December 20, 2005

LD & The New Criticism "Tragic Realism"

LD Beghtol understands one very simple concept: you don't have to be Nick Cave or The Handsome Family to write murder ballads. If the name sounds vaguely familiar, you're right; though best known for his appearance on The Magnetic Fields' opus 69 Love Songs, he's accomplished more than that. He's also spearheaded groups The Moth Wranglers and Flare, and he's one-third of the scary triumvirate The Three Terrors. You'll also find him spearheading the pages of Village Voice, Time Out New York, and the excellent Chickfactor.

But enough of those matters, as LD & The New Criticism is, as the name suggests, new. Beghtol's always possessed a dry, charming wit, but his other projects never fully explored this aspect of his personality. Sure, Moth Wranglers had some funny moments, and Flare's songs contained well-written songs with a touch of dramatic humor, but with LD & The New Criticism, Beghtol unapologetically indulges his most peculiar sense of humor, as every song on Tragic Realism provides some examination of the lighter--and darker--sides of life, love, and death. When a record's artwork contains a subject key that highlights each song's form of death and destruction, how can you expect anything less than brilliant self-indulgence?

And my, what wonderful things result from his self-indulgence! Beghtol's accrued a number of odd and unique musical toys, and he supplements his songs with all kinds of little things you've never heard of. But most of all, it's safe to assume you've never heard tragedy and death and bitterness and jealousy dealt with in such a fun, lighthearted manner. A hoedown about revenge and blackmail? Yeah, just listen to "Burn, Burn, Burn In Hell." A children's song about suicide? Just dig "DIY And Save Big." So you say you want to hear a simple song about watching your ex be hit by a train? "Elegy For An Ex" will serve you well. Plus, you'll find references to all sorts of wonderful things, ranging from the Louvin Brothers to Howdy Doody. Of course, you don't have to be erudite to appreciate Tragic Realism, but it sure does help. After all, you can't really appreciate the darkness of "When We Dance (At Joe Orton's Wedding)" unless you know the whole story of Joe Orton's life. (And we're not going to tell you the story--you won't learn if we simply tell you. Besides, it's all there in the song.)

Tragic Realism is simply, wonderfully, miserablly excellent. It's great that Beghtol's allowed the world into his inner thoughts--but if you choose to take the journey, be prepared for some rather dark, disturbing--and disturbingly funny--moments.

--Joseph Kyle

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