“Mother, he’s got in again…you know what that means, don’t you?”
“Oh Gadzooks, Henry! Not the attic again…I swear to Jehosephat I hid the key well!”
“He always finds it, you know that. How, I don’t know.”
“The pink medicine then, Henry, and the restraining straps?”
“Yes dear, unfortunately so…”
…to be contd.
And now for the serious bit…
In the normal course of events I receive an album to review and it gets put at the bottom of the virtual “to do” pile, until one day it emerges, blinking from the sudden and unaccustomed glare of daylight, awaiting the dissecting given it by the General Scrutinizer (that’ll be me, then) with, I hope, relish and glee. This could happen anything from a month to six months or sometimes longer after it landed in my Inbox. It gets done when it gets done.
Just occasionally an album arrives that slaps me round the face like a wet kipper wielded by an angry fishwife, and DEMANDS I attend to its needs right fucking now!!! At this particular point in the space-time continuum, that album is Loon Attic by Nick Prol & The Proletarians. So smitten was I by this near 50-minute long feast of umpteen courses of scrumminess that I bought the CD from the band’s Bandcamp site, only wincing slightly when the postage from the Land Of 45 was added at checkout. What the heck, yer cheapskate, hit “Buy Now”, you ain’t going to come across something this good in another month of Sundays.
Allow me to attempt to explain what has got me all a-lather…
Nick Prol is a musician, composer and artist who started this thing called Loon Attic as a fun project, recording all the instruments himself and sending demos across the interweb, eventually striking up an online friendship with Dave Newhouse of The Muffins, who quickly became an enthusiastic champion of Nick’s wonky muse. Further down the line Nick introduced himself over the ether to producer Ian Beabout by way of his traditional calling card, a comic caricature. Ian is a young enthusiast of true progressive music, and is known to ooh, at least seven of us for his endearingly eclectic podcasts. Ian remixed one of Nick’s recordings and suggested he use wonderfully noisy proggers The Mercury Tree as his backing band, and record the songs in a full band format. This was all done across the wires, so The Proletarians, essentially The Mercury Tree plus Dave Newhouse, who was already on most of the tracks, was born. A group in the true 21st century interpretation of the term, and in addition Nick has raided the Avant-Progressive Musicians’ Yellow Pages to assemble a Who’s-Who of modern forward thinking rock music to aid and abet him and The Proletarians in his task.
Nick’s left-field tunes, ranging from straight alt-pop to avant excursions and wibbly wobbly but purposeful acidic meanderings, via chamber rock of the oddest variety make for a veritable audio bag of chaotic pick’n’mix, which has somehow been beaten, crafted, and assembled into a cogent whole by the apparently debutant producer Ian Beabout. This man belies his lack of experience by crafting a work of near-symphonic completeness out of Nick’s brilliant but crazy inspiration. He was aided in this task by Ben Spees of The Mercury Tree, but even so, much kudos to Mr. Beabout for the end result.
Cardiacs, Beefheart, XTC, Wizzard, Henry Cow, New York No Wave, Slapp Happy, Zappa, The Beatles, Vivian Stanshall, Half Man Half Biscuit, Todd Rundgren, CS&N, Pere Ubu, Syd Barrett, Wire, Faust, and probably Bing Crosby are all influences one can find writhing about in this bag’o’snakes if one looks closely enough. Suffice to say that what emerges from the other end of Nick’s musical sausage maker is something truly unique, entertaining, and fun, three descriptors that should apply to all music that likes to consider itself good pop. Yes, pop, that’s what this is. It may be intermittently tricksy, definitely wacky, occasionally very odd, or just downright wilfully strange, but pop it is, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
and remain so stubbornly out of tune and all askew
just like me and you.”
So says the 27-second Welcome, neatly setting the scene for our trip around the dusty space above the top floor, also perhaps a metaphor for the workings of Nick’s convoluted mind. Shake some of that dust free to reveal delights like the fairground waltz of 8th Wonder, or the nervous St Vitus’ dance of Shiny and Round, a kind of intense ska music from a parallel universe. The increasingly crazy Box of Flies instructs us “…not to touch my friends, they’re insects”, as it disintegrates into a fragmented trip down some dark wormhole of Nick’s warped imaginings.
A tale of a malevolent spider (more insects) that inhabits a Lon Chaney horror movie up there in the attic, Madame Spider is something of a production triumph with its clockwork creepiness and cut up sound effects. Bubble and Squeak visits childrens’ tales, proclaiming “No sweets until you eat all of your bubble and squeak”. As an aside I do wonder if “bubble and squeak” is actually a thing in the Land of 45. Bloody ’andsome, it is!
A Myriad is the best pop song under two minutes long you’ll hear this year, then we get the postpunky and quite Wire-d Nameless, and Magazine Reader is actually funky, in the whitest and most intellectual way possible. This album runs the gamut of styles with not a care in the world, and is all the better for that. There are just so many highlights on Loon Attic that it would be devilishly easy to get dragged into a stifling track-by-track description, and we wouldn’t want that now, would we? Let’s finish up by mentioning It Bodes Well, an optimistic little ditty that is almost twee in its summery XTC vibe, until the title is belted out in full throat-shredding cookie monster stylee. Made me smile that did, and it sums up the impish sense of fun shot through the album.
There is a sense of wonder and trepidation in the lyrics, this isn’t just goofing about. Listen deeper and a fragile humanity reveals itself, which as we are all led blindly to Armageddon by the insane orange man-child is entirely understandable. “Should I be scared of the voices in my head filling me with dread?”, indeed. It’s a strange trip baby, proving along the way that a progressive spirit is probably more at home in a two-and-a-half-minute nibble of strangeitude than it seems it rarely is in a half-hour long yawn fest that runs out of ideas ten minutes in.
The album ends with O Merry Land, a reflective and understated hymn to Chesapeake, Nick’s hometown. “Frank Z was from here before he moved to California” is the introverted claim to fame, and in much the same way as Sufjan Steven’s Come On, Feel The Illinoise!, Loon Attic takes us on a journey, but rather than leaving the listener with impressionistic visions of a state, this one is stuck in the much more restricted geographical confines of Nick Prol’s attic but is set free amongst the dusty corners of his limitless febrile imaginings. You won’t hear anything else remotely like this for the rest of this or indeed, any other year.
01. Main Titles (0:59)
02. Welcome (0:27)
03. Carvings on the Wall (4:08)
04. 8th Wonder (2:02)
05. Treacle (2:27)
06. Shiny and Round (2:12)
07. Box of Flies (3:04)
08. Marry Annette (1:58)
09. Thumbs (3:02)
10. Madame Spider (3:14)
11. Reprise (0:49)
12. Bubble and Squeak (2:28)
13. A Myriad (1:37)
14. Nameless (1:42)
15. Under the Bed (0:18)
16. Magazine Reader (3:09)
17. Cheesecake (1:32)
18. Another Groan (1:39)
19. Wastebin (2:07)
20. It Bodes Well (2:47)
21. Saturnine Showers (1:49)
22. Beekeeper’s Suit (4:10)
23. O Merry Land (2:17)
Total Time – 49:55
Nick Prol – Vocals, Guitar, Misc. Cacophonous Calamity
Ben Spees – Bass, Misc. Aural Alchemy
Connor Reilly – Drums
Dave Newhouse – Woodwinds
~ With Guest Players (in order of appearance):
Evyenia Karapolous, Charlie Cawood, Moe Staiano, Dave Willey, Paul Sears, Bob Drake, Mohadev, Thymme Jones, Oliver Grant Campbell, Michael Dawson, Carla Diratz, Matt Lebofsky, Dominique D’Avanzo, Emanuele Sterbini, Nathan James, Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth, Anthony Garone, Rob Crow, R. Stevie Moore
[Detailing all the instruments played by these loons would make this already overlong nonsense twice the length. It’s all on the Bandcamp page if you’re intrigued.]
Record Label: n/a
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 28th March 2017