By Darcy M. | Music | July 22, 2009 |
By Darcy M. | Music | July 22, 2009 |
In a spontaneous fit of civic duty and whiteness, I walked into an independent record store a few months ago and purchased three albums by three locals bands. One of these was from Christian Hansen & the Autistics, who were recently featured as band of the month on a local radio station. Power Leopard has unexpectedly received a good deal more playtime on my iPod than the other two albums combined. I was originally wary of Mr. Hansen due to his unique delivery and the similarities between “Cocaine Trade” (the song that was played on the radio; even when promoting local bands, radio stations don’t bother to vary their playlists) and the CSS remix of Sia’s “Buttons”. Along the way, after revisiting it again and again, Power Leopard won me over and I began to realize its true greatness.
Even after having Power Leopard for four months, I’m still not quite sure from what angle I should approach it as the album itself is quite broad. It runs the full gamut from playful and trivial to deadly serious and emotionally disarmed. As you can imagine with a band name like The Autistics (a name Hansen defends quite nicely), Mr. Hansen does not shy away from sensitive issues. Yet there is also a playfulness in the name that is embodied in the tone and some of the lyrics in the album.
Hansen covers lighter topics like threesomes (“You Me Him Us”) and masturbation (“Pump It”). He also engages in his own tongue-in-cheek social commentary in songs such as “Cocaine Trade”, “High School is Over” and especially in “Churchill Square” where he is quite mockingly critical of the hipster crowd and their pretensions: “He shows me the tat on his right hand/You know he got it the traditional way/when he backpacked through Thailand/”. I was pleasantly surprised, and amused, that Hansen would turn on a group of people that I would have assumed would have been his bread and butter audience. But yes, I agree with you Mr. Hansen, they are douche-bags and you are doing a public service by pointing out their ridiculous pretensions.
Hansen, though, is at his best when he is dealing with surprisingly serious issues. “Calypso Hippo” and “Father Ray” deal with sex tourism and sexual abuse at the hands of a religious figure, respectively. These are hardly standard fare for your typical album, let alone an album electronic in nature, which are generally stereotyped as being quite fluffy and insubstantial. I think the reason for this is because it is remarkably difficult to write a song about such sensitive and possibly inflammatory issues. Frankly, “Father Ray” could have fallen lyrically and thematically flat on its face but for an abrupt and conspicuously up-tempo bridge where Hansen sings: “I must admit/I’m trying to forget/Is that wrong?” At this point I immediately recalled my own experiences when dealing with victims of sexual abuse and they way that they dealt with such a horrible ordeal. There is a mixture of declaration and moral uncertainty mixed together adding an incredible amount of authenticity and nuance to the song in one simple bridge.
The final touch is the incredible voice of Christian Hansen, himself. The man can sing. His voice is strong and male, to be sure, but there is also a heavy dose of melancholy that comes through when it is needed the most. In the above passage from “Father Ray”, Hansen delivers those lines with such obvious feigned happiness that you can practically see him smiling with tears in his eyes while he is singing them. There is also a high level of emotional vulnerability and honesty, in songs like “Father Ray” but also in “Someone I Can Love” and “Kirkegaard”.
If I had to pick something wrong with the album, it would be The Joe’s appearance. While I’m not a hip-hop aficionado, I am sure that those who are would not be impressed with his lyrics, style or delivery on “How I’m Living”, which is, otherwise, a decent song. “You Me Him And Us” has a rather obnoxious loop employed sporadically throughout the song. Finally, the amount of polish put on the production can be uneven in parts. Obviously these are minor gripes and can be easily overlooked in the context of the entire album.
Last week, everyone was asked to pick their favorite album of the year thus far. Though I missed the deadline, Power Leopard is my pick. This is an album in which you take out as much as you would like to put into it: it is as much dance-club fun as it is an emotionally honest snapshot of a weird time and place. It is rife with songs which are gems. The music is purposefully kept simple to showcase Christian Hansen’s highly capable voice. I look forward to hearing more from these guys in the future; they deserve all the success that is hopefully coming to them.
Darcy M. spends his days with a gun to his head, reading esoteric modernist proclamations and cultivating vice in Edmonton, AB.