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 it...wow. 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 it...watch their video!