April 06, 2002

Parlour "Octopus Off-Broadway"

You'd think that, after all of these years, people would be sick and tired of that whole art-rock/math-rock/Chicago post-rock/post-jazz post-melody anti-rock music trend/media manipulation thing. Jokes about the tortoise popping his head out notwithstanding, that whole scene is, in fact, rather tired, dull, and, to a lesser extent, lacking in imagination. I mean, my god, Jim O'Rourke's in Wilco and Sonic Youth now and, from what I understand, no longer lives in Chicago--isn't it time for the rest of the world to give up the ghost?

The main problem about this whole post-whatever genre isn't that the music is bad; often, it's rather lovely--its that the music is so repetitive, with the styles created by a few being imitated ad nauseam by lesser musical minds. The copycat syndrome is so bad, that I actually dreamed last night that Jim O'Rourke married Courtney Love and then was found dead in his attic of an "apparent" suicide, and disillusioned hipsters everywhere imitating O'Rourke's passing. Andy Rooney came on the air and lambasted the poor quality of the imitator's suicides and infuriating the staff of Your Flesh by saying, point blank, "who cares?" In my dream, these hack musicians all sold their marimbas and either got temp jobs or jumped to the new trend--Ryan Adams! (Later in my dream, James Iha subsequently rumored to have been involved in the affair, only to turn up dead from eye-liner poisoning. Hey, can't fault Iha, he probably needs the money.)

At the end of my dream, Parlour became Creed. Not that Creed are good, mind you, but because Creed are successfully feeding off of the corpse of grunge, and though I personally don't like 'em, I can't begrudge anyone their success. Nobody's going to confuse Parlour for Creed, but, thankfully, nobody's going to confuse them for anything that has the scent of Jim O'Rourke or Thrill Jockey. I have to give Louisville scene veteran and Parlour mastermind Tim Furnish (ex-Crain, For Carnation, Papa M) credit for not doing this kind of music during its heyday a few years ago; I'm sure the music would have been lumped unfairly with a lot of the crap that was out during that time. Kudos for realizing that this kind of music needed time to mature, grow, and stand out from the chafe.

Octopus Off-Broadway is a beautiful record that, thankfully, mixes up these familiar, tired sounds with their own with a grand, lush, slightly cinematic approach that will simply gently sweep you up into the air, down into the ocean, and will fill your eyes with the wide open skies of that planet we call Earth. Don't believe me? Then simply take a listen to "Mperfect." It's a seven minute piece that seems like a half-hour, but in a good way. Starting off with a simple, repetitive beat, it progresses into a grand, lush, synthed-out orchestra, and takes you higher, higher, higher ever so slowly, until you are floating in the air gently and unknowingly.

Time passes realllllllly slow when listening to Octopus Off-Broadway, and that's a totally good thing. The only thing about Octopus Off-Broadway that's not a good thing in my book are those chimes. Yes..those new-age chimes. I always hate to throw out that term when talking about this kind of music, but I'm not one for them. They populate "Sleeper" predominantly, and appear throughout the album sporadically. Using that device is about the same as hearing a sample of "The Funky Drummer," and you'd think that little trick would be avoided. It certainly doesn't help matters, and it makes me think someone at the pressing plant accidentally slipped some Yanni or Windam Hill on to this record. Or..maybe they did!

Octopus Off-Broadway is the product of some talented minds working together, such as Trevor Kampmann and Paul Oldham, and is a rather surprisingly fine debut album. It would be easy to make jokes about this kind of music, but when the music's this good, it's not necessary. In fact, it still gives me some kind of hope. Sometimes it's good to rock out, and sometimes it's good to just turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream. Parlor have done just that, and this is their document of their journey from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the atmosphere. Quite a climb, quite a debut.

--Joseph Kyle

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