Introducing: "A-OK!"

Okay, so I obviously never got around to reviewing Sebadoh's Bakesale. Sorry. But I am instituting a new feature here at Big Red Robot: "A-OK! - Album Of the weeK. Basically, I will focus whatever energy I can muster into a post detailing an album that I think is the bee's knees. Because I can't shut up about the rock. I am physically incapable. This is my blessing and my curse.

This week's inaugural album is this glorious work: The Unicorns' Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?

First off, let's take a look at that album cover. Go ahead, click it. I'll still be here. This is one of those moments where an album cover tells you exactly what you're getting into. That cover is precisely what this album sounds like: It's Crayola destruction. It's rainbows and lightning-filled clouds punching a hole clean through that rainbow. It's fairy tale stuff, with all the pathos and surreality those stories entail.

I got this from Huston a while back, and while he didn't take to it, I was smitten immediately. I remember driving to Colorado from Vegas after Christmas and listening to it at least three times over the course of our trip through Colorado (with a brief stop at the home of the Castlerocker) and onward to Idaho. I can think of no better album to listen to while negotiating icy mountain passes in the dark of night in early January. Seriously, it's that kind of music.

It's heady stuff, at once beautiful and deformed. It's like the Brothers Grimm started a band at age 15 and turned all that weird fairy tale stuff into disjointed, dark, disturbing, and, above all else, funny pop songs instead of stories that you tell your kids to mess them up before they go to bed.

There's a lot of death in this album, what with it starting off with a song titled, "I Don't Wanna Die," ending with one called "Ready To Die," and containing no less than three songs about ghosts (and one about unicorns, of is that Unicorns?) sandwiched in-between?

Totally unrelated, but it also contains the lyrics "We're the Unicorns/And we're people, too," which is just really funny once you think about it.

The thing I appreciate about this album the most is the way it basks in its imprecision. Every song sounds on the verge of falling apart, and almost does, but manages to keep it together long enough to tell it story before going the way of all the earth. Which is what rock&roll is about, really. Rock&roll is not precise. It can be, but to be "real," it shouldn't be. It's sometimes has to be messy and confusing and just like life, to get all metaphysical on your arse.

This is why I can't listen to the radio. That stuff, it's not real. It's a vapid, hollow fantasy. It's Thomas Kincaid paintings when this is crazy Pablo Picasso stuff. Art is not comfortable. It shouldn't be, at least. It's primal and visceral and able to relate to. Does that make sense? I need to sleep, I think. Okay, I just re-read that last rant and realize that I am totally full of crap. It's all fantasy, really. I just prefer mine to be more... intricate? Maybe needlessly so? I don't know. I just know that when I hear the Goo Goo Dolls or Fergie, I immediately barf. It's completely uncontrollable. I'm seeing a specialist. But that's my problem to deal with. Back to the review...

As the band's name suggests, this is mythical, maniacal, morbid stuff. It's the sound of kids burying their fantasies as they undertake their metamorphosis into full-fledged adults and they're not entirely sure of whether they're better off as newer, more "real" creatures.

The Unicorns would eventually turn into the band Islands and release the fractured, but nowhere near as delightfully dangerous, Return To the Sea, which is a good album, but I feel like it's missing something, like it's a Unicorns album with the teeth filed down a little. I miss the unpredictability that haunts this album like a troublesome and possibly imagined phantom.

***(Not that Islands is a run-of-the mill band by any stretch. They're similar to, say middle-period Mercury Rev or a less obtuse Animal Collective - which, by the way, that Panda Bear album, Person Pitch from one of the Animal Collective guys... it's good stuff, too. It's like early Pink Floyd covering Pet Sounds. Which is a good thing, believe me. Hey! It's a two-in-one review. Because we're about value. "Big Red Robot: Giving You More Than You Expected... And For Free!")***

On this album, anything is possible. Songs fall apart, turn into something new. Things change and die and become ghosts that haunt mountains and turn your bones to jelly. Anything can happen. Anything does happen.

And that, dear readers, is A-OK.

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