New Canadiana :: Guilt – Guilt
[audio:http://weirdcanada.com/binary/Weird_Canada-Guilt-Piggy.mp3|titles=Guilt – Piggy] Guilt – Piggy
You may know Leonard from his endeavors with Mitchell Wiebe and Dave Ewenson in the industrial-rhumba trio Catbag, but he earns his keep as an artist and educator at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. His visual art suggests an interest in systems and information entropy, and these concerns are evident in his nearly-structural contributions to this project. The duo’s other half, Grimson, is an almost criminally under-celebrated icon of the East Coast music scene with a repertoire of some 900 recorded songs to his name and connections to such folks as the Sloan boys (they cover a tune of his on their pseudo-party album) and Joel Plaskett. Over the years, Grimson has cultivated the image and sounds of a saltier Warren Zevon, but Guilt represents a surprising new tangent for the man, with only his baroque lyricism uniting past and present.
[audio:http://weirdcanada.com/binary/Weird_Canada-Guilt-Adult_Braces.mp3|titles=Guilt – Adult Braces] Guilt – Adult Braces
Lyrically, the album is a haggard tramp through the muck of a great many topics, though a fascination with parricide provides the work with something of an organizing principle. Over the course of the album, the great crime is addressed in literal and figurative terms, as mere act and the stuff of both atmosphere and politics. Take “Midnight Hanging.” On the album’s opener Grimson sets the mood with a bad trip bricolage of references to the authors, characters, and scenarios of wantonly hardboiled and noir fiction. “A witness handler, I’m a witless Chandler behind Richard Starks smile”, he bellows. And through this creative confusion of patrimony, he is able to reference some of the genre’s great figures and double the subversive take on authority that is the genre’s central premise. “Just like when Mike Hammer breaks a woman’s jaw,” he coos, “the Spillane breaks.”
In “Piggy,” parricide is confronted in its literal sense, with the song’s eponymous narrator completing the act that ultimately stumps the empowered axe-man in Meatloaf’s “Wasted Youth.” “I killed my parents,” proclaims Piggy; “I’m covered in their blood.” But what can a Pig do when his parents are “a bunch of fucking assholes” and his father says he shouldn’t smoke pot? The song frightens because it follows the youthful rebelliousness of punk rock to the end of the line; but Grimson is not afraid to consider the consequences of such a piss in the abyss as things go sour for the hapless Piggy when he is caught in flagrante. But whereas Oedipus is blinded for his crime, the ailing figment of Grimson’s imagination is left speechless and confined to a wheelchair, with his caretakers unable to “tell if he farted or spoke.”
Some of Grimson’s most humourous lines come when he extends this parricidal hostility to the lordly authority of rock ‘n’ roll’s supposed heroes. “I beat up Mick Jones after the sound check,” he moans on “Midnight Hanging,” but he “thought the Clash were shit” so this offense can be excused. In fact, they sounded “worse than Jagger’s digital dick,“ so the persecution was practically warranted. And yet, Grimson reserves some of his most biting critique for the impotent institutions that maintain the culture of mediocrity in which these figures thrive. The CBC, for example, “is what a moron sees when he does not know what he has to be;” and who could argue, with the fine work our Harperian Candidate has wrought on the once noble broadcaster? How long, one wonders, till the damn service is administered entirely by the establishment functionaries that frighten poor Piggy because “None of them are even unfaithful?” “Even to Joni,” as Grimson growls; “and Joni sucks, she’s awful, she’s worse than Lou Reed… And you gotta try pretty hard to be worse than Lou Reed!”
Of course, Grimson has a whole lot more to say on the album, so you’ll have to pick it up to get a fuller sense of what he’s on about. Over the course of the record’s five long songs he conjures the uncanny image of a frightening and noble proposition: youth’s disaffection maintained into middle age. Add Leonard’s punkish provocations to the mix and you have yourself an album that matches the severity of our times with an industrial beatitude that is the diametrical opposite of the empty pleasantry that has come to dominate the so-called underground in our country. There is something more than mere gratification at stake in Guilt’s vorticular shuffle, and they are not afraid to put it all on the line with this singular first album.