baggage: cheaper than therapy review

Baggage.  Defining the word goes beyond the common terminology by means of carrying luggage in airports.  Baggage can be what you carry groceries in or often times your past.  I've always thought of the term "baggage" as the definition of what we carry on our shoulders during our daily lives.  When I say that I mean emotional, psychological, get my drift.  When this band who's EP I'm reviewing today came to be, the band couldn't have picked a better name.

Fronted by the former drummer of one of my favorite bands "The Swellers" as well as the drummer for the band "Braidedveins", Jonathan Diener is front and center in Baggage.  Diener's always had a great singing voice for as long as I've known him and it truly shines and bleeds emotion on Baggage's debut EP "Cheaper Than Therapy".  Produced by the great Marc Hudson (who also produced Diener's other band Braidedveins debut album not too long ago) and recorded at Rancho Recordo in Fenton, Michigan, you can tell from the EP's first track "Flint" that you're in for some heavy lyrics with music to match that's very reminiscent of 90's alternative rock.

"On Saginaw, the boarded up windows are businesses that fell apart and fast forward fifteen years, see police on every block only for a mile down the street.  They forgot my friends who got robbed twenty feet away.  The police, they never come.  So I pointed to my palm and I said, “This is the city where I’m from.”

The lyrics to "Flint" are about the harsh realities of living in Flint, Michigan.  Jonathan Diener, being from Flint, knows all too well about the town and doesn't sugar coat how the state of his town is.  From their near toxic water to run down and boarded up buildings, he brings attention to this through his vocals.  "Safety Net" gives me a Swellers vibe from the chords to how Diener sings.  With Baggage there's no vague meaning to their songs.  "Safety Net" is about growing up thinking we have everything figured out only to have life flip the table.  Throughout our lives this seems to happen and we become used to it.  As Diener simply states "But now I figured out, it’s not the way you feel, it’s the way you deal with it."  Easily one of my favorite lyrics on this EP.

"Twenty-Something" touches on growing and learning especially during low points.  "I have this pain in my chest.  Distracted by the things in my life that make it a mess.  You’ll never know how it feels.  After twenty-something years it’s way too real."  When I listen to this song I'm reminded of the ups and downs and the reality of life.  It's easy when you're in the thick of it to not really feel the raw reality of it all and what you're really feeling and I think "Twenty-Something" really nails the subject matter on the head.

"The Biggest Bar Night of the Year" touches on how once close friendships often drift away.  We've all been in that position but hey, life happens and we grow from it.  The EP's self-titled track "Cheaper Than Therapy" can be interpreted to however you hear it from your perspective.  For me it's about the tough, challenging reality of depression and how something as simple as music and writing out what you feel can be...well...cheaper than therapy.  The slow pace of the song reminds me of Weezer's Pinkerton era and closes out the EP in a way that really makes you reflect on what you've heard over the course of 5 songs and how it applies to your life.

When I got the chance to interview Jonathan Diener back in October it was a day or two after Baggage played their first live show in Chicago.  He was pumped and nervous about being front and center after years behind the drums for The Swellers.  Baggage really is his baby and incorporates so much of who he is not just as a musician, but as a human being.  The EP can resound with anyone who listens to it.  I don't have a bad thing to say about "Cheaper Than Therapy".  With well crafted songs, tight musicanship, great production and honest lyrics you can't go wrong.  "Cheaper Than Therapy" is an example through music that life isn't easy but you'll be okay and that days shine brighter after dark times.  

Purchase the EP for a pay-what-you-want price at
All proceeds will go to the band's friend Ron Luczak who's house was destroyed by a fire (said house is depicted on the EP's cover art)