The next big thing.

In the summer’s heat, after the rains had abated, and the flooding had receded, and the paths had all dried up, they unchained the picnic tables and brought them down to the banks of the Charente once again. Three days later, Alabama Turk would run by and see, for the first time since midwinter, his favorite spot under the willow tree was uncovered and untaken. Slowing to a halted canter and finally a bedraggled saunter, the young man popped down on the bench for a good sit.

This particular picnic table, peeking out from within the confines of a billowing willow, offered the best skyline anywhere within or without the somnolent French town. Saint-Pierre burst forth from the bulwarks and market square, blooming over the town like a stone perennial, a gothic sentinel tasked to watch and protect its citizens from unrest and malignant hoodoo. Fun fact: inside the cathedral, Alabama had even found a postcard picture taken a few feet away from his favorite spot. Another testament to the merits of said view.

As he watched the water flow lazily on either side of the bifurcated river, Alabama Turk came to terms with a simple, sour truth: he was nearing the end of his magnificent adventure abroad. With soggy eyes, he thought of Tenor Abernathy and the Resonant Beast, the twin titans who had dueled upon the Gelded Gully. He remembered ridding himself of the stinking Grimoldge, that filthy gunk-critter living in his bile. Alabama smiled as he thought about the wedding reception, after the marriage of Pallow Brarro and Alowa Skybrindle, the pair of whom subsequently rode off into the sunset in their decorated Minnie Winnie. How was he supposed to return home with a bleeding heart so thickly laden with nostalgia?

Mr. Turk awoke from his daydream at the moist plodding sounds of an approaching behemoth. The man, if he was indeed a man at all, lurched forward on the offbeat as though his melted, mushy brain-bag was set to a coked-up, crooked metronome. One after the other, his legs would manifest themselves from within the many folds of his portly personhood. His petulant, putty face was riddled with blisters, glistening in the summer’s sun as his saturated, oily dough-skin fried orange in the heat. Boiled and braised, his flesh strained under the immense tension, looking ready to peel away layer-by-layer until gargantuan pustules erupted, turning his body into a baking, vacuous lagoon of vulgarity. It should be no small wonder if anyone had ever written this sorry sod a clean bill of health.

Alabama watched the goober lumber over and present itself at his picnic table with a wet belch.

“Would you like to take a seat?”

The creature sat and the bench groaned morosely in protest. His overlong tie lay impotently upon the grass, sliding like the sorriest sausage in the slaughterhouse between his grimy, muck riddled suit lapels.

“What, ah…,” Turk was trying to look the beast in its eyes, but kept getting distracted by its gaping, fetid mouth hole. Teeth roosted sparsely along the cavern walls like furry bats in a grotto, “What brings you to Saintes?”

Whether the monster belched or flatulated, Alabama didn’t know, but between gaseous emissions the gargoyle conveyed that he was indeed a foreign diplomat.

“I… ughhhh… I’m the best, most bestest even… uhm… lord, uhm, uh, president that my people have, hm, have ever seen. Um. Yes.”

He had garnered the favor of his fellow countrymen apparently by appealing to the inner cannibal in all of them. Riding a wave of high-protein, zero-ethics nationalism, this cellulite-in-a-suit rose to power and lead his nation into a fear-driven frenzy. Among many other things, Alabama picked up a distinctly Anti-Muslim sentiment from him.

Alabama was not the least bit perturbed by Cannibal President’s apparition. Should the fiend have shambled over a year ago, sure, the lad would’ve run screaming in the other direction. But a year of odd characters and magical happenstance had weathered Alabama into the seasoned veteran of the abnormal he was today. Now he recalled the day that Farabella Fagglebonk appeared before him, recruiting him for battle against the villainous warlord, Magna-Kmar Everlasting. For that quest, he’d traveled three continents and a couple higher dimensions to track down the criminal scourge and drive the feathery brillow through Magna-Kmar’s gaudy mane.

Cannibal President smacked his lips and lolled his sluggy tongue around his mouth to wet his terrific maw. He stood; his tiny, meaty mittens still poised upon the table as he sniffed the air furtively. Catching a delicious whiff on the wind, he lumbered off down the lawn toward a family of four. The parents were laughing and cooing over a five-inch display trained on their youngest nugget rolling around in the grass with a puppy.

Alabama scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably. Surely they saw him coming, right? But, low and behold, they did not, and Cannibal President scooped the boy up in his paws by the scruff of his neck and sunk his infected incisors into the nubile flesh. The couple stared in abject horror at their screen as the carnage unfurled. In sumptuous HD, they looked on as their highly rendered child’s limbs were gnawed on, the Cannibal President looking to lap up that sweet, sweet child marrow. At a truly awesome 60 frames per second, they watched at least 240 frames in which the ogre gargled their baby’s blood and flossed with a mat of his hair.

The whole scene was awfully upsetting, but after half a minute of gratuitous violence, Alabama got up from his bench, dumbfounded, and wandered around the ordeal to the sidewalk for a better sideline view. The parents were wracked with grief, the wife having fallen to her knees, barely able to hold up her cellular phone between trembling fingers. The increasingly crimson glow of the screen reflected in the father’s waterfall eyes. Still:

The bright red stop-record button glared, unpressed, on the righthand side of the screen.

On a personal note, Alabama noted they were filming landscape. These people may have been monsters, he reflected, but they weren’t charlatans for God Sake.


A six year-old kid tugged at Alabama’s sleeve.

“Hey,” said the kid.

“Hey,” Turk said dismissively before suddenly double-taking, “Hey, wait a sec, isn’t that your brother over there?”

“That he is,” sighed the child, rocking back on her heels, “Getting a little face time with big Donny. Do you have any water? I’m dying in this heat.”

“Oh. Yeah, sure,” Alabama unscrewed the lid on his bottle, moving to pass it along to the kid before pausing, “Hold on, who’s Donny? And — ,” he added, after a moment’s pause, “ — why aren’t you freaking out about all this?”

“Oh, are we still in character?” The girl was asking me, the author, by way of Alabama Turk, the character, “Look, I’m not on camera right now, and I don’t play games for free. Can we both just be professionals for ten minutes while running this featurette? Besides, anyone that’s reading and didn’t get the ‘Trump-as-a-cannibal’ gag can stuff it. It’s 2018, what else is anyone writing about?”

She’s probably right, so we’ll go ahead and put a pin on this whole third-person narrative for a minute while we unveil the rest of the story. Buckle up.

I relented.

“I guess you’re right. I don’t know if conventional forms are gonna cut it in this day and age.”

“You’re still gonna try?”

“The form will always fit the function. We’ll figure it out, but in the meantime, let’s Q&A this pony.”

The kid shrugged, “Weird turn of phrase for this day and age.”

Across the lawn, we were accosted by one loud Sweet Baby Jesus!, as the mother called up in agony to high heaven, while still looking down her nose at her phone screen. Simultaneously onscreen and a couple meters away, Cannibal Prez was twirling a femur around like he was lead color guard in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“So… tell me about this whole situation,” I said, indicating the girl’s parents, still bawling at their digital baby’s death while the real one was still fighting tooth and nail to save it’s remaining two and half limbs.

“Well, I was born first, and that was three-hundred likes,” she took a quick breath and another swig of water, “Not a lot, but it only takes a spark to get the fame train rolling. By the week’s close, I was swaddled in a comfortable following across three platforms. A month old and we were dealing in the thousands each post, getting reposted, releasing sponsored content, and getting big name guest-post features.”

She was nodding to her own beat, the soundtrack of memories gone by played over her brother’s massacre. While her brother’s carotid artery was opened up like 4th of July fireworks, she related:

“I think I peaked somewhere between my first-steps livestream and the potty-training tweet. By then, Mom and Dad were pulling in substantial royalties each month, but by three they saw my numbers weaning and got busy cooking up my baby brother over there.”

“Huh,” I nodded. I wondered idly which social network was watching the young star’s entrails cascade form the cannibal’s mouth in real time. Snapchat? FB livestream? InstaStory?

“I still make cameos, though,” continued the girl, “I was scheduled to reenact my first bike ride next week. I mean, I’ve been pedaling around the neighborhood since last fall, but they bought this poor bastard a puppy ‘round the same time. That’s when you know you’re on your way out — when they start getting gimmicky. It doesn’t match the brand, but it’ll hold the ratings till they can get a permanent fix.”

The child star in question had lost the remaining half limb, rounding him down to an even two appendages. Donny had concocted a new solo blood sport involving some of the boy’s vital organs and was now trying to best his latest PR. The boy’s mother and father carried on, doing the same useless shit as before not ten feet away. From their fruitless wailing, I picked out the boy’s name: Mango.

“He would’ve started preschool in the fall, so as you can see, Momma over there’s already got another A-lister locked and loaded. Baby Bogart probably started feeling the heat once the tummy-timelines and ultrasounds hit Instagram.”

We sat down at a bench a few feet away with a good view of the now surfeited murder scene playing out in front of us.

“You got a cig?”

Asked the kid.

“You smoke?”

“I’m mostly retired, and I’m only six,” she shrugged and raised both her palms toward the sky, weighing two imaginary possibilities, “Either this planet is going to find a cure for cancer by the time I can rent a car or it’s going to be halfway underwater anyway. What is that, Norwegian shag?

“Uh-huh, can you roll?”

“Yup.”

I lent her a lighter and she took a couple long hits before launching back into it. She was totally cloyed by the wall-to-wall, non-stop stimulation of post-millennialism and yet she still seemed to feel something for the poor kid. She emanated a sort of general mourning, not for the spectacle at hand, but for her brother’s very existence.

“He’s had a tough go of it,” she admitted, “Being born a boy didn’t do him any favors: Steve, our social media analyst, estimated that that’s a 15% lifetime like-reduction right off the bat.”

“So, that’s why they named him Mango?”

She nodded and bobbed back and forth while conceding, “It was a smart move, I suppose. Probably offset that 15% for at least a year, between the claims of cultural insensitivity and an unexpected boost from the feminists,” she’d softened her gaze, looking past the bizarre carnival of gore towards the gently whispering water as she mused, “I mean, the rents were banking on the cultural appropriation claims to catapult them into the limelight, but as fate would have it, they also caught that gender neutral naming tailwind. With #MeToo on the horizon and feminism gaining wider acceptance, they would’ve landed on Ellen if our handlers played their cards right.”

She shook her head and pushed out a long, weary exhale.

“Honestly, this is probably the best thing for him. He’s going out in his prime.”


At a certain point, entropy had its way and Mango resembled a sort of uniform, reddish-brown paste. Big D, having eaten his fill, waddled off to the stream to do whatever he was going to do. Honestly, there was no use speculating; everything was reactionary with the Cannibal President, so who knew what he thought he wanted to do. He certainly didn’t. You’d have had more luck asking Mango’s puddle.

“What’s your name, anyways?”

The little girl took a long, pensive drag off her rollie.

“Coconut,” she said, without a hint of irony.

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah. I go by Coco, but on official documents it’s Coconut Brown.”

“That’s quite a name.”

“Sure, for a crayon. Sounds more like a colorful description Conrad would’ve used to describe the savages in Africa.

“You read a lot of Conrad, Coconut?”

“Shut the fuck up.”


Time lapsed, minutes banded together and formed hours, the flies descended, and odors rose up from the bloody mire. The sun lit the water on fire as it tucked itself in for bed.

“Before we wrap this whole thing up, can I ask you a question, Coconut?”

“Sure?”

“Where are we going? I mean, where is all of this…,” I gestured at the poor, dumb giant, now hunkered down by the banks. He watched as the bloody tendons trailed from between his fat, varicose toes and giggled simply. My waving hand encompassed him and the two monsters now editing the video of their child’s death, trying on different filters and writing, rewriting captions, “…going?”

“The scene? Or…?”

“No, not the scene. I’ve got a handle on that, just, like, the ubiquitousness of technology, the nonstop filming, the incessant, minute record-keeping… what’s the endgame?”

“I’m not sure I follow. I mean, I am six years-old, but also, what are you getting at?

“I dunno, I feel like we’re leading up to something. Like, we’re standing on the shore, with our feet halfway in the water, about to take off. About to move on to the next big thing. It’s like, here’s technology: so miraculously advanced and adept, infinitely powerful and nearly universally accessible. And then here’s us. Here’s what we’ve decided to do with it.”

Coco raised a shoulder halfheartedly. Eh.

“It might just be us letting go.”

The Charente babbled quietly on.


“Can I ask you a question, Zack?”

“Go for it.”

“What do you think you’re going to change by writing this?”

“To be honest, Coconut, until I get through a few more years of this, I don’t think I’ll know. I don’t know that writing is ever going to change any of this, any of this real world business. When I look at Meyers, Colbert, Noah, SNL, Glover… I guess I’m just cashing in like everyone else? Preaching to the choir. Maybe that’s all that you can do, and then maybe you make some money off it, and also maybe you can do something with that money. I don’t know that we’re ever going to art our way out of this situation. But, you know, I’m new at this.

I’ve got to try.”

Eurus

Next up on the chopping block: Euros by The Oh Hellos. Cross your legs, align your chakras, and let’s get a little bit spiritual.

But first, an ad from our sponsors:

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“I’m that motherfucker bustin’ heads,
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Or

“I met up with an acrobat
In Brooklyn or some place like that
With life and taxis flying past
We tore that dance hall down”

“Fire Escape” by Andrew McMahon In the Cat Café or whatever his band’s called. I don’t even know why this dude makes me so mad… Hold on, I’m gonna take a second to Google him. This has been going on for far too long with no real, concrete basis…

See, my problem with McMahon began when I heard “Cecilia and the Satellite” on the radio, and it just really rubbed me the wrong way. It’s, like, if Buzzfeed created an indie lyrics generator; that’d be his music. Or, his popular songs anyway. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to any of his albums in their entirety, but isn’t that so often the case with the things we dislike? We never really understand them… anyway, then he calls his band Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness, and I’m like,Ok, frèrot, but what do you really know about the wilderness?” Where is this dude from… Portland, maybe?

Oh, holy shit, he has leukemia. Oops, is he OK?


He…
Is…

…still touring, cool. So, I guess he had cancer. Well, let’s wind this little rant down before the water gets too hot. If you’re feeling ticked off about me ragging on a dude that had and maybe still has cancer and wanna donate to LLS, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, you can do so – here – and prove to yourself that you’re a better person than me. And maybe you’re thinking, I don’t need to prove anything to you or myself, I didn’t roast a guy with cancer, well that sounds to me like you’re just trying to get out of donating.

Where were we? Right, so if you wanna trade out lyrics like that, for lyrics like this:

Oh_Hellos.jpg
Property of AF’s Media Division

Then you should check out this band. I mean, these siblings really lay it on thick in this album. Let me put it this way: if these lyrics were the sesame butter, and this album was the sesame butter and jam sandwich, one bite of this sandwich would have you chewing for days, nay, weeks. You would drink a whole orchard of almond milk just to lubricate your mouth hinges enough to swallow a bite of this v i s c o u s lyrical sorcery.

So dive into this album with a glass of almond milk and your bible handy, because the Heath’s are notorious for their biblical allusions as well. They’re a well read family: the Heath kids (they’re older than me, I don’t know what I’m going on about, calling them kids) have listed C.S. Lewis, classical mythology and fantasy literature as an influence in the past. Dear Wormwood, one of their former albums, takes its name from the demon nephew in The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, a read which I would strongly recommend. Disclaimer: I’m only a quarter of the way through, though; so far, it’s not only been a cutting critique of the Church at the time, but also a philosophically ponderous epistolary novel. What I would recommend is reading Kandinsky’s On the Problem of Form, then diving straight into The Screwtape Letters. There’s probably a better pairing out there, but I like pretending that the Devil’s the leader of “The Black Hand” from Kandinky’s essay, and God is the Abstract Spirit. Also, if you (like me) are not a religious person, this might help you get more out of the reading. Just some ~ food for thought. ~

Let’s just quickly follow the breadcrumbs back to the original thread…

So, I started listening to this band about a month or two ago when tracks from Notos started popping up in my recommended new music playlist on iTunes. I’m not reviewing that album currently, but I would definitely recommend giving it a listen. Not to mention, Eurus frequently makes reference to and builds upon this work, so it’ll def elevate your listening experience.

Enough foreplay, let’s bust it wide open, one track at a time:

“O Sleeper,” (not the first time they’ve mentioned the “O Sleeper.” See “Caesar,” from Dear Wormwood) hitt’n you hard, right off the bat with some biblical imagery: floods, dunes and dales, and sacred rams? Actually, that last one is from Egyptian mythology, I believe. Sorry, breaking apart these lyrics for me is like trying to disassemble a piece of Ikea furniture if every screw required a different sized screwdriver. It’s like, in every line, I’ve got to go back to Google and type in shit like, “Sacred ram? Holy rocks? Pillars of an ancient empire?” and filter through death metal bands and satanist cults until I find the right screwdriver.

“Dry Branches,” tittering strings, the clacking of wood, a sort of stream-side chatter that crescendos and comes into focus over the course of a minute in this instrumental transitional piece.

“Grow,” which was released as a single before the album, plops us down in the living room, now a couple millennium removed from Ancient Greece. I feel like the first stanza paints a good picture of the creative process, or just what it’s like reading about ancient mythologies; maybe you’re reading the Odyssey late at night and your bed side lamp casts shadows that “look like a twisted apparition from the past.”  It really sets the mood for a nice, long read.

Something I really like about this song is the way Maggie Heath leads the band into a verse. She leads the charge with the “You” in “You shout it down,” like a queen at the head of her army. I’m not a singer, and I’ve never tried to compose a song like this, but I feel like there’s a sort of lyrical complexity… a sort of, well, actually, je ne sais pas du tout. You know what? I’m going to ask someone.

Fast forward one day and ~ Bam! ~ That’s how time works and I’ve got an answer. How cool is that? We just traveled across time together! I feel like we’ve grown closer… you know? Temporally speaking, anyways. Here’s what pre-school piano teacher, choral sorceress, and my mother Cathy had to say about the song:

CathyQuote.jpeg

Ok, mom, well, looks like I might have been wrong about my previous claim. Oh for one, as they say some places at some times. But you know what? That’s just one opinion, let’s hear what the wonderfully talented jazz pianist, DJ and musical mage Hunter Brake had to say about it:

HunterQuoteForReal.jpeg

You read that? “Fantastic panning” and “wide yet realistic acoustic space.” Not at all what I was getting at, but I’m giving myself half a point for being a good sport. A lesser man would’ve edited out his mistake. Not me, though. Never me. I like to think these reviews are as much about us growing as individuals as actually reviewing anything.

There’s also a theme that runs through this song like a ~ river, ~ this idea of letting nature be, absorbing its wisdom without imposing any of your icky, sticky human-ness upon it. Furthermore, this image of the river running its course reminds me of the adventure of Siddhartha and his final apprenticeship with the ferryman, Vasudeva. Siddhartha was able to finally reach enlightenment by watching the flow of the river, by just being and learning everything he needed to know in the passing waters.

Please direct your attention to the line, “let the wild takeover;” there are numerous references to satyrs and the wild in general in this album and the general consensus over on genius.com is that the wild and nature represents God’s perfect work, or, if you like, a white light or spiritual energy that we should interact with only by observation and acceptance. Moving on with the tour, we’ve definitely spent too much time on “Grow.”

“Eurus,” a great song, lead by Tyler Heath this time, warns against the treacheries of materialism and greed, similar to the messages in The Screwtape Letters. Some helpful soul on genius.com added that Eurus, the greek god of the Eastern Wind, was considered unlucky, thereby demystifying the line, “as Fortuna sits idly by,” which ushers us into a brilliant scene depicting the narrator, driven to depravity in his quest of earthly fortunes, sitting under the goddess’ table and subsisting on her crumbs alone.

“A Convocation of Fauns (A Faunvocation, If you will),” another instrumental, and this time it’s a banjo that carries the melody. Hot dog, this album really tickles my fancy.

“Hieroglyphs,” We’re in the home stretch now, and the band is kicking it into high gear. Picking up the beat after the last crescendo of “A Convocation of Fauns […],” the whole chorus chants us into a hot and sweaty fervor of biblical proportions. We’re stamping our feet after an enemy that’s been killed off long ago, or so the story goes, and I think the band would like us to ask ourselves, “Did we ever consider these beats might not be coming from the drums of war?” Now read:

“Cause maybe you’ve been to busy thinking ahead,
Of where we’re all going after we’re dead
To maybe consider our bodies are worth
More than the dust that we can return.”

Which, I think is a refreshing perspective, and one that I, personally, was sorely in need of. Again, like all of their songs, there’s something in there for everyone, even if you’re not a religious type. Sometimes we just get caught up in thinking about our legacy in a very selfish way, and we neglect all the good and happiness we could bring about in the present. Think about it.

Side note, this is the song I snatched the quote from in the review’s illustration. Check it out again to refresh your noggin meat.

And what about that old wheel that keeps on turning? What is that all about?

Well, it seems to me, that the old wheel is the cycle of life and death; it’s a boulder that each of us, a mortal Sisyphus, begins rolling up our own hill the day we’re born until at last we die and the boulder rolls back downhill, the next generation picking it up again. We keep turning that wheel until eventually the sun burns out and we, the rock, and even the hill itself are all burned to ash and dust. So, maybe, while you’re pushing that boulder, take a look around, pick a flower along the way, and do a couple reality checks from time to time.

And here’s something else that’s interesting about Sisyphus: when you’re learning to do anything, artistic or otherwise, learning that craft feels a lot like pushing a boulder up some well-worn path. You pass by all the spots that artists before you passed and maybe, if you do it quick enough and long enough, you get a chance to see a part of that hill that all the other Sisyphi never saw. Just a thought.

“Passerine,” at last we’ve arrived. An ode to what is to come, a moment of reflection upon the current project. By the way, a Passerine is a bird; I didn’t know that and I don’t expect anyone else to know that, so, maybe I saved at least one person a trip to dictionary.com, the unofficial sponsor of my work. Returning to the album, “Passerine,” the song, makes reference to their coming albums in this supposed tetralogy, heralding the coming of Borealis, the Northern Wind.

Also, I like this idea of “purifying the holy rock to melt the gilded seams;” it’s a beautiful way of saying that they’re recasting their religion and forging their own interpretation, one that feels much more pure and spiritual than one that focuses on the very concrete, cosmetic Christianity we see gumming up the pews these days. I’ll definitely have to come back to these albums after I get around to reading the original ~ Good Book ~

So, how are we feeling about this album? I really like the juxtaposition of Greco-Roman mythology and Christian lore. I know I personally have a lot of beef with the believers, and I think that’s a shame, because like Siddhartha, The Bhagavad Gita, and a lot of good scientific literature, there’s a lot we can all learn from their work, and I’m a little annoyed that my past experience with people beating me over the head with it has turned me off reading the damned thing for so long.

So I give the album my first 10/10, because I can appreciate a couple of well-read people making good music and creating some art. Admittedly, it takes a lot for me to listen to anything falling even close to the brand of Christian rock, and this band got me there, so kudos to them. Anyway, I hope you liked the review, feel free to check out our other eight reviews on the site, and we’ll see you again next time!


Hey, you. Yeah, reader guy, or gal, or whatsit, or whoseit.

Let’s have a talk. Grab a seat; get comfortable; make yourself a cup of tea if you’d like. It’s been a long review, I know. Your eyes are tired, you probably wanna rest. Please, just stay up a little longer with me; what’s it gonna hurt?

A lot of readers munch on yummy content like what I’ve got splattered all up and over these pages and I know they don’t really expect a lot in return, but hey, here I am, and I wanna know: how you doing? I wanna know: where do you read these things? Maybe on your phone while you’re on the bus or in the metro? Why are you even reading this smut, anyways, huh?

I know reviews aren’t supposed to have emot—er, seasons, but episode ten of AF’s reviews is just around the corner and it feels kind of like we’re reaching the end of Season One of AF Reviews. I think that’s pretty cool… I mean, we’ve got a good thing going on, right? I write these reviews; you read them; what else really is there to it? Look at what we’ve accomplished too: we’ve got a voice now, a sort of style; it’s like, now you open these babies up, and you kind of know what to expect.

I guess what I’m trying to get around to asking is: what do you, the people, want to see reviewed next? I’ve got a lot of ideas for this milestone: a look at selected pieces of Vonnegut’s work, a review of the animated series Gravity Falls, maybe even a look back at my experiences with Francegiving… What do you want to see? Where should we steer this ship? Because I’m telling you, with the shadow of our tenth review looming before us, I’ll point the bow in whatever direction you want. We’ll take this boat right into the eye of the storm if that’s what’ll get your goose got; I’ll get as nitty and gritty as your grimy hearts desire. We’ll get weird. We’ll get real weird.

Leave your suggestions in the comments. À toute.

Expectations

Composed by Wild Child, reviewed by me. 

Bonjour y’all, and welcome to another cerebrally titillating review brought to you from the somnolent Saintes, a town perpetually blanketed in clouds and cool breezes. Today we’ll actually be doing a double-feature, reviewing two works related, not only in genre, but in geographical origin as well. Join me as we travel to the Lone-star State, where everything is folksier, and, (surprise, surprise!) more ~ introspective. ~

Also, today the American Fables’ team of one is breaking from their haphazard reviewing methodology in favor of reviewing something that’s actually ~ relevant. ~ Some of you might be asking yourselves, could this represent a turning of the page in the history of American Fables’ Reviews? Could this be the start of AF’s rise to reputability as a general reviews kingpin? That, faithful readers (all, what? one or two of you?), is up to you to decide.

So, without further ado, if everyone would take this opportunity to put their listening ears on and get ready for AF’s review of Wild Child’s latest release, Expectations.

It’s pretty good, definitely better than that moment you realized love at first sight only maybe exists, and if it does, it’s is a lot more like winning the lottery than waiting for that special someone to just come knockin’ on your door. And I don’t just mean that it’s, like, holographic Charizard rare, but also that putting all your eggs in the ~ Love at First Sight ~ basket will probably lead to a kind of emotional destitution that’s akin to the cycle of debt many compulsive gamblers face. It’s pretty much the difference between finding a career you enjoy and working hard at it, saving up and building a life you’re proud of versus buying lotto tickets and trying to cash in on your innate ~ specialness. ~

Anyway, it’s also worse than Tyrell’s Veggie Crisps. I opened up a family sized bag the other day on my way back from the grocery store and the next thing I remember is waking up on the couch, groceries lying on the floor, drenched in sweat and one hand still in the empty bag. What I’m saying is, maybe it’s a OK if everything’s not as good as Tyrell’s Veggie Crisps.

Let’s take it from the beginning.

Did you enjoy the small child voice from “Crazy Bird”? Well, have yourself another heaping serving of baby voice in “Alex,” the opening track that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Though the rhythm is more upbeat to an extent that I wouldn’t describe “Alex” as melancholy, the lyrics become maudlin enough that at times I felt like, “Okay, Alex, I know you’re upset about the relationship, but, come on, you’re kind of being a…. Jerry.”   

Slipping and sliding on down the list, “Back and Forth” hands us a couple who’s distorted the notion of love and relationships to the point that it’s more apt to describe what they’ve got going on as a sort of spiteful game, a metaphor that returns in “Expectations.”  Throughout the whole album, there’s this recurring warning in the lyrics, advertising the perils of holding on too tightly to a ~ Sinking Ship. ~

Tired of reading this balderdash? Need to rest your tired, pink word-sponge? I had myself a little search on the ol’ Youtube and found one music video that they’ve already released for their title track. Check it out here. You can listen to the band playing in a dusty old room while Wilson lights candles then casually dips out to explore the joint.

Hold up, let’s see what we’re actually looking at here… Wilson wanders off from her band in some kind of… lightly haunted mansion? Sorry, I’m watching it now and I’ve only gotten about halfway through. Wilson’s upstairs; Beggins is holding down the fort downstairs with the band, probably wondering where their lead singer got off to. Should they keep playing? She’ll probably be back, right? Oh, wait, there she is. She’s been there the whole time I guess, I don’t know, I guess the daylight part is happening at a different time from the night time… I mean, it sounds obvious when I type it out, but it just wasn’t registering with me that these juxtaposed cuts were going on at different times. Ok, I’m at the climax now, and things are really starting to happen. So, is she like a witch? Is someone demolishing the house? Some sort of I, Robot, Will Smith still trapped in the ol’ mansion kind of deal? Looks like things settle on down after she finishes singing the line, “you can’t possibly give what I want from you.”

Looking at the lyrics now, really puttin’ on my reading glasses and wiggling my nose up and down the screen. I don’t see anything about ghosts, but I do see two ideas emerging from the page like phantoms of a sort. Looks like we’ve got ourselves a Class B12 relationship hazard: unrealistic expectations paired with a sense of ownership over your partner. You know, now that I’ve put on my critical analysis overalls and really waded around in these lyrics a bit with my music boots, I’m seeing how the band could’ve equated the idea of perfection that we project onto our partner with ghosts. I mean, when someone dies, it can be super hard to cope. You want something so bad that doesn’t exist, that can’t exist, that you start to project these expectations onto inanimate objects, onto happenings that aren’t supernatural in the slightest. But, you know what? I could be ~ wrong ~ and I encourage everyone to leave your own interpretations in the comments.

Also, there’s a live duet of “The One” on Youtube (here), where Wilson goes full Margot Robbie on a mountain top. One thought I can’t shake, though, is where’d she get the water from? Are they in a camping site? Is there a house nearby? Did they bring the water up in jugs from down mountain?

I really like “The One;” it’s sort of reminiscent of the break in “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, that part where the Ebert and Castrinos recollect that fateful fall that got them ~ falling  ~ in love. I mean, the message in these two songs is completely different, but something about the boy-girl dynamic and conversational form gets me thinkin’.

You know what this video reminds me of? There’s a scene from the movie Victoria & Abdul, where Queen Victoria goes on a “picnic” in Scotland, having her servants carry two or maybe even more tables, plus chairs, along for this lunch in the Scottish Highlands that lasts all of thirty minutes before the rain forces them back down the hill again. I bet Wilson had her servants haul that goofy ass bathtub up the mountain, shot the music video, then hopped back in the Jeep like it was the Mystery Van and said toodles, something to the tune of, “Right, so I’ll see all you tub people down at the bottom?”

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Property of AF Media Division

Just realized Wilson’s wearing a little kerchief in the tub. This little bit of L’Art pour l’art has got me thinking about Réné Magritte, not because he was a proponent of aestheticism (Was he? I don’t know.), but because of La Trahison des images (The pipe one. It’s the painting of the pipe.); a reminder that this is art and not real life, you’re not watching Kelsey Wilson taking a bath on the mountainside, you’re watching a performance, a video of Kelsey Wilson who is in a bathtub, but who is not bathing. Basically, this is a representation of the thing, not the thing, and that’s maybe what Wilson and Beggins wanted to communicate in this video. This song, “The One,” is not the relationship itself, they are not the ones in the relationship, and there was a relationship, maybe even still is, but it’s not exactly this thing that we’re singing about.

 

I swear, Beggins reminds me of someone… Somebody in the comments for “Crazy Bird” said he looks like Edgar Allen Poe, but I think he might be more Sam Brown from WKUK than Poe. Actually… I don’t know that that’s it either. Is it Jack White? Meg White? It’s the eyes and nose, but only when you see his profile. Haunting.

What did we even talk about this review? I’m pretty sure we totally neglected “Sinking Ships,” arguably the most popular track on the whole album.

Still, before I sign off and assign this work of art a somewhat arbitrary number of frozen water droplets, I want to talk about the last track on the album, my favorite track, “Goodbye Goodnight.” The coup de foudre struck when that chorus first came in and swelled, filling my ears like the rising tide making a run on the coast. But then, after the tide scurried back, I took a look at the tide pool verses, and I have to say, there’re some interesting critters floating around this song.

In the first few verses, we tie this album together, rounding out that allusion to childhood made in “Alex,” sustained through the entire album, and then we’ll plunged once more into the utter tragedy that is ~ the r e a l world. ~ And then that chorus, “don’t want to say goodbye, I’ll say goodnight,” it’s got me saying * this *

So, how are these cookies going to crumble? Are there any songs on Expectations that could compete with past hits like “Crazy Bird,” “Living Tree,” or “Pillow Talk”? I don’t think so, but as a whole, the album functions really well, existing as more than the sum of its parts. There’s enough recurring themes, solid flow, and general groove to keep this sinking ship afloat I’d say; I give Expectations seven snowflakes overall.

Stay tuned for review number two, coming at you in 3… 2… whenever you click on the link…

Croix de Guilan

Hey, so today we’re live-reviewing a two-day old bottle of Buzet’s Croix de Guilan that’s been hanging out in my fridge. It’s in the Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon family and it pairs well with boiled chicken (poule au pot). It also pairs well with stir-fried mushrooms (poêlée de cèpes), wild boar stew (civet de sanglier), and a tray of cheese (plateau de fromage). I don’t know if that’s supposed to be all at once, or if you’re having any one of those dishes separately you’re good to go, but you’ve definitely got options. I’ll be drinking this wine with a meager side of nothing else, because I already ate my supper.

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This wine is meant to be served at 17-18°C, and since I don’t really know too much about Celsius other than room temperature was always 25°C in chemistry class, I’m gonna say that 17-18° is prolly about the temperature of my fridge. As I said, I opened it two days ago with some friends, so it’s had a little time to respirate. Should be a pretty relaxed and chill wine by now—let’s go!

First, we’ve got to do the swirly-swirly around the glass. At first glance, I notice that this glass is a lot dirtier than I originally thought. To be honest, I didn’t know we had any wine glasses in the apartment, otherwise I would’ve been using them instead of mugs for the last month and half. I found this one tonight, actually, while doing the dishes and if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, that’s the reason I started writing this review. It’s probably fine though, shouldn’t interfere with my assessment. Looks like we’ve got about ten or so bubbles slippin’ down the side. Pretty good. Nice and smooth vibe I’m picking up. Maybe overfilled the glass a bit; there’s wine all down the front of my sweatshirt.

I’m getting pretty excited now. I know I’m not, like, a professional oncologist or anything like that, but I have to say, this wine tasting thing is really growing on me. Half the experience of wine tasting is in the build up: the anticipation of that first sweet sip is what heightens your senses and allows you to pick out every individual note that the wine has to offer. Two weeks ago, my buddy told me a story about an orthodontist that could tell you after one sip what perfume the guy or girl who was making the wine was wearing at the time of its bottling. He told me the story in French, so I may have misheard or confused some of the details.

Next we’ve got to look at a cross-section of this wine, shining a light through it while holding it up to a white surface and tilting the glass. Definitely massively overfilled the glass, it’s hard to get a good… oh, yep, there’s some wine on the table now. It’s alright, though, I still got a pretty good gradient going on here. Yeah, I’m seeing now that this glass needed a good rub and a sponge bath before the tasting. But still, strong reds and a clear sort of transparent edge. Definitely gonna be a full-bodied wine with that kind of nebulous red tone’d’ness.

So, we’re running this whole thing from the memory I have from two weeks ago in Bordeaux when my buddy showed us how to drink wine, as well as my somewhat abstract notion of how wine tasting works, and I think the next step is to give it a good sniff whilst slowly rotating the glass. The rotation helps relax the wine and make it feel more comfortable releasing its smelly-smells into your face’s scent port. I’m smelling it now; it’s got a good smell, very red, definitely notes of fermented grape. I’m going to say a certain sweetness as well, maybe like a juice-box grape or a grape lolly kind of thing going on here.

Giving it a taste now. Yeah, really hit it on the nose with the red. I’m going to say that’s the dominate flavor tone at work here, really the tonic note, if you will. I’ll go even further actually and say that the sub-dominant note is grape, with a leading sour raisin finish that brings us right back to the red tonic flavor.

I’m not gonna lie, I did try and look to the bottle for a little help here in my saveur analysis, but it turns out that Buzet’s main selling point isn’t the flavor of their wine, but rather their production method. They don’t use any chemical fertilizer, they promote the development of local fauna and flora blah, blah, blah… they did at one point say, “Le travail de la Terre, le soin apporté à la vigne, la sélection des grappes, le suivi attentif de la vinification et le savior-faire des œnologues, vows garantissent des vins dont nous sommes fiers,” and I thought, “BOW! Really nailed it on the grape tones,” until I realized that grappes in French is actually “a bunch/bundle of fruit.” Pretty interesting vineyard though, their slogan/motto/thing is “une viticulture respectueuse de l’Homme et de la Nature” (a viticulture respectful of both Man and Nature). I am a man, and I felt like the wine was very respectful when it entered my mouth, and it for sure had some earthy tones too, harkening its natural origins, but again, that might have just been the dirty glass.

Anyway thank y’all for tuning in for today’s review. I hope you liked my first foray into the world of oenology. I think this has been a very promising first step down the road to a kind of Dionysian awakening. I give this wine four Snowflakes for anyone thinking about buying it—it’s well worth the four to six euros I spent on it. If you enjoyed this review, or want to see more like it, leave me a comment, like my post, or send me a message.