Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Surprisingly Good Music: Hank Pine and Lily Fawn

I try not to write music reviews because I'm tempted to use words like "fabulous" or "wonderful," which don't communicate anything except my own enthusiasm. I'm trying to remove words like that from my vocabulary. This is what a year of technical writing has done to me.

But I've just run across a duo so "fabulous" and "wonderful" that I can't help yelling about them: Hank Pine and Lily Fawn.

Hank plays cello, draws cartoons, and wears a chemical mask on his face. Lily wears deer horns on her head and bends the musical saw. Besides also playing a whole range of other instruments, they record music and tour with other talented musicians from British Columbia, putting on a depraved cabaret about Hank and Lily's road-show adventures. On their 2CD debut -- "The Road to New Orleans" -- they've released 26 songs about seedy carnivals, infanticide, drug-induced constipation, sex with old people, and Laika the Space Dog (of course).

Why are the CDs "fabulous" and "wonderful?" Because the story is full-fleshed, entertaining, and unique. It isn't just a hodge-podge of mysanthrope-wanna-be-ism. It's a coherent work full of funny lines, quirky surprises, and great musicianship. The tunes are catchy and have a sweet, unpretentious country twang.

More importantly, it isn't polished to perfection. It has that Tom Waits sound of everything starting to fall apart...but not quite. Hank and Lily don't have great voices but they DO have great delivery, and the guest musicians give enough good voice to make up for the vocal shortcomings; Ryan Beattie goes all out with "Ballad of the Dancing Bear," an especially epic and strangely sad song. Never before has clown sodomy been so poignant.

Well then, it's not ALL "fabulous" and "wonderful" -- the second CD seems to have been a repository for the less-inspired numbers -- but the rest of Personal mythology, unique sound, professional musicianship, and right on our very own west coast. And they're still travelling back and forth across the country today. Love 'em.

But heck, don't just take MY word for their video!


Eric Little said...

Criticism is like fiction at times: just as it's easier to depict evil than goodness, it's easier to carp than to praise.

Usual first essay in film analysis class:

"It's a great movie with a great director and a great screenplay and Joan Blow gives a great performance..."

But it IS hard to transmit enthusiasm, to say why something is good. We're always afraid it's a matter of taste. And how can you put an expansion of the heart or a thrill between the shoulderblades or a glow in your mind into words?

You do a pretty good job.

Adam Thornton said...

Thanks! I had an English professor who said that erotic and romantic fiction is usually so bad because words can't REALLY express what's going on. The only honest words we have in that area are already cliches.

He went on to say that that doesn't excuse the way a p*nis always "throbs."

Unknown said...

This is Lily Fawn!
First, I want to thank you for the review. It always makes me happy when someone actually "gets us"

I think your a "wonderful" and "fabulous" writer.

I have been trying to take up a collection (and work an extra part time job) to get myself some singing lessons.
I have gotten much better (behold our new cds that will be coming out soon). But... I am still anxious for lessons. I have always been very very shy about my small, squeeky voice. Confidence and a couple lessons would do me Good !

Hank and I love Ontario !!! See you soon !

Adam Thornton said...

Since I missed you both during your last trip to Waterloo, I'm hoping for another one! And eagerly looking forward to the new CDs.

In many cases, singing lessons are probably a good thing...but they also have a way of turning a "characteristic voice" into a "typical voice."

Your "small squeaky" voice may not be typical, but it works with the music. Hopefully, if you take singing lessons, you'll have more options but still be "you!"