Wednesday, September 24, 2008

not a fart in a bag: Soft Airplane - Chad VanGaalen

My only excuse for waiting so long to review Chad VanGaalen's brilliant new release, Soft Airplane, is that I have been too busy listening to it. Over and over and over.

You've no doubt been hearing a lot of buzz about this album, been hearing phrases like contender for album of the year, one of the best releases of 2008, tossed about in conversation. And there's good reason for the hype. This truly is a splendid album.

I'll admit that from my perspective, Chad VanGaalen is approaching the status of one of those artists who could fart in a bag and call it an album and I would still give it an 8/10. But Soft Airplane is no fart in a bag. It is a diverse and mature album that still manages to maintain the abundance of childlike enthusiasm that permeates all of Chad VanGaalen's music. You can hear it in the joy of discovery of new sounds like the drum machine robot on Cries of the Dead or the train clacks recorded underneath a railroad track on Rabid Bits of Time. You are never quite sure what you are going to hear being used as a musical instrument on a Chad VanGaalen piece, and it is that strangeness that keeps his music so fresh and so compelling after repeated plays.

The Resident Offspring pointed out that when you see Chad perform live, you always get the impression that he is just making up the songs as he goes along. It's not until you hear them actually committed to vinyl that you realise that he has, in fact, written this stuff down.

There's an organic quality to his songs that do feel as though they have just escaped from the overloaded brain of a mad genius. Sometimes this results in lyrics which should cause me to shake my head, but they don't; instead I find their unpretentiousness to be
charming. Not many people can get away with lyrics like you went to the mountains true and painted what you saw/you came back late and hid the painting underneath our couch/and I wasn't there when you made it/but I feel like I'm there when I'm looking at it (Cries of Dead) and still maintain their credibility as one of the best musicians of the day. Somehow Chad VanGaalen makes it all work, gloriously.

It would be a mistake not to buy this album. In fact, I would recommend that you buy two copies because you are going to wear that first one out.

17 comments:

flyingbuttresses said...

I don't think I've given this album as many spins as you have, but I am really enjoying it. I hope to be able to see him in concert soon...did he have the cutouts the last time you saw him? I can't remember...

allison said...

p.s. Its not letting me login with Google, but that's me in case you didn't know. ;)

~allison

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You are the only flying buttress in my heart, Al, so I knew twas you!

It's a fine album, isn't it? I hope you do get to see him in concert, it really is a feast for the senses. No cutouts last time, sadly, but he did show his awesome stoner videos on the ceiling of the planetarium.

Sean Wraight said...

I have to tell you Baarbara, Chad VanGaalen cd's seem to ALWAYS take at least two months to truly sink in to my consciousness. But this one is different. Maybe its the familiarity now or something but I am really loving this disc. And almost from the get go to boot. The RO's comment is really astute and might be why I so completely enjoy VanGaalen's music. It's fresh, original and as far from preformatted pap as you possibly imagine.

Keep preaching the VanGaalen gospel my friend. He is one of this country's musical treasure.

Cheers,
Seaan

Remi said...

I'm sort of regretting not buying this album the last time I was at my favourite indie shop. I'm planning a visit there this weekend just to pick up this disc.

mellowlee said...

I am loving this album too Barb. Beautiful review :O) I'm still hoping to score tickets to his show in Vancouver!

Toccata said...

I am so out of the loop right now.

bloody awful poetry said...

Me going to listen to this Chaaaaad dude now. Those lyrics are truly awesome.

Gifted Typist said...

But Zombie, do you like it?

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I completely agree that CVG is one of our musical treasures, Sean. And while I want to celebrate that and spread the word, naturally part of me (the greedy part) wants to keep his music to myself. Fortunately I have never been very good at keeping my mouth shut.
It's interesting that his albums take a while to sink in. For me Skelliconnection did, but I loved Infiniheart immediately. And in my mind, Soft Airplane is much closer to Infiniheart.

You are a good guy, Remi, to go all the way back there to buy this cd. Mind you, any excuse to visit your favourite record shop is a good one. You will not regret it.

You really have to get to his show, Mel, especially as you haven't seen him perform before, have you? Absolutely must see!

You've not a Chad VG fan, Toccata? We'll have to do something about that.

Aren't they wonderful in their, I dunno, innocence, BAP? You have to listen, you like Canadians!

It's tolerable, Gifted, barely tolerable.

Beth said...

I love your album reviews. And now I'm off to download Soft Airplane.

BeckEye said...

You had me at "fart."

Bridget Jones said...

What a wonderful review! Thanks for this.

John Mutford said...

I keep flipping back and forth as to what my favourites are, but the first to grab my attention was TMNT Mask. It's not quite Vanilla Ice's "Ninja Rap" but pretty decent.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Well done, Beth! You're gonna love it!

You are easily convinced, Beckeye. I am using fart as much as possible in my next interview.

My pleasure, Bridget, glad you enjoyed it.

My first favourite was Willow Tree, John, but right now it's Rabid Bits of Time. No shortage of good songs there!

justacoolcat said...

Suddenly, I want to fart in a bag, and then go album shopping.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Or you could fart in a bag and then go album selling, JustA!