There’s a more eloquent way to relate this thought, but here I prefer to be blunt: The Restoration doesn’t make music. Rather the band, which is set to release “Honor the Father,” its second concept album, makes art.
Magnificent, enthralling and provocative art. At just under 25 minutes, “Honor the Father” plays like a novella, with a resonant plot and well-developed characters. Like the band’s previous album, 2010’s marvelous “Constance,” an examination of race, religion and gender roles in post-Civil War Lexington, the town is the same. But on this album, the time is rural Lexington around 1950, and the material mines religious radicalism, the deafening power of interpretation and the use of violence to achieve subjugation.
The band – Aleks Amer, Adam Corbett, Lauren Garner, Sharon Gnanashekar and Daniel Machado – recorded the album live, and there were minimal overdubs. Lisa Stubbs provided the vocals of Diana Colly Bright, the bride of Roman Bright, the album’s protagonist. Machado, who sings as Roman and Sheriff Glen Elewine, was the primary music and lyric writer.
“Roman, to me, is the closest thing to a pure villain I’ve ever written,” he said. “I have a rule that I have to be able to deeply identify with every character I’m working on. It feels pointless to tell a story if you can’t identify with the characters. It was still my goal to see where he was coming from even though it was terribly misguided.”
Spoiler alert: For this column, Machado and I discussed the album, which is loaded with surprises, in detail. (“Constance” included a compendium. The deluxe version of “Honor the Father” is for those who want to probe deeper into the album.)
We pulled out lyrics from the seven songs and asked Machado to elaborate and, in some cases, respond to interpretation. “Honor the Father” invites such interaction and a studied listen. Please don’t get it twisted, this band’s musicianship is up to par with its scholarship. So is the presentation, as tonight’s performance will feature new period on-stage costuming.
“This part of the story is supposed to play off the genres of suspense, horror, murder mystery. At this point, we’re trying to be vague and set up the mystery and set up the crime,” said Machado, who is playing off of the listener’s expectations. “We’re setting up a crime that we’re going to reveal details about and, hopefully, not as people expected.”
“Roman was written as a guy who was supremely low in the self esteem department,” Machado said. “At that stage in his life, he’s not supposed to be too different from the average young guy.”
Machado sang all the parts on “Constance.” Stubbs’ appeal is immediately apparent.
“The story was inspired by things I’ve experienced in my life where I’ve seen men becoming overbearing in their relationships with women,” said Machado, who added that he was not speaking about his parents. “It seemed really inappropriate to voice both sides of that.”
It seems like Diana is beginning to realize the man she married isn’t who she thought he was.
“At this point, I’m not entirely sure what all kind of signs that he’s shown,” Machado said. “It is an exploration of a character that decides to settle up until a certain point. I think (Roman’s) a little insecure still and a little clingy. They’re both removing themselves from the world. They both think the world has taken a wrong course. I think she can tell there is a risk there.”
In this song, Roman goes from convincing himself his father, who had an “iron hand,” was a good man to talking about menstrual huts. What is going on there?
“That’s actually something directly from Leviticus. These are Old Testament cleanliness laws,” Machado said. “What’s going on there, is Roman, I think, he wants to be a good father. So he’s adopted this sort of view of Christianity that being punished is somehow a virtuous thing. Because he wants to believe his father is good, but he wants to believe God is good.”
God who sacrificed his son. Roman is literally interpreting — and practicing — what’s in the Bible.
“What’s misguided is he’s taken that out of context,” Machado said. “Two people who thought they (were) on the same page find out they’re not. This is kind of where the rubber meets the road, the implications of what they’ve done. I think Roman has found his domain. He believes the Bible gives him control.”
“When she sees that happening to her children, she can’t really buy that any more,” Machado said. “She makes a decision that she can’t see any more children come into the environment.”
When Roman speaks at trial, he references a Bible verse. His speech, in the album’s lyrics sheet, includes the corresponding verses from which he has formed his beliefs.
Roman, a Biblical literalist, is similar to John Palmer from “Constance.”
“They believe what they believe,” Machado said. “Their actions are a result of those beliefs. (Roman) believes the eternal safety of his family is at stake.”
Of note: the accompanying music in “The Trial” and “There’s Something in the Woods” is the same, as the former is a continuation of the latter. It’s buoyant and Machado’s vocal delivery is playful.
One is led to believe Jonah is much different than his father before he sings, “‘Cause I’m gonna sweet talk her, ’til she’s sweet on me/ I’m gonna sweet talk her, ’til she’s sweet on me.”
He’s distanced himself from his parents’ theology, but still developed their fundamentalist attitude.
“I don’t know what happens to Jonah,” Machado said. “I like to think he becomes a much more average, flawed human being.”