Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Concept Record

I’m a man with lots of ideas.  I regret that I, like most men, live a life of quiet desperation.  I wish I had more time to dedicate to making all of my ideas come together.  Especially the stupid ones. I have some incredibly foolish ideas for TV shows that would be amazing to see come to light.  Don’t even get me started on a couple book ideas I have…  Probably the most regular ideas I have that float into my skull are songs or concept band ideas.  For example, the other day I was in the grocery store and heard a snippet of conversation passing next to me that included the word “Aquapod”. 

I have no idea what an “aquapod” is or why anyone would use it in a sentence.  How did that word come out of someone's mouth?  It's kind of great though.  I immediately thought “what a great stupid progressive art rock word”.  I then quickly fleshed out in my head an entire concept album based on the word “aquapod”, realizing how horrifyingly bad it would be to actually make it reality.  I don’t know how familiar you are with the 1970s output of Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, or the Alan Parsons Project.  They made some terrible sins in the name of “art rock”.  Can you imagine them doing a concept record based on “I, Aquapod”?  Even better, what if I could sort of record something like that on the fly?  Spend maybe three hours on it, shoot a cover, and release it on an unsuspecting public.  It would be something like this…

“I, Aquapod” by The Whiskey Daredevils (Shake It Records 2013)

The venerable Cleveland cowpunkers are back with their latest release, the sprawling three CD “I, Aquapod”.  Promotional press accompanying the release quotes lead singer Greg Miller as saying “This is a project I have always wanted to do.  I think this will be regarded as my masterpiece.”  What it is though is a shambling mess that fails on all possible levels.  This may be the absolute worst release this reviewer has ever heard from an established band.  Making Garth Brooks “Chris Gaines” CD look like a good idea is not easy, but that is what Miller has done here with the Daredevils.

“I, Aquapod” is a major stylistic sidestep for the Whiskey Daredevils.  Part country, part art rock, with dashes of metal/jazz/folk/world beat, it fails on all counts.  While the music is awful, some praise must be given to guitarist Gary Siperko, bass player Rebecca “Sugar” Wildman, and drummer Leo P. Love as they gamely try to make sense of the madness.  The mantel and weight of this disaster lies fully on the shoulders of vocalist and “author” of this disaster, Greg Miller.

The problem is not necessarily that this is a concept album with a flimsy pretense.  It should be pointed out that it did help this reviewer tremendously to have received the 188-page companion book to make some sense of it.  The problem is the wild convergence of incompatible mythologies, science fiction, and doomsday futurism.  Miller appears to have almost no understanding of any of these areas, and interchanges major concepts apparently at will.  It was as if he skimmed Wikipedia and decided he was an expert in philosophy.  For example, the eleven minute opening song “Aquapod Arise” contains lyrical references to Apollo, Saint Peter, Loki, George Washington, and Ray Bradbury.  This is all against a backdrop of Buck Owens era steel guitar and calypso backbeats. It is impenetrable.  The next track “Heel of Ulysses” contains such a basic lack of knowledge of the most widely known Greek mythology, it is laughable.

I skipped through many of the next few tracks as they were essentially unlistenable.  I did feel oddly drawn into “Aquapod Descend!” an a capella effort featuring Miller’s tortured screaming the word “descend” for seven unyielding minutes while a chainsaw buzzed in the background.  This may be the only “song” I have ever heard that makes Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” feel like EZ Listening.  It is a test of endurance.

Even that could not have prepared me for the horrifying “Jesus Trident”.  This metal free jazz song is focused on the Aquapod protagonist as he defeats a navy of Russian submarines with a magical trident given to him by Jesus.  There is no explanation anywhere, even in the accompanying book, to suggest why Jesus has a magic trident and why he would need to battle Russian submarines in league with Aquapod.  Even the six-minute tympani solo by Leo P. Love cannot rescue this doomed effort.

The entire second disc is 74 minutes of spoken word over countless time changes and nonsensical instrumentation.  While you may want to plunge sharp instruments into your ears during “Aquapod Part III: Baptism of Truth”, it somehow becomes even worse when the French horns and sitar announce the arrival of “Aquapod Part IV: Struggles of Flesh and Iron”.  Most of this entire disc sounds like a high school orchestra tuning to a competent rock band while a divinity student reads randomly from spiritual textbooks.  Miller soldiers on with his incomprehensible tale as characters and story lines change seemingly on a whim.  This may have been created live in the studio in the grips of a hallucinogenic trip.  It is the ravings of a lunatic.

Disc three (or LP number 5 in the $65 vinyl version) contains the only song that could even be discussed as “catchy”; the poorly titled “Penis of Armageddon (Surgery Disco)”.  No matter how good Siperko’s guitar hook, when Miller sings “We will dine on the flesh of unicorns/in the light of mushroom clouds/Aquapod is thy savior/the earth is flat not round”, it is hard to determine if one should laugh or wince.  By the time the children’s chorus sings the final refrains of “Hitler’s Hobbits/Aquapod Requiem”, you find yourself gasping in wonderment of how such a once competent band could have gone so wrong.

While it is healthy for artists to take risks, someone needed to stop this before the first bit of tape began to roll.  Even the cover photo of Miller in a vintage deep sea diving outfit with flowing rainbow cape cannot conceal the other band members obvious embarrassment.  The photo of bass player Rebecca “Sugar” Wildman, at even a cursory glance, conveys her desire to leap out of her skin.  I only wish there was a way I could give this abomination less than zero stars.  Avoid at all costs.            


At September 26, 2012 at 8:59:00 AM EDT , Blogger j said...

The song Descend sounds amazing, would like to hear it.


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