Tuesday, August 29, 2006

a boy must learn his limitations

There's many a slip, etc. I bought the new album He Poos Clouds from emusic a few weeks ago filled with excitement about what I thought was a novel sound by a talented musician with a nice line in subversion. Owen Pallett is the one musical member of Final Fantasy (though he apparently has a percussionist/engineer called Leon Taheny to help him too), and has an extremely impressive pedigree. Classically trained in piano, he taught himself violin while studying composition at university in Canada. Performing live, he plays his violin into a sampler which he controls with his feet, looping with previously sampled tracks to give a polished appearance of simultaneity. He tours as part of the string accompaniment to several excellent bands, and can claim co-writing credits for the string arrangements on Funeral, the outstanding album by The Arcade Fire, and on which the strings were such a prominent and splendid feature. Not bad by anyone's standards.

It is a good album - well worth a listen. The arrangements are all wonderful, his voice carries tremendous emotional energy and there is still this image in my mind of hearing this charming and quintessential string quartet only to see them up close and to realize that they're all heavily facially-pierced and bearing the expressions of people in a hurry to get away to get their next fix. And I like that sort of thing. And none of the above has really changed in the time since downloading the album except, I'm afraid, the excitement.

I think I made the mistake of listening too hard, and found the songs emptier than I first imagined. I saw the inviting landscape of Pallett's classical arrangements and his chorister voice, and thought that the banshees calling out from behind that - Pallett's own voice as backing vox and some nicely discordant noises - were the snakes in the long grass, the mildew in honeymoon suite, the canker in the rose. Because I think Pallett fancies himself as a bit of a poet, and I think I can go along with that description - precisely. He conveys the anxieties he wants to address very neatly, but without true beauty (even pain can be expressed with beauty), and certainly not true poetry. In a less polished musician this would not create a problem, but in this it gives the impression of not quite enough care being given to the last refinement. I daresay he sees himself as more muscian than lyricist, and his talents there can't be in doubt. You'll find out how it feels to be Owen Pallett, but in a (slightly) disappointingly pedestrian manner. I wanted to take refuge from pain in laughter at the jokes he puts into his lyrics, but the jokes aren't that good, so the pain is undermined. He should read Blake again.

Final Fantasy - He poos clouds

Final Fantasy - Do you love?

Buy He Poos Clouds at Amazon, emusic.

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