“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?” coworker & friend
In 1993 actor Crispin Hellion Glover released Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be on Restless Records. The music was written and produced by Barnes and Barnes (the same folks who wrote such twisted comedy hits as "Fish Heads"), most of the vocals and words are Crispin’s (guest accordian by Weird Al), and while there are three cover songs ( Nancy Sinatra, Charles Manson, and George Leybourne) the rest of the record features snippet readings by from two of Glover’s books Rat Catching and Oak Mot. The themes jump from masturbation to clowns and the back record cover even includes a phone number where callers could take a stab at what the "Big Problem" actually was. ( FYI: the number no longer works)
Brutally out of this world and beyond bizarre Big Problem ultimately sounds like what one would expect from such a well documented freak but the release itself missed all commercial possibility and never broke beyond cult status. (cult status = sales bomb) Most people who bought the record didn’t actually love it nor did they ever listen to it unless it was to terrify friends and family. It wasn’t the music or the words winning people over, it was the fact that the creepiest actor of the day had recorded an equally as creepy record.
I still can't pretend I understand the artistic vision Crispin Glover was aiming but as a fan of the actor I was ready to accept and embrace whatever was attached to his name. What can I say… I 22 at the time and WFMU had raised me right.
Nearly 15 years later Rehearsing My Choir by The Fiery Furnaces is virtually a sequel to Big Problem with the addition of a female voice but the draw back is The Fiery Furnaces lack the eccentric possibly mental ill reputation / lure that Glover had built for himself over an extended period of time. To get to the point, people expect crazy things from crazy people but not from a certified quirky but still waaaaay more commercial duo like FF. Had a label like Ipecac whose dedicated fan base seeks out all that is unusual Rehearsing may have faced a more understanding audience but I fear neither Rough Trade or the band have such an automatic built in open minded listener. (though clearly some do exist)
Typical indie pop music fans will and have been cringing in horror upon hearing this very experimental Fiery Furnaces' release and PFM’s 4.0 review accurately reflects this. My guess is had Pitchfork been around in 93’ Glover’s farther than far out record wouldn’t have faired any better.
Customer reviews written on Amazon for Crispin Glover’s record could double for Rehearsing the Choir so please allow me to cut and past a few lines:
Gisele M. Baxter (Vancouver, British Columbia Canada)It's closest to a combination of song and performance art/spoken word, but with none of the grim pretentiousness the latter so often implies. So park your expectations at the door, make yourself comfortable (or not) and enjoy the show. What I love about this is its almost complete lack of apparent irony: it's not a spoof or some contemptuous deconstruction, nor is it some sort of hastily slammed-together mess on a vanity label.
Michael Anthony "Hybridblues" (Tampa, FL USA)
"This is not your everyday run of the mill CD. In fact to some they may not like it the first time you hear it (or at all) but this will grow on you."
K. A. Sorenson "Little Hellion" (The Wilds of Michigan)
"I've listened to this cd approximately four times since I came home to find it waiting for me this evening. I'm still not any closer to understanding just what the hell Crispin's deal is, and I've probably done irreparable damage to my sanity, but I don't really care. If, like me, you really enjoy hearing the undeniably weird Crispin Hellion Glover reciting lines like "Only yesterday I had a lamb's skin removed" in his strange, oddly sweet voice over merry, almost pastoral music, get this album. Get it now. If, however, you don't go in for that sort of insanity, shun this album like it's the plague."
oompah_loompah "art student chick" (PA, USA)
"F*cked up" doesn't even begin to cover it. This is forty three minutes of pure, unadulterated insanity. There's no reference I could come up with that could possibly prepare you for this album. Not one. Now, I have seen and heard a lot of disturbing things in my life, but this *has* to have wormed its way to the top of the list.
One last thing to drive this point home
Customers who bought this title (CHG's Big Problem) also bought:
Off The Charts Companion CD Soundtrack [Soundtrack] ~ Original Soundtrack
Innocence & Despair ~ The Langley Schools Music Project
B-Sides & Rarities [Enhanced] [Box set] ~ Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 [Enhanced] ~ Wesley Willis
The Best Of William Burroughs: From Giorno Poetry Systems [Box set] [Explicit Lyrics] ~ William Burroughs
I am personally adding The Fiery Furnaces to this list.