At War With Reason
Country-Folk With a Native American Hip-Hop Heart of Gold.
I’d already seen Cam Penner play live a couple of times when I reviewed his 2013 album To Build a Fire; yet I wasn’t prepared for the way he delivered his songs in a recorded format…… left of centre and occasionally ‘experimental’ for someone who skirts around the Country-Folk idiom; but I soon got my head around it and subsequently played that album a lot.
A lot has happened in the intervening years; but Cam Penner still ploughs his very own and distinctive style; for want of a better description.
The album opens with what sounds like a Pentecostal organ followed by some looped drum beats long before Penner makes a ghostly appearance over some very intricate acoustic guitar on Gather Round. The first time I played it was in the car on a sunny Autumnal morning and it wasn’t the right place or time. Subsequently I’ve listened to not just this song, but the whole album at night with just one small living room light on and the combination is nigh on perfect.
As I say, Penner is very much ‘his own man’ here; utilising a an array of modern recording toys and basic acoustica to create a sound that tantalises and teases your senses.
Tracks like Ain’t Nobody Round and It’s a Constant left me scratching my head for the right way to describe them; but why bother…..they just seep into your subconscious like fog and; in another universe would have been the sort of music you’d hear on the John Peel radio show late at night, then find your best friend at school the next day and whisper Penner’s name excitedly before fruitlessly attempting to buy the record at FW Woolworth on the Saturday!
A lot here is best described as ‘lonely’ and ‘sad’ but that’s what Cam was hoping to achieve when he locked himself away in a log cabin up a mountain during the longest Winter in memory…… but nothing here sounds ‘cold’, not even Tell Me When They’re Gone or the splendidly dark hearted Right Here, Right There Like That.
This is the type of album that will have you poring over every word and nuance trying to decipher his metaphors and messages; but at face value I’m selecting two songs as joint winners of the RMHQ Favourite Song accolade; No Angels, No Devils which brings the album to a startling close and brought back memories of the first time I ever heard John Martyn; who may actually be the only musician I can compare Cam Penner to.
The other song, Lights Out (High School Musical) is, well…. nothing short of brilliant in it’s own fractured way! A keyboard drones and a cacophony of bottom end electric guitars penetrate your subconscious while someone makes the kick-drum sound like gunfire; which isn’t accidental as Penner raps his thoughts about the recent spate of mass murders in American High Schools……. even his obscene chorus is absolutely necessary to get the message across. But sadly the people who need to hear this song and do something about the ‘problem’ won’t have the faintest clue as to who Cam Penner is.
Damn Them all to Hell!
AT WAR WITH REASON is different, as is Cam Penner and the world is a whole lot better place for having both of them in it.
Long live DIFFERENT!
Released November 12th 2018