"I hope that this doesn't come across as patronising but, hell, once I had heard he performs as a huge canvas tree I got all excited and decided to listen to this LP without delay. I was not disappointed. "
Danielson – Ships (Secretly Canadian/Konkurrent)
A mate of mine told me about Danielson. I hope that this doesn't come across as patronising but, hell, once I had heard he performs as a huge canvas tree I got all excited and decided to listen to this LP without delay. I was not disappointed.
Ship the Majestic Suffix crashes in on a tide of high pitched squeaky vocals drums and xylophone. It really is bonkers, and highly listenable to boot. It seems to be a meditative reflection on the nature mythology and history of ships. Cast It at the Setting Sail is a jaunty affair, somewhat discordant but blessed with a nagging chorus that is very insistent indeed, very like a load of fried boy scouts singing at a jamboree. Bloodbook on the Half Shell belies its bonkers title, beginning in a becalmed ethereal way before delivering a strange high-pitched chorus about lovely books. Still it's a jolly song and calms down periodically. Near the end it rocks out in a most unusual way, changing key seemingly at random.
I should point out before we go too far that if you don't like high pitched singing, Ships may well infuriate you.
Did I Step on Your Trumpet sounds pretty much as the title suggests; a paranoid confessional replete with harpy-like backing vocals. Again there are plenty of stop-start moments and a considerable, almost schizophrenic restlessness is suggested. By contrast, When It Comes to You I'm Lazy is a very beautiful, very personal love song, with its finger firmly on the emotional button. A lonely accordion and xylophone lends tone now and again. The splendidly named Two Sitting Ducks is a fairground stumble, high on candyfloss - a children's heavy metal party with the odd reflective admonishment from those up on high. It's tinny as hell and hooked on riffs and surges; somehow holding itself together enough to make the toilet before throwing up...
Following all this delinquency is My Lion Sleeps Tonight. Now, where do we start with this one? Well, it is quiet enough, seemingly being carried in on a divan. Actually the solemn beginning doesn't really last long, despite the stripped back nature of the beginning, you are aware of something very unnerving going on. A beautiful keyboard–led chord sequence enlivens things mid track. We return to a relative level of noise with Kids Pushing Kids; an oompah-oompah, Fried era Julian Cope beat rattles on in the background, lending urgency to the frankly indecipherable lyrics. Once again, you feel you are invading a very private, Speaker's Corner-style rant. There is also a very strange squeaky refrain and plinkety-plonk keyboards thrown in for good measure.
And now, its Time That Bald Sexton; which, rather surprisingly for it's insane title is a very affirming splash of guitar set off by a slow downwardly mobile tip-toe melody. It's one of the more endearing tracks on the LP, in that it doesn't get too distracted by itself too much. He Who Flattened Your Flame is Getting Torched is a reflective number dealing with a personal relationship (I think) Still, its engaging enough stroll with a charming piano coda to it. Last up is Five Stars and Two Thumbs Up is another great paino-led stomp. There's a great crescendo of an ending too, like the end of a school play. Brill!
Well, believe you me, it's a bruising shattering ride, but hell, I love it. Very strange, rather paranoid and certainly squeaky. So not to everyone's taste. But give it a whirl and you may be surprised.
Words: Richard Foster.