ith a voice like a shy child too enthused not to tell his story, Phillip Flathead fills his music with lyrics to match: pleas for a bit of sense in life, and, despite the occasional lonely feeling that ‘the world is so big’, a general belief that, as “Downstream” says, ‘everything is beautiful.’
Flathead’s performance at the Fox and Goose Monday evening was paradoxically joyous. Rarely looking at the audience, occasionally slurring the lyrics into word pictures rather than clearly defined sentences, it could have been a study in angst. Instead, it was like the quiet kid on the playground telling a really funny story, made even funnier by his reserved delivery. At the end of “Love & Medicine” my Best Beloved and I were laughing out loud at the comparisons between the commercial on TV and what’s actually important in life. It’s not easy to skewer something as obvious as commercialism and come off sounding fresh and innocent instead of jaded and pompous.
With just that wonderful quirky voice and his impressive Guthrie-style playing, PF hammered out the three songs from his demo CD (and one other, “My Best Friend Zen”) with the kind of passion that makes a live show exhilarating.
- Downstream—”Look up towards the sun . . . everyone’s walking on air; and did you know that everything is beautiful all around us?” Opening with languid banjo (how often do you get to write that?) backed by a simple drum and cymbal, “Downstream” feels like one of those Sunday afternoons when everything is done, and all you have to do is lay in the hammock contemplating the clouds over a glass of something cold, watching everything float downstream.
- Hollow Days—Beautiful cello flows into feelings of emptiness; wishing, as summer turns to fall, that more had been accomplished; that somehow, we had succeeded instead of whatever it that did happen. Reminds me of R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe.
- Love & Medicine—Sparkling mandolin takes most of the lead in this perky quirky poke at how commercialism sure does squish the good stuff out of life, doesn’t it? I wonder if the hand-clapping percussion was planned, or if the recording engineer just couldn’t keep from joining in? Woody Guthrie would have been proud of this wryly humourous take on how, with “all this love and medicine, all the light from Edison, we’re still walking ’round with darkness in our souls.”
If you live in the Sacramento area, watch for Phillip Flathead. If you live anywhere, watch for his CD “4-Track Mind” in January. And come back here for my review of the full album, just as quick as I can get my hands on it.