by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “We’re better than anyone, ain’t we? Except for The Eagles; The Eagles are better than us!” — Sid Vicious
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Rebellion (Lies)” — The Arcade Fire
We’re back once again with some pithy reviews and a few snide asides; as you like it, then, eh? No time for hemmin’ an’ hawin’, gang—let the rock (and/or roll) roll ...
God Fatigue In The Post Atom Age
Track Listing: Tarot’s Road/ The Depths Of Love/ Post Atom Age/ Lifesucker
Waltz/ One Second Ago/ Mass Blues/ Silly Putty/ House Of Ears/ Snakes/ Son Of
Erotics/ It’s Your Blue, Swing It
Personnel: Mike Nicolai: guitar, vocals, keyboards/ John Jerry: drums/ Nancy
With a couple of true-blue, local indie labels like Eclectone (Martin Devaney)
and SMA (Rich Mattson, who recorded and mixed the bulk of this material), and
board-meister Tom Herbers (who recorded and mixed one track here, as well as
mastering the finished project) behind him, ya gotta figure musician-about-town
Mike Nicolai’s albums are probably at least worth a spin. And boy, would
you be right. God Fatigue In The Post Atom Age, an alternately dreamy,
skittering collection of post-modern folk/rock ballads, driving, humor-inflected
barn-burners, snippets of home-spun, back-porch wisdom and soulful, in-the-moment
ruminations, brings to the fore the best in Nicolai’s sharp, memorable
songwriting and musical talents.
He kicks off the opening cut, “Tarot’s Road,” with a brief
spoken-word intro, one that just might accurately encapsulate the man’s
music, lyrics, style and personal philosophy: “Some folks live their lives
by the roll of the dice, some folks decide by makin’ plans, and some folks
chart their course by the cards in their hands. And some folks, well, deny,
deny ...” Light acoustic strumming then fades up to bolster his smooth,
easy-ridin’ pipes and no-bullshit lines: “She didn’t have
no doors to walk out through/ She didn’t have no chords to sing hallelujah/
She didn’t have no more questions/ She skipped down the Tarot’s
Road, uncertain, it was narrow/ It was fast as an arrow ...
“In The Depths Of Love” is a bouncy, piano-driven tale of life,
love and heartbreak, driven by a catchy refrain and the damning lines, “Down
in the depths of love/ You can go crazy, there is the smell of blood/ Down in
the depths of love ...” The title cut is a pounding, shimmy-ing psycho-surf
inflected romp, Nicolai intoning lyrical laments like “Oh, hell’s
bells, the end’s coming soon/ What happened to the life that was in this
room?/ Somebody dropped the Big One ...”
“The Lifesucker Waltz” is a vitriolic blast at organized religion
and the Catholic Church in particular. Here Nicolai shows no mercy for the subject
at hand: “Well, the Pope died today/ I don’t guess I care/ He was
just a man full of shit, blood, and water/ And the appointed leader of a sham
institution/ That frowns on a lot of my friends ...” He goes on to drive
the blade home with an almost palpable, wicked grin, “... and aspiring
to love means nothing compared to the proven cash value of ritual slaughter/
And futures of people fucking each other out of health, out of home, out of
whatever/ They’ll push you over and make it look like a fall/ And they’ll
dance the lifesucker waltz...”
Frankly, there’s simply not a track here that I didn’t enjoy, grin
to, mull over, dissect or want to hear a hundred more times. But for all the
recording genius, the mixing prowess and the board wizardry here, I’m
still left feeling fondest of the lo-fi, bedroom recording of “Snakes.”
Sounding half a world and half a century away, Nicolai moans softly over strummed
acoustic guitar: “You put your hands into the road/ You’ll think
that maybe you can stop the cars/ You’ll walk around in the nude and take
a shit in your backyard ... and snakes eat apes, and apes will eat cows, and
cows will eat clouds, and clouds are COOL ...” Dreamy, insightful, thought-provoking
home-cooked American music that stands heads above anything in its realm. Highly
recommended. Check Mike an’ loads of other great local artists out at
Green Eyed Alone
Let’s play a little word association game, shall we? I’ll play
this CD track by track, and spit out the first words, phrases or thoughts that
come to my mind. Here we go: “Tanz den Dobberstein”: VAN CLIBURN
ON XANAX. “Shooting Star”: Appropriated hillbilly chic. “Just
One More Time”: Michael Martin Murphy, dude ranch, broken collarbone.
“The House On The Hill”: MUDSLIDES. “Thousand Heartaches”:
Lon Cheney, dusty church pews, rumbling bellies, baby wipes. “Green Eyed
Alone”: Impotent dog-catcher, dry alcoholics, crab cakes. “Snow
In Langenfeld”: My grandmother’s fervent desire for me to be a tap-dancing
evangelist with a weekly, recurring role on the Lawrence Welk show. Tiny, tiny,
tiny bubbles filled with cyanide floating through a war-ravaged Berlin bunker.
“Dent”: Pepto-Bismol. Old yellow dentures in a glass of stale water.
Power outages. “Rain”: Uncle Bill’s fatal auto accident in
1964. Used horse feed bags filled with empty Mr. Pibb cans. Flea powder. Rashes.
Box lunches in bed. “1-4-5”: Angel Martin from “The Rockford
Files.” Bib overalls. A guy who comes in your house and stares you up
and down and says, “Ah dun’ lak yew,” then abruptly leaves.
“Obsolesence”: Words my computer spell-check does not recognize.
Chipped beef on toast. Monkey hair. “Apostrophe”: Frank Zappa. Not
the song, just the title. How dare anyone ever use that title seriously without
not being very, very serious about not being very serious? I mean, seriously!
“The End”: Finally, I understand why the label is called “Mercy!”
THE END IS MERCY!! Thank you, Jebus. Thank you, India. Thank you, green tea.
Hobble this horse, o Lord, and end the pain.
That’s it for this time out, folks. Tune in again next time out for more
spewing, spittin’ and stutterin’. Til we meet again—make yer
own damn news.
If you have music gigs/events/CDs you’d like to see mentioned in this
space, or you’d just like to receive a free translation booklet for my
next column via snail mail, send replies to: Tmygunn777@peoplepc.com.