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Slim Cessna's Auto Club
The Blovdy Tenent Trvth Peace
Alternative Tentacles Records
www.slimcessnasautoclub.com


For the past two albums, Slim Cessna's Auto Club has swirled about the concept of the Parousia. Their previous album, Always Say Please and Thank You was a considerable departure from the hokey and goofy alternative western style conjured up in their eponymous debut, and in American Country Music Saved Her Life; and in my humble opinion, was not exactly the most pleasant arrival. Slim Cessna's Auto Club had an air of a gentle country way that hinted at a darker underbelly. American Country Music Saved Her Life was rowdy and raucous with occasional dips into occultish superstition. Always Say Please and Thank You was dark, moody and emotional. Nonesuch necessarily bad things, but there was a particular lack of focus that seemed to drain the album's energy away. SCAC was a band I had always thought of as fun and carefree, but ASPaTY was dearly lacking those elements.

Since then, I've had to resort to a new genre tagline to describe SCAC, but whenever I mention "gothic western", people invariably envision Marilyn Manson with a cowboy hat on. So I've coined a new phrase to suit this style that I think captures the essence of their music: 'American Gothic' Western. By conjuring up images of Grant Wood's most famous painting, the corrupted, inbred weakness of stale, living anachronism is fleshed out and brought to life. And all without eye shadow.

If ASPaTY was too chiliastic in its presentation, then The Blovdy Tenent Trvth Peace is more (appropriately) millenarian. (Dictionary.com will not provide you with the insight needed to distinguish between the two, so dig a little ya slackers) ASPaTY had plenty o' religion, but was almost devoid of spirituality, and more importantly, it seemed to show a band that had lost its sense of humor. But, the faithful should fear not; the country band from the end of the world has regained its whimsical humor and is ready to trot headlong into the rapture with the crooked six-shooters of Alighieri and Voltaire strapped to its side.

The greatest strength of this band has come from the narratives employed in their songs, and TBTTP may be SCAC's best showcase yet. The wild and zany stories of "This is How We Do Things in the Country", "Mark of Vaccination", "Port Authority Band" seem to ring true if one believes the old adage that truth (trvth?) is stranger than fiction. I wouldn't ever believe that the murder of a cross-eyed wife which subsequently causes a whole town to go askew in every way, or an attempt at vaccinating a backwater town turns into a brawl, or a Persian band gets turned away at Ellis Island for looking too sickly (with subtle nods to Slim's and Munly's emaciated physiques) could possibly be contrived. How could you make stuff like this up? Regardless of whether it is a historic narrative or not, TBTTP has its own sense of inner truth that is more relevant. Philip K. Dick espoused an idea that was equal parts theory and philosophy in his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep that he called "kipple." Kipplization was the reduction of man's material world into rubble which starts at the beginning of a civilization's decline. It was the physical manifestation of a corruption that was not so much a corporeal process as it was an indicator of cultural decline. TBTTP has an intriguing duality that on the one hand shows a world whose secular aspects are in a regressive state: decayed, wind torn and dust-blown. These segments are not always in a minor key, but they frequently use unresolved harmonies to create apprehension before switching to gospel-inspired, uplifting melodies or refrains. These sequences that emphasize the joyful spirituality of salvation are always progressive and resolved; uplifting, a musical respite from the preceding existential angst. This interplay has been hinted at before in previous SCAC albums, but I really only found it recognizable in TBTTP. For me, this is noteworthy because it also has an analogue in the literary world: Walter M. Miller, Jr's classic post-apocalyptic novel A Canticle for Leibowitz. Miller's novel showed that while civilizations rise and fall, man's spirituality is a constant progression toward a state of grace. TBTTP shows a world that can still drag itself up from the dust by the bootstraps of its indefatigable faith.

So, I've espoused some ideas about the lyrical and structural content of this album that has really impressed me: this is by far the most mature and refined effort I've yet experienced from Slim & Co. As a matter of musical enjoyment, there are a few times where I feared a song may be headed toward mediocrity, but a riff here, a refrain there, or even a yodel or two bolsters the song and renews it with life. Ultimately, I realized this as the source of the album's aforementioned duality. (Maybe it was an epiphany.)

TBTTP is not only the best western album you'll hear this year; it rightly ranks among the best ever. It is entertaining, has some righteous hooks and contains many layers of lyrical complexity from the silly narrative all the way down to parables of a world oblivious of its material degeneration, which manages to progressively seek salvation nonetheless.

-JD

Track Listing:

1. This is How We Do Things in the Country
2. Thorny Crown
3. 32 Mouths Gone Dry
4. Cranston
5. Mark of Vaccination
6. Jackson's Hole
7. Shady Lane
8. Sour Patch Kids
9. Port Authority Band
10. Providence, New Jerusalem
11. He, Roger Williams


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