Album Review: BOYO – ‘Where Have All My Friends Gone?’
Posted: by The Editor
BOYO, the project of Robert Tilden, makes washed out, psych-tinged indie rock that feels like an offshoot of Elvis Depressedly or early Alex G. Where Have All My Friends Gone? his third full length, meditates on that very question. The record follows a general narrative as Tilden explored his feelings after a health scare left him cut off from those close to him.
Where Have All My Friends Gone? is grand, full of sweeping synths and vocal effects deployed as if to obfuscate the weight of his words. Each track feels built around an aspect of the healing Tilden had to do physically and emotionally during the record’s creation. “Backseat Driver,” armed with its whining, jangly guitar, eschews unwanted advice. “Skip” touches on self-destruction, and our inclination to run away from problems rather than confront them. What becomes clear as the album progresses, though, is that Tilden knows where his friends have gone, and the answer is nowhere. They were all right there. He was cutting himself off. He alludes to that revelation on the title track—“I can’t wait for change, it eats at my veins / so give me the stage where this bull can rage.” The line feels like the moment he realizes that nothing was stopping him besides himself.
Tilden’s lyrical style is distinct—his songs are made up of a few lines and act more like repeating a mantra than telling a story. Still, every one of these feels powerful and masked by poeticism. That is until we reach “Forget It,” the moment the composure falls and Tilden’s frustration finally peaks through. After spending so many songs gesturing to what he went through, it feels like a relief to hear him say “throwing out my meds today / I don’t wanna feel like shit”. The song is a rare slow burn and finds Tilden singing “we can’t get along” in a way that feels like he’s swaying from side to side. He’s confronting the bitter truth that he is the only one who can truly know what he’s going through, and outside judgments are inherently skewed. As it comes to a close, his relaxed guitar turns to a sharp screech as he repeats, “forget it / it isn’t giving up, it isn’t giving in.”
The record eventually points to a specific and often overlooked aspect to health scares – the financial burden and recovering from isolation. Sure, things may be better, but even though the intense moments of the experience and the well-wishes have gone, things aren’t over. That’s where the closer, “Windows” comes in. “Tilden sings about longingly staring at his phone, hoping for any connection, and of feeling the dread of impending medical debt. He’s hoping for a time when he can get back to feeling like himself and realizing there is another challenge ahead. It’s a gut-punching song that doesn’t dwell on drama but carries a shrugged delivery. What can ya do?
Where Have All My Friends Gone? is unique in how much Tilden reveals to the listener, while still keeping his cards close to the chest. His genius is how deftly he pinpoints distinct feelings one experiences while recovering from a traumatic episode. He takes feelings that are hard to describe and makes them digestible. Sure, the number of electronic effects and metaphor used can make finding a message feel like looking through a stained glass window, but like stained glass, it’s lovely to take in.
Eric Bennett | @seething_coast
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