This album was released as a CD and as double 10″ vinyl. Each “side” is about 15 minutes long. And, interestingly, each side has a kind of theme, I guess. It also includes the shortest song the band has recorded.
“There Is a Light” is one of my favorite songs they’ve done. The guitar and strings play off each other perfectly and the song ebbs and flows very nicely. Efrim sounds pretty drunk in his vocals, which gives the whole thing a shambolic quality that contrasts nicely with the elegance of the music. Of all of their songs, I think this one really captures the intensity that these band can generate with the swelling strings and pounding drums. At 6 minutes, the whole thing slows to a halt but is then resumed with a new, even more interesting section. Over reverbed guitars, a series of horns and backing vocals singing “la las” flesh out the lead vocals. I really enjoy the way the strings swirl around the vocals only pausing to let the words “One Step Two step” come out in staccato vocals. But the main strings riff that follows these verses is so pretty, I could listen too just that. This all ends around 9 minutes, when the final part begins with slow guitar and horns. The vocals come in singing the title “there is a light.” It starts quiet but soon enough the full choir of voices joins in as the music swells. After a few round of verses, the song ends with the female choir singing, “Tell me there is a light.”
The second “side” is the “metal bird” side. It stars with “I Built Myself a Metal Bird” which opens with rocking guitar chords and fast drums–the most overtly rock song they’ve done so far. The vocals are screamed and staccato. Things never really let up for the whole six minutes–there’s a concurrent violin solo while the lyrics are sung. The second half of the song changes things a bit–with more dramatic strings playing. In the last thirty seconds the tone changes a bit and things do mellow out for the conclusion. That leads into the second bird song
“I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds” is quite different from the first. It opens with slow electric guitars and quiet strings. There’s noisy guitars and other strange atmospheric sounds for the first three and a half minutes when it finally settles into an uptempo string song with more great violin riffs. At fiver minutes (of 6) the bowed bass takes over the main line and the accompanying strings help to move things along. There’s only about 30 seconds left when the vocals come in and they are nearly drowned out by the music.
The third side is the “Kollpas” side with three songs.
For “Kollapz Tradixional (Thee Olde Dirty Flag)” the piano comes back with quiet chords and gentle strings accompanying quiet vocals. . The song stays quiet as different instruments come to the fore. At around 5 minutes (of 6 in total) a guitar solo winds its way to the end of the song.
After this there is a 1 and half-minute song “Collapse Traditional (For Darling).” It’s a gentle ballad played on strings with layered vocals.
“Kollaps Tradicional (Bury 3 Dynamos)” opens with pizzicato strings and a fuzzy meandering guitar. About 2 minutes in, the loud chords strike and the drums kick in with a fairly complex rhythm. About half way in, one guitars start playing in each speaker and the vocals begin. Two voices begin singing against each other keeping an interesting rhythm with their staccato phrasing and the thumping drums,. The last two minutes feature a guitar solo and vocals following a similar pattern as the guitar.
The final side has one 14 minute song “‘Piphany Rambler.” The song begins with distant guitars and plucked strings. The vocals are quiet, nearly whispered. A refrain of “don’t sleep” surfaces from the quiet. At around 5 minutes the guitars and strings grow louder and the song properly starts. But even this section is fairly slow, as if preparing to build up to something else. It’s the strings and their insistent three note melody that really unites the song. About midway through things slow down even further (with some cool retro organs sounds amidst the strings). And the song turns into a very catchy string filled section with the vocals working very nicely with the melody. This section grows louder and more raucous as it heads to the conclusion.
SMtZ has made many diverse styles of albums over the years, and this combination of rocking songs and delicate strings is probably my favorite. For this one, the lineup has shrunk to a five piece of
Thierry Amar: Upright bass, electric bass, plucked piano, vocals
Efrim Menuck: Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mellotron, vocals
Jessica Moss: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
Sophie Trudeau: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
and David Payant has taken over for Eric Craven on drums, organ, piano and vocals
[READ: March 15, 2016] The Fate of the Artist
I didn’t love Eddie Campbell’s Black Diamond Detective Agency, and that was manly been because of the art. That didn’t really bode well for this story.
But Campbell does an incredible thing with this book. He mixes text and many different kinds of pictures–including comic strips and photographs, to create a fascinating story of his own disappearance.
The story begins “One day the artist wakes up with the disquieting feeling that it has all gone wrong…. It is difficult to obtain sympathy for this condition.”
And then the Artist disappears and all that is left is a picture. “Most people would leave a note.” “Yes, well he left a picture.”
We learn that the Artist is the creator of the comic strip Honeybee (whose “creator” is known in the paper as A. humorist).
The book begins with Mozart (the Artist loved classical music) and his CD collection. He used to remove all of the cards from the CDs so he could write them with his own words and makes sure they were in the “proper” order.
And the story of Eddie Campbell’s life is told in an episodic structure. The Honeybee cartons show the life of a happily married couple–until they aren’t. The punchlines are always tempered and gentle as a comic strip might be. These strips are shown on a kind of yellowed paper. It’s amusing when Honeybee is shown on the same page as other comics. Like Angry Cook (which is quite vulgar) and Theatricals which is self-referential.
But the book also has full color pages. We see Eddie trying to buy a condom called The Screamer– and the aftermath of that.
And then the story switches to photos of a pretty woman in a Joy Division T-shirt. She is clearly Campbell’s daughter and she is not amused by her father’s actions. She narrates the story under photos of her with various appropriate expressions.
Eventually we see Honeybee get a Sunday spread–full color and nine panels instead of two.
And then there’s more text narrating events as they proceed.
Some of the episodes are funny in themselves, like when he tries in vain to vacuum up all the dogs’ hair or when he inadvertently offends Marlene, a nice woman who pays them a visit.
An interlude shows some very funny comics that begin to show a slightly darker side to Honeybee. But we slowly see things go South and soon there is a campaign to keep Honeybee as a Sunday funny.
The book ends, strangely enough (for an already strange book) with a dramatization of the short story “The Confessions of a Humorist” by O. Henry, in which the leading role is played by Eddie Campbell.
But as it turns out the story is a wonderful metaphorical explanation for what appears to have happened to Campbell for real. And the dramatization works wonderfully at the end of the book (it also made me read the short story to see how different it is–surprisingly close to the original, with many sections being word for word).
I understand now after reading three of Campbell’s books that he really enjoys breaking the format of comics. And I feel like he is far more successful when he does this as opposed to a straight ahead narrative. I’m curious to know what else he has done. Okay I see he has done a ton of things including the From Hell series which he illustrated for Alan Moore as well as a bunch of self published comics and the series Alec. Looks like I’ll have some reading to do. But for the time being he has settled down with First Second [#10yearsof01].