Boy Goes Solo with Haunting Success
the moment in "Lose Yourself," right before the drums
start in, when the keys of a piano are stroked from high to low.
Or observe Aiken jolt out the word "mess" like a wicked
electric serpent in "Missouri Arcade." And hear the
eerie harmonization of the piano and his gloomy voice in "Don't
Look Down." Consider, and then play it again. At first listen,
this is a very good album with catchy and imaginative songwriting,
and at second, a haunting piece of work with the kind of nuances
that will linger in your head for days.
the keyboardist for Buffalo Tom, Phil Aiken was always the songwriter
of whatever band he was in. But it's been six-and-a-half years
since then, and Phil Aiken has decided to "take the reins"
again. His new solo album is called Don't Look Down. It
is 10 tracks in length and took about two years to make. Aiken
is listed on the CD credits as conducting the lead vocals, pianos,
organs, synths, samplers and alto saxophone. He also produced
and mixed nearly the entire thing. After digesting this information,
I figured Aiken's creativity, not to mention hands, must be worn
to a frazzle. He told me they are not. Apparently, most of the
time was spent learning how to turn the knobs.
primarily recorded in a home studio, sound somewhat cluttered
and diluted. On a Tchaikovsky disc, I would find this to be reason
for offense. But since this is Mr. Phil, the songs have a creepy
resonance that is their own. There is an atmosphere, an attitude
of hostility and cynicism, that made me feel all cozy inside.
Aiken is actually very funny here. Many songs lash out on romances
or friends with resentment, but it's clever, amusing resentment.
This is especially true on tracks like "Lose Yourself,"
"Missouri Arcade," and "Don't Look Down."
This is where the album is at its best.
a few slow points in Don't Look Down. Despite being only
10 songs long, I think it would've been better off at about eight.
All the songs have a similar tempo, and that can become repetitive
after one too many listens.
makes up for lost time with his nice assortment of wisely used
instruments. Each song has a new execution that is its own while
still noticeably part of a single work. The music in "Edison"
is truly memorable, functioning with Aiken's backstabbing love
on it, I realize every single song has a really great line. A
couple are boring overall, most are constantly sharp, but all
of them have that one classic line. Screenwriting instructor Robert
McKee once said that your story can be dreadful, just as long
as you wow the audience with a great ending. That's not really
true, but it sure does help.
14-Jun-2003 4:42 PM
liked Don't Look Down...
1. Lose Yourself
2. Rear View
3. Missouri Arcade
9. Man Overboard
10. Don't Look Down