East River Pipe - What Are You On ?
by Chris Jones
published: 15 / 4 / 2006
Bleakly humorous latest album from New York's East River Pipe, the project of one-time homeless alcoholic FW Cornog
Generally, I try not to read reviews of an album before listening to the album, because I don't want to go into things with high expectations which then usually aren't met. When that does happen, next I have to decide if my expectations are to blame or if the album is and that leads to never really just listening to the album. And "analyzing" an album is about the worst thing one can do. In the case of this album from East River Pipe (aka FM Cornog), I had seen some reviews prior to listening to it and they all said how "angry", "depresssing" and "dark" this album was and they rated it fairly low. The early East River Pipe albums have some of my favourite songs and there has always been a sort of dark realism to the lyrics, but I never thought of them as overtly "angry" or "depressing". Given what Cornog has been through in his personal life and what I felt was a disappointing previous album though, it seemed possible that he could produce an album full of anger and depression. Now I couldn't go so far as saying this album is all bubblegum and blue skies, but I will say it is not the "dark", "depressing" album the reviews I read had me expecting. The lyrics tend to be more blunt and maybe more cynical than his past work, but I always see a fair bit of humour in Cornog's observations. "She smells like cigarettes, she feels like silicone, I want the crystal queen, she'll kill the dream..." Whether the 'Crystal Queen' is a prostitute or methamphetamine - the later more fitting with the drug theme of the album -Cornog is always able to paint a pretty picture of ugliness. Surely, his years spent drinking tallboys and living on the streets of New York City have given him a unique perspective. And it's not just down and out street dwellers who get his attention, young "intellectuals" get it too. "You read half a book, then you say take a look, TS is my new best friend". I can only imagine Cornog walking around NYU, overhearing bits and pieces of conversations between college freshmen and trying to hold back yelling at them "what does TS Eliot know about you!?!" Continuing on this walk Cornog sees "kids run down cobblestone streets, with light up sneakers on their feet, next to suicide cases, and thumbtack schemes". Walk through most any major US city and you can see this same scene unfold, but not many take the time to mention it. It's better to just not notice. Cornog doesn't exclude himself from the scene around him either. In fact, sometimes it's hard to know just how autobiographical his lyrics may be. "And later on,Second Avenue, if it comes down to the drugs or you, baby, we're through". Cornog's commentary and description of the world around him tends to be from a perspective that most people either don't have or choose not to acknowledge. And because of this, he manages to shed light on people, places and situations that most consider dirty, dark, and depressing. Yeah, it's not all bubblegum and blue skies, but if that's the world you live in then "what are you on?"
Track Listing:-1 What Does T.S. Eliot Know About You?
2 Crystal Queen
3 What Are You On?
4 I'll Walk My Robot Home
5 The Ultrabright Bitch
7 Absolutely Nothing
8 Dirty Carnival
9 You Got Played, Little Girl
10 Life Is Landfill
11 Shut Up And Row
12 Trivial Things
13 Some Dreams Can Kill You
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