“Recorded in 1992 when America was in the grip of grunge and introspection” (Hayes), “Triage differs from previous work in its adoption of samples and even power tools (!!) as instrumentation” (Hayes). “His statement of purpose? A picture of bloody hands held over an American flag. It isn’t exactly subtle, but then, neither is Triage” (jefitoblog.com).
If previous album Bedtime Stories “had been a big hit, there’s no telling where his career might have gone” (jefitoblog.com). However, that album’s “absolute commercial failure…contributed to the near-total change in direction Baerwald made” (jefitoblog.com). This album is “a rocky ride” (Hayes) that is “full of some of the blackest, most honest rage committed to tape” (jefitoblog.com). It is “often cited as the album of his career” (Hayes).
“Thematically, it’s a slight reversal for Baerwald” (jefitoblog.com). “Before he had contented himself with sympathetic portraits of lives bent and broken by greed” (jefitoblog.com). This time, however, he crafts an “obviously political” (jefitoblog.com) and “harrowing album, a scathing indictment of the Reagan and Bush administrations – a shotgun blast aimed at American foreign and domestic policy of the 1980s” (jefitoblog.com).
Baerwald’s “partner in crime for these sessions was Bill Bottrell, fast becoming a producer du jour for a diverse and growing stable of artists. Triage represents his most interesting work” (jefitoblog.com).
“The filmic Secret Silken World shows off Baerwald as the Charles Bukowski of rock, detailing seedy characters, and features Mr. A of A&M, Herb Alpert, on the equally cinematic trumpet” (Hayes).
“For The Got No Shotgun Hydrahead Octopus Blues, well, Baerwald is angry, to the extent he wasn’t afraid to issue it as a single” (Hayes).
“Baerwald makes an effort to keep up with the times by doing a white man’s Public Enemy on Nobody” (Hayes).
The Waiter and AIDS and Armageddon “have comical moments in their lyrics, particularly the latter, where Baerwald recounts a lover informing him ‘...you know you’re gonna die,’ to which he replies ‘Yeah, but not yet’” (Hayes). Meanwhile, the former has an “industrial kitchen-sink approach” (jefitoblog.com) which gives it “razor-sharp hard angles” (jefitoblog.com).
“Fans of Bedtime Stories will be relieved by the inclusion of China Lake, one of Triage’s lighter moments” (Hayes).
There’s also songs like A Bitter Tree that are “cast in unsettlingly quiet shadows” (jefitoblog.com).
“The terrifying The Postman…contrasts Baerwald’s gentle exhortations to have no fear against tapes of Jim Jones, congressional hearings, George Bush, and an ever-approaching military helicopter” (jefitoblog.com).
The album wraps “with the hopeful one-two punch of Born for Love and Brand New Morning, but really, it’s too late – it’s as though your dad kept you up all night telling you the scariest ghost stories he could think of, then looked out the window at dawn, gave you a cheerful grin, and slapped you on the back as he headed out the door. There are no safe places in Triage; the only question is whether or not to leave your nightlight plugged in” (jefitoblog.com).