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East River Pipe | Shining Hours in a Can (Merge)
Bravely writing his way out of mental health problems and substance abuse, F. M. Cornog released a series of lovely, home-taped singles and cassettes on the tiny Sarah label in the early 1990s. In 1994, Ajax collected those for the 'Shining Hours in a Can' album, which the ever reliable Merge now has picked up to give it a well-deserved and long overdue re-release. Poignant, desperate pop music that reflects both a late, subdued Big Star and a mellow Posies is the mark of this album, yet Cornog has created something that's quite his own. His is a world of shimmering pop that serves to heighten the impact of his compelling voice, at times reminiscent of both a young Mick Jagger and even 'Darkness'-era Springsteen. The considered, heartfelt lyrics tell tales of everyday paranoia, of deep and profound angst brought out by the trivial, and of both hiding away from the confusion and trying to work it over. The tragic yet beautiful Axl or Iggy seems to be a deeply personal reflection on his own issues, recounted in third-person casual language, by way of casual observations. "You thought you were Axl or Iggy / But you were nothing like that / But you looked good with a bottle / And you smiled like a little brat / And I don't wanna go back to your town." The lyrics all seem to revolve around a confusion of what's happened to himself and to everyone and everything he once knew. They tell the tales of a man who is deeply lost in the world and is trying to find his way back, to figure out where it all went wrong and with whom he now belongs. "You live in this city, make a deal with the city now," he sings on the opening title track, and the rest of the album recounts his struggle to live in a society that he deeply distrusts for all the misery it has put him through. "Let me dig my own grave," he pleads on Silhouette Town, but ultimately his will to get through is too strong. And so, as the glorious music pulls him back in, he pulls himself up to claim his own in the presence of, and in spite of, angst and distress: "I'm crawling on the floor tonight / Say a prayer over me / I know I won't be ready." Remarkable and moving in every way, this is one to both admire and to fall in love with. A startling and rewarding listening experience, if also an unpleasant one, East River Pipe certainly deserve to reach a wider audience with this profoundly compelling reissue.
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002