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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Arthur Brown: Kingdom Come


1) The Teacher; 2) A Scientific Experiment; 3) The Whirlpool; 4) The Hymn; 5) Water; 6) Love Is (The Spirit That Will Never Die); 7) City Melody; 8) Traffic Light Stop.

Galactic Zoo Dossier might have been a mess, but it had promise. This follow-up is quite dis­ap­pointing, since it sort of fails to deliver on that promise. Shedding some of the theatrical grand­ness of its predecessor, it compensates with extra noises, extra nonsense, and a spoonful of bath­room humor masquerading as Artistic Metaphor. I don't know about Tales From Topographic Oceans, but Kingdom Come could just as easily be dubbed one of the reasons punk had to hap­pen — not because rock music had become too complex and intellectualized, but because it had lost its focus. Even Arthur Brown circa 1968 actually used it to say something. God damn me if I have the least idea of what it is he is trying to say here.

The first nine and a half minutes of the album are given over to a messy prog/R'n'B hybrid suite which delights in changing its melody every next minute, uses the metaphor of The Teacher to emphasize the fact that Arthur is still trying to open our minds... and heavily invests in lyrical re­ferences to the discharging of liquid and semi-liquid substances, including (warning!) an entire section on the adventures of Arthur's sphincter, set to fart noises, so make sure there aren't any minors in your presence when you are playing this, or the next generation will forever remember Arthur as «that guy who farts on his records», even though he only did it once (I hope).

The next to last section of the album, on the other hand, represents some sort of mystical journey through uncharted waters, with Mr. Brown pretending to be the captain and others informing him, over and over again, that he is not. The non-musical parts of it try to be funny and fail, then try to be wise and fail just as well. Basically, there is just too much here: the pot is so thoroughly over­loaded with ingredients that the final result is inedible. ʽCity Melodyʼ, in particular, is a great ex­ample of why «complete musical freedom» should never be praised as the highest of values: three minutes of tight, but not very inspired jamming simply do not form any sensible unity with the other three minutes of sound collages (various city noises). But do listen to this stuff if you have an innate allergy to musique concrète — it might help you gain more love for ʽRevolution #9ʼ, whose apocalyptic streak of sonic terror can be nerve-wrecking, unlike the utterly boring sonic collages of Brown and Co.

Which is all too bad, because all the wordy garbage, failed humor, tired collaging, and excessive overdubbing tends to overshadow the fact that, for this album, the band actually took the time to write a small handful of very good songs. ʽThe Hymnʼ and ʽLove Is (The Spirit)ʼ are the most ra­diant joy-senders to come out of the Brown camp, for instance — in fact, their radiance is very much at odds with the far more somber, negatively charged attitude exhibited by Zoo Dossier. Where ʽSunriseʼ was a Brown aria of anger and despair, framed by accordingly virulent guitar so­los, ʽThe Hymnʼ is a Brown aria of unprecedented optimism, framed by accordingly euphoric guitar passages featuring what might probably count as Andy Dalby's best work ever. And ʽLove Is (The Spirit)ʼ is a fine example of an early proto-power-ballad done right — no power chords or high-pitched operatic pathos.

Best of the lot is saved for the end, though, if you live long enough to get to it: ʽTraffic Light Songʼ is a mean-and-lean funk jam that manages to stay in place for almost all of its three-minute duration, with just a few seconds, perhaps, of being interrupted by an occasional extraneous piano riff or something. It is a «conceptual» tune, too, of course, because the album begins with «the teacher» conducting a «scientific experiment» by «trying to stimulate the brain of this traffic light» (yes, that should give you a pretty decent idea about whatever it is you might be going to subject yourself to). But that's precisely the point: all things «conceptual» about this record have dated so badly that, for all I know, they might already have seem dated back in 1972 (and they probably were: Frank Zappa was doing this sort of chaotic shit with Absolutely Free as early as 1967, and Brown is no match for Frank when it comes to pushing chaotic shit on the listener). Its melodic side, on the other hand, can still be salvaged from the rubble — except that most people probably will not bother, and I cannot blame them. If it takes sitting through the peripeteia of Arthur Brown's sphincter in order to get through to ʽThe Hymnʼ, one might even be excused for stubbornly sticking to Freddie Mercury.

"Let's face it — a sense of humor is a good thing", a reviewer on Amazon said in order to justify the extra silliness of the record. But it depends very much on who we are talking about. Arthur Brown is never truly a «serious» or a «humorous» guy; in all of his avatars, he is primarily «wha­cky», and his «whackiness», almost at every point in his career, interfered with the rest of the message — the only time he truly succeeded in matching it to the rest of the mood and the music was on Crazy World's epochal album. Kingdom Come does have a sense of humor, but crazy guys going funny is not always as humorous as it could seem — genuine humor comes from ra­tional thinking, and there are very few rational things about this record. Still, if your doctor tells you that you are in the process of going ga-ga over the way the real world is treating you, on this record you might just find the perfect soulmate for your condition.

Check "Kingdom Come" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Kingdom Come" (MP3) on Amazon

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