The first album I heard by Centro-matic was Distance and Clime. My purchase of this particular album was influenced by hearing the song “To Unleash the Horses Now” on a compilation CD included with an issue of Uncut magazine. As with certain other records, such as Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand, Don’t Fall in Love with Everyone You See from Okkervil River, Destroyer’s This Night, The Wedding Present’s Bizarro, among others, Distance and Clime infected me in a way that I found impossible to resist. It got into my blood and prompted me to think, “What is this Centro-matic?” It also put me on the path of collecting everything they had done up to that point, and continuing to buy all they felt inclined to bestow upon the listening public. I special ordered those albums that were still available through my local record shop and scoured used record stores in every city I happened to visit to fill the holes in my collection. Each record I found was another piece to see the whole puzzle of Centro-matic. They worked well on their own, but also I could see the flow of each release to the next. I chanced upon a copy of the Tympanum 7” in an Atlanta store called Wax N Facts. I seem to remember it was at some ridiculously cheap price, at least to my fever-addled fanatic’s mind. The Transistor EP was unearthed at some other store, the name and place escapes me now, but it was another swatch of the tapestry that was Centro-matic’s discography, each record sounding different than the last but with the same throughput of great songs. I ordered direct from their website whenever I could or purchased singles and LPs from the merchandise tables when I went to see their shows. Ah, the shows, one of their shows is really what inspired me to write this ode to this great band from Denton, Texas.
They are a rarity in the music world, a band with all the original members that still manage to write great songs and put better and better albums. Often times when a group is around a long time, members will tend to crumble away, to be replaced by others, or their previous fire will be watered down by the years and in some cases both of these happen. Centro-matic managed to avoid going down either of these roads, a remarkable feat in any era, but especially these days.
They made an announcement earlier this year that Centro-matic was soon to be no more. Coupled with this announcement was news of their final tour, the “All Their Farewells Tour”. As a way to celebrate their career, they decided to do one last tour and play for some of the cities and places that they loved playing and had shown them support over the years. There was no way I was going to let one of the last possible chances to see one of my all-time favorite bands pass by without my being there. On December 5th, 2014, my wife and I drove to Athens, GA, to watch them play their songs for one of the last times. It wasn’t a perfect show; there are after all no such things as perfect shows. Of course, they didn’t play all the songs that I wished they had, that would not have been possible due to time constraints. The version of “Calling Thermatico” didn’t compare to the first time I heard them play that song at The Grey Eagle in Asheville, NC, shortly after Fort Recovery was released. I don’t think I’ll ever hear a better version of that song than I heard them play that night. That may have something to do with that being the first time I heard that song.
More than once, at this last Athens show, goosebumps sprouted on my arms, the back of my neck, and almost every other part of my skin, no time more so than when they played “Innocence Kindly Waits” during the encore. Also during the encore they played “Without You” from Love You Just the Same, and when Will sang these lyrics, I truly felt the finality in their goodbye.
As you can plainly see
Need you here tonight
The battle is quite long
And we just can’t go on
It is bittersweet, and something akin to losing a dear friend. I’ve still got the LPs, the singles, the T-shirts, and the posters, but they are images in a scrapbook. They sit upon the shelf like pictures of lost loved ones and like those all we have are the memories that they evoke to carry us on. I will always love their songs and I look forward to the music they will make together and separately in the future, but I will likely never see Centro-matic play again and never buy another Centro-matic record and I feel a certain amount of sadness at that fact.
All that’s left now is for me to say goodbye to you, Centro-matic, and also thank you for all the wonderful songs.