The song opens with a pretty guitar melody punctuated by horns. The singer’s vocal style is dramatic and often unexpected–especially the way he gets louder mid sentence and then drops to a whisper at other times (reminds me a bit of Wolf Parade or perhaps even Modest Mouse).
There are very pretty moments in the song (especially when the orchestration fills in). But the horns also give it a kind of Spanish feel, which rides on top of the heavier guitars in the verses.
At about two and a half minutes, the song drops out completely. It is picked up by some gentle guitar and horns as it builds back up. By the end the chorus of voices builds the song to new heights and widths.
It’s interesting what you can do with so many band members in five and a half minutes. This song really runs a breadth of ideas but remains quite pretty throughout.
[READ: September 12, 2013] “The Colonel’s Daughter”
The Kids in the Hall once made a sketch in which there was no beginning or ending, just a middle.
In the sketch, a man in a tutu slaps a man in a scuba diving suit saying. “Stop it. stop it. I’ve got to stop you and your revolutionaries from taking over this country.”
This story is like the inverse of that sketch. It has a beginning and an end but no middle. Interestingly, since it is also about revolutionaries taking over a country, I now just insert that sketch into the story (I’m sure that makes Coover very happy. I wonder if anyone else mentions this sketch in the review of this story).
I have mixed feeling about Coover’s work in general. It often feels more style over substance. And I fear that this one may have been playing with that somewhat. Interestingly as well, there is a lot of substance, but it is played in such as way as to make it almost seem meaningless—unless you are willing to really unpack it (which I wasn’t).
So, the Colonel is intent on overthrowing the President (the country is unnamed). He has chosen the group of men sitting in the room with him. Some of them know each other but not all do. They look around and size each other up. Indeed, 5/6 of the story is the men sizing each other up. To me, the men are interchangeable. I don’t know if that is lazy reading on my part or if it is indeed on purpose.
Each man gets a brief biography—the Deputy Minister, the Police Chief, the biplane pilot, the business man, the professor, the doctor and possibly someone else.
We learn a little about each man and why the Colonel would have chosen him. We learn about his fears about the mission and who he mistrusts the most. We also learn that one of the men is a double agent, working for the President. Like a game of Clue, pieces of information are given that would let you know who the man is, but again, I didn’t feel like doing the work to figure it out. I am curious to know if you can tell who it is from the story, but not curious enough to do the work (so I should not be rewarded).
The first 5/6 of the story is all designed as a set up for the eventual attack on the President. As I said, we learn about all the people but not about what the plan is.
The Colonel’s daughter also plays a large role in the story (hence the title). She serves the men drinks and snacks. She is dressed in a fascinating traditional outfit with designs on the apron, the jacket and the skirt. At once the men begin to look for meaningful signs within the designs. Once the men start talking about it, others begin making up what the icons on the garments mean. They remove her apron and her jacket and investigate closely. By the end of the first 5/6, she appears to have lost her skirt as well. But she remains aloof, serving but doing nothing else. She is clearly another pawn in the room.
The last 1/6 of the story is about what happened after their revolutionary attempt. The story sums up some of the things, but does not give any real details about what happened. And that’s why I like to insert the Kids in the Hall skit because it fits in so nicely.
Despite my seeming ambivalence about the story I did like it, especially the puzzle aspect. I suspect if I was in college (or if I was a real fan of Coover) I would have really enjoyed deciphering the story. But I’m finding that I have better things to do these days. Still, the details were very good and the lack of specifics made it applicable almost anywhere. And the fact that I’m thinking so much about the puzzle means that it definitely got under my skin. Who can ask more from a story?