While everyone is talking about Amanda Palmer, we could as well check out the project Brian Viglione’s called Gentlemen & Assassins. I have listened to both records a lot in the last days as I have been writing about them for the German online magazine FastForward. I don’t want to compare the two albums, I just save some time by writing about both in the same blog post.
It’s amazing what Amanda Palmer archived with the Kickstarter campaign - I mean she got almost 1.2 million dollar for her new record and her creativity is amazing. However, I just have a problem with the new record “Theatre Is Evil”. I find it a tad boring and the reason is quite simple: whenever I listen to it, I try to figure out where I have heard the melody of the song before and that happens with almost with every song. I know, I know, it’s about the lyrics and what she says between the lines but if the sound of a song can’t catch me, it is most often very difficult to keep listening to it more than once. She is around in some 80’s influenced music and Pop, Punk, Rock and a bit of Classic here and there. Well, the introduction may give a hint towards this. It reminds of something of the time of the Cabaret.
The first few songs “The Killing Type”, “Do It With A Rockstar” and “Want It Back” are actually pretty catchy. I really like the little reference to Mackie Messer of Brechts “Dreigroschenoper” in “The Killing Type”- one sign of Palmers love of German literature. “Want It Back” reminds me of some Tegan and Sara song. One of the songs I find most difficult to listen to is “Grown Man Cry” - it just reminds of a really bad 80’s ballad - one of those kinds which you don’t even want to listen to on the radio anymore. Not even the lyrics are helping me out there. The following song “Trout Heart Replica” is one of my most favourites. It a beautiful song, I love the piano and string arrangements. Beautiful has to be seen relatively as it sounds very chased and unsettled. Superficially seen it is a song that criticise mass fish keeping and their killing. Funnily the one animal that some “vegetarians” still eat and which living conditions are just as worse as the conditions for other animals but they are less cute or something but that’s a different story. You can fully sink into the song and then the instrumental piece “A Grand Theft Intermission” will jolt you out of your thoughts. After this intermission it continues like beforehand. Well, the album is build like a theatre piece - stirring parts alternate with softer melodies (like “The Bed Song”) and end in an ultimate climax. For “Olly Olly Oxen Free” they use the whole wall of sound they have to offer and eventually you will be released into silence.
As expected she delivers a lot to think about but the melodies are way too familiar. That is the reason why I can’t really enjoy the album: I miss some interesting and innovative melodies to underline the lyrics to catch my interest for longer. It’s the lyrics that lift the album from mediocrity but if you just listen to it in passing, it’s really not more than mediocrity. You can download a free or pay as much as you like version of it, find lots of tour dates all around the world and information on how you can join her on stage on her website: http://www.amandapalmer.net.
As I already said Gentlemen & Assassins have their first album out. Next to Brian Viglione the band consists of two of my favourite musicians: Sxip Shirey and Elyas Khan. The album “Mother Says We’re innocent” is without a doubt one of the most interesting and fascinating albums the year had to offer until now. The reason is relatively easy, it’s the combination of very unique musicians who create a one of a kind sound. It is almost rare to find such a one of a kind band these days.
For those who haven’t read all the words I have already written about Sxip Shirey: he create music out of things that make noise like glass bowls with marbles, bells, penny whistles, guitars with paper clips and so on. And not only he creates music but he creates stories and landscapes and such. Adding Elyas and Brian to this picture sets it into a Rock Folk Punk frame. Another thing that is very difficult to describe is Elyas voice. Still. I have seen him so often and listened to his music so much and yet I lack words that could jsut nearly fit. Someone once said he sounds like “melted fucking chocolate over bourbon” and that kind of fits. Also, I always thought that you can hear all his roots in his voice. You can hear London, New York, India, Punk and all of that. In addition to singing many of the songs, he also plays bass or guitar.
What you can still hear is a reference to former times when it fits like in “Grandpa Charlie”. The music fits the title, it sounds like when our Grandparents were still young. “I Live In New York City” is an older song of Sxip, sounds like New York and with the band it is converted into a Rock version. “Istanbul” draws a picture of the city which even works when you have never been there. It kind of shows a traditional and a modern side of the city which seem to be in conflict with but still can exist next to each other. Some of older songs of Nervous Cabaret, Elyas band, got a new paintjob as well. What I like about Elyas lyrics is that he has his very own way to put what is going on in the world in his own words.
The album just never ceases to amaze me - it’s thought provoking and at the same time a pleasure to listen to and you can also dance if you want to. If you fancy watching them you have the chance today and the day after tomorrow in Berlin. Brian won’t be there but therefore Romain Vincente will join them for the drums:
20. September, Wild at Heart
22. September, Knochenbox
Last but not least an impression of G&A live:
Thank you for reading,