I easily relate to the allure that Karen Carpenter has on Patrick Flegel. I too have a lot of feelings and questions about the immensely talented public persona of who she was and the private, pain-wracked person she became. How does someone so popular with the public find themselves suffering to the point of death in isolation with no one to help them? How heavy Karen Carpenter’s burden must have been, and yet how gracefully she faced the scrutiny of her fans, family, and the music-making factory machine that constantly told her that she was never enough the way she was.
For Flegel, what Carpenter managed to do in that “negative space” has inspired the songs on What’s Tonight to Eternity, the forthcoming album from their musical alter ego, Cindy Lee. The album’s closer and lead single, “Heavy Metal” is anything but. It’s a supple yet rugged ode to the peerless pop sound perfected by artists like Carpenter, Patsy Cline, and Motown groups like the Supremes (all artists Flegel cites as influences and their saviours in the darkest of times) and serves as a tribute to their former Women bandmate, Chris Reimer, who died in 2012. Still, there’s a pall and darkness enveloping “Heavy Metal” that at times feels suffocating and all-consuming. Like a fog slowly rolling in, the ragged edges of Cindy Lee’s sound warps your reality. Objects that were sharp become indistinct. The mist swallows everything it surrounds, eating time. You might be in the present or the past, smack dab in the middle of the city or alone in a field, but as long as the negative space of fog lingers, it ensures that you feel removed from everyone and everything around you.
Still, just as quickly as it rolls in, a fog can just as unexpectedly lift. You find yourself standing exactly where you thought you were. “Heavy Metal” is a reminder that, like rainy days and Mondays, negative space is all but impossible to avoid. The smallest of consolations is that inevitably (if not quickly), it will lift.