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The Crumbling Empire of White People

Mr. Smolin

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Album Review

Amid the primitivist cartoon art provided by Gary Baseman on the covers and CD booklet of his second album, Crumbling Empire of White People, Mr. Smolin adds a quote from T.S. Eliot's poem The Hollow Men: "Lips that would kiss/Form prayers to broken stone." The meaning of the lines in relation to the album is less important than the inclusion of them. Smolin is an artist who can't quite figure out what to call himself; in the songwriting credits, he reverts to his real name, Barry Smolin, while he calls himself Shmo in the musician credits. These are indications of a self-consciously arty performer, and they prove to be accurate upon a listen to the music itself. Smolin favors melodic pop tunes with piano-based arrangements, all intended to support his singing of wordy, poetic lyrics, which tend to be more interested in wordplay than meaning. If there's a four-line couplet, you can expect that the third line will rhyme with the first and the fourth with the second, and that there will be an internal rhyme or two thrown in for good measure. For example, the closing words of the final song, "Why I Came," go, "String dimensions fence the membrane worlds/Addicted to existence like a flame/If Love's disaster casts her swine before girls/Will it be why I came?" And that follows lyrics laced similar tongue twisters: "A portal to immortal fame," "If I get past the bastard protocol," "If I concoct a rocket to the unknown," etc. What any of this means is anybody's guess for the most part, although certain themes do emerge clearly. Smolin is critical of religion and, particularly in "Twilight in America," he shows himself unhappy with the state of his country in the present day, even though he views it as the consequence of the history of the U.S.: "An empire built on sand...The fruits of a stolen land." But Smolin can be forgiven his preciousness and pretentiousness on the grounds of his songs' highly listenable quality. Like the music of They Might Be Giants, which closely resembles this, Smolin's tracks are so tuneful that they engage the ear, often disarming his audience's confusion with regard to what he's singing about.

Biography

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s

Mr. Smolin is one of the names adopted by Los Angeles musician and teacher Barry Smolin, who also sometimes calls himself Shmo. Smolin hosts the psychedelic radio show The Music Never Stops on KPFK 90.7 FM in southern California. As a rock singer/songwriter, he made his recording debut with the album At Apogee, released by Nomenclature Records...
Full bio
The Crumbling Empire of White People, Mr. Smolin
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  • 8,99 €
  • Genres: Pop, Music
  • Released: 29 May 2007

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