Review Summary: An album for the season of death and suffering and candy!"The poet's wife is a widow now, though I don't think no one told her that recently her husband's head has been freed from its shoulders. She's likely to grieve a bit, perhaps slip into denial, but by and by she'll profit from his posthumous revival. But that's another story and another bitter pill. Let us turn instead and watch the head go rolling down the hill."
Looking into the mind's eye of a deceased poet. That is the concept of this concept album from the year 2011. It is by San Franciscan country band The Pine Box Boys, led by Arkansas expat/spectre of Death Lester T. Raww. This is probably/most likely their first concept album.
After Mr. Raww--whose wry drawl reminds me of the horror writer Joe Lansdale's--sets up the main premise on "Introduction," and the band performs a rollicking bluegrass number that serves as the story's "Theme," things kick right off with "Pretty Little Girl" the best song on the album. It's a skewed little song about a young child watching the neighbor girls drink tea and eat cookies. From the simple setup things escalate from jealousy to murder and musically The Boys provide us with a gloriously catchy hook and Mongolian throat singing.
I'd like to skip over "Frankenstein" and talk about the magical rockabilly ode to necrophilia "I Was a Teenage Necro" but I must point out that old Frankenstein in The Boys' imagination is a poor homeless man and "you can smell his dead ass fryin'". Now let's get back to the necrophilia.
"I Was a Teenage Necro" is a legitimately great rockabilly song and features these lyrics: "We're gonna go to the graveyard and dig ourselves some holes / We're gonna find some girls who like to rock n' roll". And that's the opening lines fer christsakes. Thankfully The Boys aren't done with necrophilia as the very next song "Waltzing Through the Graveyard" is a tender honky tonk waltz about that most forbidden love.
"Live Brains" closes out the remarkable run of damn near perfect songs through the first half of the album. Fans of Return of the Living Dead will get the references in the song and everyone else will find the shambling, blue collar tune 'bout a zombie looking for the cure for the pain of being dead (hint: the cure is live brains) ***ing fantastic.
The Emancipated Head
is a front-loaded album certainly, although there are plenty of great moments left. For instance the line that closes out the jaunty number "No Room Left for Barbara" is wonderful. And the trio of "Massacre on Confusion Hill?", "The Weeper", and "The Doomer"--all over 6 minutes long--finds The Boys relishing in stacking fantastical horror upon horror for an ungodly 18 minutes.
The Pine Box Boys by telling the stories of zombies, vampires, evil magicians, mad scientific experiments, deranged poets, and necrophiliacs are really pulling down the dark curtain that tries to hide humanity from the black abyss of our own dark and damaged selves. And I tell you what friends, that is the lord's work. Plus this album is damn fun and it's Halloween tyme so it's perfect!
"Well I guess if there's two things that this world has in rich supply-that'd have to be blood and evil."
from "Massacre on Confusion Hill?"
"Jesus keeps what Jesus saves."
from "The Weeper"
"Run like Hell here comes the Doomer!"
from "The Doomer"