More fool’s rambling than sermon
The sound of ethereal chimes is often a bad sign, encompassing a genre of music that is far too self involved, pretentious and self-righteous to be taken seriously. Each of these statements cleanly and succinctly defines the recent album The Fools Sermon, Part 1 by Daniel Higgs of Lungfish fame. Unfortunately for him and his fans, the album turns out to be much less of a sermon and more just the ramblings of a fool.
The album, comprised of two lengthy tracks, lulls one into a sense of complacency and awe at first. It employs what can only be described as cheap tricks to fool the listener into believing in the self -importance of the album, which hardly claims the title of an album. Its presentation is very similar to that of a spoken word record, with a strange Appalachian twist. Each moment conjures images of foggy, green valleys populated by toothless madmen lurking around the corner. In this regard, the album is very successful in its ability to summon imagery. Unfortunately, the album completely falls into the most dangerous trap for spoken word, the trap of an unrelenting pretentiousness that bleeds into each note and verse within the album. The music often attempts to punctuate the lyrics, which are clearly the main theme of the album, but overall manages only to be trivial and obnoxious. The wood blocks and chimes feel like they were ripped from a cheap yoga DVD and pasted shamelessly across the backing track. There seems to be little rhyme or reason for the backing music, as it is largely nonsensical and ill planned. At best this is to reflect the inherent madness of the titular fool, who is the subject of the lengthy string of lyrics, but at worst it is a poorly conceived jam session that was casually thrown beneath a smattering of words. The delivery of the lyrics is also largely underwhelming, often coming from a whisper or groggy speaking voice. They pull the listener into a land of weary fever dreams, failing to possess a true sense of meter or inflection. The lyrics drone on until they too fade into the intangible senseless track that permeates this album.
The lyrics themselves could be the sole saving grace of the album. On the positive, they are clearly understanding, never washed out by a sense of passion or excitement and never drowned out by the backing instrumentation. The words themselves are relatively engaging, and contain some phenomenal lines, such as “Drinking pure reflection from the surface of the pool.” Higgs very clearly has a strong grasp of writing engaging and thought provoking poetry. The downfall of the lyrics unfortunately has nothing to do with the lyrics themselves, but everything to do with the presentation. If this were a book of poetry, or simply a very long poem, one would do well to purchase it and give it a read. Sadly, the presentation of the lyrics is largely unnecessary and often distracting, pulling away from the engaging wordplay that Higgs so clearly poured his passion into.
Spoken word is tough to touch upon as it often falls entirely on the back of the lyrics to carry an album into acclaim. Unfortunately, there are times where instrumentation and delivery become an obstacle to the lyrical content. Daniel Higgs’ A Fools Sermon, Part 1 falls into this trap far too easily. While the album lyrically skirts the edges of greatness, its uninspiring delivery and wholly non-compelling instrumentation relegate this album to be little more than a fun curiosity for the dedicated Lungfish fan, and spoken word nut, sadly providing little else for the rest.