Drowning In An Inflatable Pool
Sex Pistols Influenced Angry Folk Rock For a Trumpian Society?
I’ve always been that guy ‘forever on the search for something new’, to hear something previously unknown to my ears, and then be totally blown away by it.
Sadly, this doesn’t happen enough, in my opinion.
In the past it was learning of a band mentioned by a musician in an interview:
“Wait, who’s that they’re talking about?
Then searching the record stores until you find it.
Or seeing an unknown opening act that totally blows away the headliner. Sometimes it was coming across an album with an interesting cover image and buying it based on that alone. Crazy – I know; but fun though.
Nowadays, it’s being asked to listen to an album in order to write a review of it—and every now and then, one of those albums hits you just right and you listen to it more times than you really need to, in order to give it a write up.
(#We call that – playing an album for fun! Ed)
I’d never heard of the artist who goes by the name of Mickelson before, but I am now gleefully jumping into his back catalog, looking for more gems. With Mickelson’s baritone voice, no-nonsense attitude, and fearless songwriting, this album is a definite contender for the soundtrack to an off-Broadway play about the dissolving of society amidst totalitarian regimes. Mickelson himself claims this album is a response to the Trump era of American politics, and yes, I can hear that, but for me this album comes off as less of a folk-rock protest (ala Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, etc.) and (bizarrely) more like the Sex Pistols with their songs “Problems” or “Holidays in the Sun” in that Mickelson acknowledges there’s a problem, yet he’s unsure of the answers to those problems, but he does know that he can not continue on the way things are currently going, as his world is tail-spinning relentlessly out of control, and his mind is going with it.
So he might as well hoot and holler all the way down.
The Mekons, Straight Line Arrival, Pere Ubu, Jimmy Cliff, John Murry, and more have all gone down this route, so Mickelson is in damn fine company here.
The ear worm opening track, “Jagged Tooth,” hits the road running, like a man thrown out of a moving car; no time to look back at broken promises or who’s closing in, you just keep on running.
“I was doing my best to tell you the truth,
but every time,
cut my tongue on this jagged tooth,”
he declares, not really apologizing, just laying it out.
“Just the facts, ma’am.”
This feeling continues on throughout the entire album, a miasma of relentlessness and many nights of restless sleep, a barely remembered dream nagging at the back of your skull as you run scared through the daylight hours, waiting for night and a chance to hide your head, until you can do it all over again.
“No Translation for No,” “Odd Man Out,” “Drowning In An Inflatable Pool,” “The Lockdown,”are the song titles themselves and read like chapter titles in a book of dark speculative fiction by Harlan Ellison or Kelly Link, daring you to not look away until they’ve burned themselves into your soul.
I’m also really digging the next to last tune, “Only the Wicked Run,” which features a more pared down production, mostly banjo and voice.
He Mickelson’s tired of running; yet still keeping his eyes peeled for an escape route—Hell, ANY escape route!
It’s the last song here, a recorded live warts and all track called “Flickering,” which utilizes all the disparate ingredients from the previous seven songs and makes them work admirably.
A showcase for Mickelson to prove he can successfully pull off this album live, or a last minute addition that just had to be on here, no matter what? Either way, it fits, the banjo being the engine that keeps the whole thing moving, the horn blasts punctuating throughout, Mickelson’s voice like a more mid-western Springsteen, and I swear I hear more than just a smattering of “modern country singer” in Mickelson’s style of vocal delivery. Dwight Yoakum on punk steroids? Brad Paisley sitting in with the Who? (Yeah, I really am that damn crazy.)
Mickelson pleads and wails his way through the song while the rhythm section clears his path.
I’m digging the choice of harmonica, horns, and banjo on several of these tunes. Who needs over saturated and fey guitar solos when you have so many more choices out there?
Not Mickelson, fearless, feral, headstrong, and ready to gnaw off his own foot if that’s what it takes to make a statement worthy of your attention. And hey, if that’s too gory for you, check out the music video for the song “Jagged Tooth” with charming animation by Nemo ……. Mickelson’s head is in a jar, singing and playing harmonica with a kick ass band.
Strange, yes, but somehow all that works to his advantage and makes him a bit more approachable.
Yeah, he’s serious about his songs, which are his messages to us through the ether, but he’s winking back at us at the same time.
We’re all in this together, so we might as well have some fun while we can.
Review courtesy The Legendary Roy Peak.
Released US July 24th 2020
Released Europe 15th August 2020
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