Sunday, 26 August 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #291 - The Incredible String Band, "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter"

There is something monstrous of the ego about this band. In theory, it's all faerie folk and metaphor and hippy softness; in theory. But in practice, it blazes with a dark, underworld sun; a massive, magnetic self-confidence, that as a doubtful man, I find unsettling. Hippies and their cunting certainties. Give me the rambling, destabilised sitaution of The Bonzos any day. I prefer that 1968.

"If I need a friend I just give a wriggle/Split down the middle/And when I look/I can see another one handsome just like me." This is a song about amoebas, in theory - but I think there's an element of the ego bursting forth and trying to set the universe in its own darkly sparkling image. And all a lot of the songs feature lyrics about the sun and sunshine, highlighting the point. "Swift As The Wind" is about a land of no night, which sounds (oxymoronically) nightmarish and exhausting.

Another issue. His voice sounds a little like Tim Brooke-Taylor of The Goodies, which I find slightly disconcerting. The production is very crystalline and the instrumentation pretty sparse, although the imaginations are obviously firing hard and fast. And the songs seem so packed with ideas and energy that a five-minute song feels more like ten. Their debut album from 1966 had more of a Blues inflection - although I can't imagine "Niggertown" was ever thought a great song title, not even then. By this time, they've fallen away from this lysergic, Indic, folky bloom.

A majestic bit of sitar and tabla (like on "Three Is A Green Crown") doesn't do any harm either. Neither do the pipes that appear, bag or otherwise. Any instrument that struts or blasts. Peacock music. A lot of lyrical (and musically babbling) references to rivers too. Appropriately, the last song is "Nightfall" and there is a hint of reflection (if only in the lyrics again - the vocals are as loud and outward as ever). It could be lovely, this album, but it's too hard and brassy. More mumbling, please; more subtlety in the breath.

Rating: Dark Sun Peacocks out of Cunting Certainties

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