few cis men do or can. Gallo practically growls on the chorus: “Entitled man / Keep your hands down your pants / Entitled man / Keep your thoughts in your head / Just because she’s talking to you / Doesn’t mean you mean anything / To her now.”
Ron Gallo (photo by Dylan Reyes)
The album’s title track is up next and rushes at you with a frenzy of guitar noise balanced with sparkling synth and mellotron fills (masterfully played by Jerry Bernhardt), as Gallo confesses over it all: “I take my life pills one day at a time / My favorite thing to do is lie awake and panic.” I can relate! Can’t we all at this point? The existential dread has built up and exploded over the top of this overstuffed blender of an American Dream, and whether it’s the constant comparison of one’s life to other people’s (that always ends with you coming up short and really unhappy), or Gallo’s hilarious but eerily accurate analysis of how many T-shirts we all have, this song will get your heart racing from anxiety, while also coaxing you to bounce around and laugh out loud.
Other stand-out tracks include “At Least I’m Dancing” (which we previous reviewed here) and “Anything But This,” the album’s penultimate song, where Gallo beg-croons over the gale of guitars: “Anything but this for a little while… I stroll the streets / Everyone I see has just lost it / There’s garbage everywhere / It’s snowing sideways / It was 80 and sunny yesterday.” Yep, sounds like my everyday reality, and I’d love a break, too!
My two favorite songs on Foreground Music, though, are the ones where we see the most of Gallo’s true (and sometimes broken) heart. “Can My Flowers Even Grow Here?” presents some of the album’s most poetic and plaintive lyrics: “Can my flowers even grow here / When the ground is bullshit and the air is smoke…We come from a place where honesty comes off as crazy / And trying to be something real / Feels like constantly running up a wheel.” (Yep, I’m right with you, Ron…see the first paragraph and my mention of my own gerbil wheel…uh huh.)
But the final track, “I Love Someone Buried Deep Inside of You,” the most poignant of the album, puts into words perfectly the terrible but too-frequent experience of losing someone you love to their addictions: “I can’t believe you let it get this far / I can’t believe you don’t have any control / Here I am, there is nothing I can do / I love someone buried deep inside of you.” Chiara D’Anzieri’s gorgeous slide-and-slink bass line really shines on this final song, as well.
Foreground Music hits hard, while also making you smile and shimmy, showing Ron Gallo’s true range as an artist. The album was recorded at REALLY NICE Studio in Philadelphia and Jerry’s Place in Medford, NJ, and everyone in the band participated in the production (including Josh Friedman, who often holds down the tight rhythms on the drums). I strongly suggest you take a listen (or ten) to Foreground Music . Ron Gallo may be the philosopher poet of his generation, and having him in your ears might just get you through all the crap.
Foreground Music is out now via Kill Rock Stars and is available on all major streamers. Ron Gallo will next play NYC on 4/6 at Baby’s All Right.