The nine songs on Eight Gates that Jason Molina left behind have taken on an almost mythic quality over the last seven years. Having recorded under the names of Songs:Ohia, Magnolia Electric Company as well as his own name, Molina moved to London in 2006 or 2007. A man who never let the facts stand in the way of a good story, upon learning of the seven gates in the London Wall he made himself an eighth gate, one only passable in the mind.
Naturally that’s not the only story, since Molina claimed he fed a bevy of bright green parrots that would gather in his yard. They were descendants of two lime green parakeets Jimi Hendrix set free in London. Then, of course, there’s the spider bite he received on a solo tour of Italy in 2008. Although there’s no record of him ever seeing a doctor, or any prescription for medication, that’s the story he liked to tell.
While, there’s almost no ability to verify any of this, Eight Gates is a testimonial to the tortured genius of Jason Molina. Beginning with the sounds of birds, ‘Whisper Away’ paints a picture of an artist ill at ease with the world around him. An acoustic guitar and the drone of an organ set the scene, while his lyrics paint a ghostly picture, “The hiss and the fading of a dying radio/ Whisper away your last smile.”
The main instrument on ‘Shadow Answers The Wall’ is the sound of drums. They dominate both the bass and the organ. The drums seem to dominate him as well, “If I had never believed/ And let everything come into place/ Would the stars be looking down/ Would the stars be looking down on me.” The lyrical desperation suggests that the stars would not be looking down with hope.
The suggestion has been made that some of these songs sound more like blue prints than finished pieces. While that may or may not be true, there is no doubt that these songs, or in some cases almost fragments of songs, offer little doubt of the hurt Molina walked around with everyday. ‘She Says’ lays out the perspective that torment was always close by, ‘“Me” she says, “Was I the one? The last full moon of the saddest year?” No, the saddest one’ll come,” she says.’
The album ends darkly with ‘The Crossroad + The Emptyness’, a stark, minor-key, guitar driven moment of desperation. Molina sings, “…I showed you the scarecrow’s heart/ The Crossroad and the emptiness/ Remember, we were the nameless ones/ Not the lonely beings.”
Five years later, Jason Molina’s life had ended, not with a bang, but a whimper, as he had drunk himself to death. The music he left behind, especially ‘Eight Bridges’, suggests there were mountains of pain and we can hear him struggling, coming to grips with the demons at the gate. Eight Bridges is not an easy listen, yet perhaps his struggles can lead to redemption for others.