You know you’re listening to a truly great songwriter when they make a story about the most mundane objects sound like a tale of existential profundity. It came easy to John Prine; Tom T Hall was the master of it; Brandy Clark does it all the time. They pick up an object and turn it over in their hands until it comes to life as a metaphor for the very essence of the human condition - heard in songs like Johnny Cash’s ‘Ragged Old Flag’, Guy Clark’s ‘Randall Knife’ or George Jones’ ‘Grand Tour'.
Add to that list ‘Old Television’ by New York songwriter Pete Mancini. The first single taken from his forthcoming album, Killing The Old Ways, was produced by Matt Patton from Drive-By Truckers during the pandemic summer of 2020. Featuring a broad selection of guests and contributors, a bombastic expansiveness is brought to the cinematic country folk of Mancini’s previous work.
For the record, Mancini developed a series of character sketches and still life portraits drawn from the fractured condition of America, as well as from his own transitions. On the surface, ‘Old Television’ is a song about the simplest enough of things, but it’s very simplicity belies the profundity of the song.
“I wrote ‘Old Television’ in my old apartment in West Hempstead”, Mancini explains. “I found a pretty sweet flatscreen TV a neighbour was throwing out and spent a lot of time trying to fix it. I even ordered a new motherboard off eBay. Nothing worked and it just sat there broken for months. I started thinking about television and what it means to our culture and society at large, and the song just came out. We have all these memories and possessions in life, and eventually it all ends up on the curb where planned obsolescence and culture intersect. Out with the old, change the channel, turn the page”.
“The past is a movie that I don’t want to see”, he sings, taking the driving energy of Tom Petty, the wistfulness of Summerteeth-era Wilco and the new wave swagger of Cheap Trick and The Cars, rolling them all up into one giant lip-smacking overstuffed burrito of all-Americana power pop.
The video for ‘Old Television’, directed by Kelsey Sucena, is premiering exclusively on Holler below:
“Making the video with Kelsey was a blast”, Mancini told us. “They do great work, and the vibe was on from the get go. The only roadblock we faced was finding an old tube TV since they are pretty much obsolete. Special thanks to that dude from the Salvation Army for fishing one out of the dumpster for us. I might keep it and hook up my old Sega Genesis instead of throwing it back on the curb.”
Killing The Old Ways is released on April 8th via Bandcamp and on streaming services on May 6th on Paradiddle Records. Preorder here.