Sunday, March 20, 2011

5 Star Corner: Lifter Puller - The Entertainment and Arts (Threatening Letters)

'She says it's great getting high
She says it's lame to get fried'

"Plymouth Rock" is, appropriately, the touchstone for everything Craig Finn did in Lifter Puller. It's the microcosm of the insular world that he's created, part The Rules of Attraction, part getting drunk on words, and it takes less than a minute to go by. Yet in that glorious 49 seconds everything gets laid up as bare as the verbose style can accommodate. The boundaries that his protagonists can never keep within, the reasons for their constant excess - think of it as a prologue to the whole Lifter Puller mythology.

Actually, think of The Entertainment and Arts as the Readers Digest version of that mythology; it gets the broad strokes right, the world of college/high school kids who live party-to-party and get in over their heads as they get deeper into the scene, but skimps on the specifics. Hell, there's only one song of the six that mentions any of Finn's catalogue of recurring players by name, and that's a re-recording of a song from the bands' debut ("Star Wars Hips.") For a guy who spent this band's whole recorded output Tarantino-ing the tale of Juanita, Special K, Nightclub Dwight, Eyepatch Guy etc. seems especially stingy, but it also gives a bit more detail to the scene itself. There's shoutouts to the unsung denizens of the various locales ("Let's Get Incredible" - apparently built on a joke Finn made about recording a rap album that was 100% shoutouts), details on the anonymous sex at foam parties ("Roaming the Foam") and even a one-off character study for someone who doesn't show up anywhere else in the band's mythlogy ("Sangre de Stephanie.") Essentially, by forgoing the specifics it gives additional depth to the world Finn had spent two albums populating prior to this, which is a very neat trick especially when coupled with the fact that, on the whole, this might just be the best - well, most consistent - release in the LP canon.

In keeping with the idea that this is a summary of what LP are all about, it manages to cover a lot of ground with relative ease. On a lyrical level you've got all the touchstones deftly checked off by the end of "The Candy Machine and My Girlfriend" - 80s pop culture references, abundant assonance, parallel structure in lieu of/enhancing repetition, Finn sounding he's getting drunk off each successive syllable when he gets into a run...other than ignoring the meta-narrative it's exactly what you expect at this point. There's also the usual bounty of Finn's bon mots and gift for strings of words that just sound perfect together - 'My advice is to dye your eyes and stay inside' especially seems like the best set of words ever assembled by anyone - in addition to actually making sense as a sentence. "Sangre de Stephanie" might even be the best set of lyrics that Finn ever wrote, almost reading like a short character study more than a song. It's also as good a place to comment on the band displaying a greater sense of composition on here than they had previously, "Nassau Coliseum" excepted, letting the song flow perfectly from jagged post-punk to near silence back to full on rock out mode in response to the progress of Finn's lyrics. So not only does the album do everything you expect a Lifter Puller album to do, it manages to do some of them better than they had before. [9.4/10]

No comments: