Pastoral Genocide

Little Pictures, Tom Waits, and European Charm.
June 11, 2008, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , , , , ,

Download John K. Sampsons “Little Pictures.”

Side Projects, omg. There’s something fundamentally interesting about the concept of a “side project.” The implication is, of course, that these projects take a back seat to an artist’s primary work. But if art is anchored to dedication, and dedication is anchored to the time continuum, then what is a side project? A release from the release? A harbinger of a soon-to-be altered future? Drivel? I’m not sure. I’ve always viewed the side-projects of my favorite of my artists to be something along the lines of bonus material: some of it might be wholly spectacular but, mostly, it’s little more than a mish-mash of potential punctuated by intermittent flashes of brilliance.

John K. Sampson’s “Little Pictures” accentuates such thought in remarkable fashion. Released in 1995 by Winnepeg’s G7 Welcoming Committee Records, the EP is composed of songs that Sampson wrote while serving as bass player for the surrealist/leftist/post-modern situationist punk band, Propagandhi. In Sampson’s case, “Little Pictures” served as a predecessor to his cerebral rock musings later popularized by The Weakerthans.

In its totality, “Little Pictures” is neither good nor bad nor mediocre. For everything that it’s not, however, “Little Pictures” contains a peculiar sort of depth, a half-actualized vision that – sometimes frustratingly – never fully emerges. At times, however, Sampson’s lyrics reach stunning heights, such as on the track Maryland Bridge, in which he sternly waxes: “I can be J Edger Hoover and you be JFK/As power hungry egocentrics, we’ll paper fight the night away.” In contrast, tracks such as Sunday Afternoon and Sympathetic Smile ramble and stumble along, searching for purpose without fruition.

Don’t misunderstand me, however: “Little Pictures” is worth listening to. And, for some, re-listening to. While the EP certainly doesn’t have the reach of either Sampson-era Propagandi or The Weakerthans, it does have subtle sense of imprecise self-awareness that flickers endearingly and, at times, meaningfully.

Tom Waits, omg. Individuality is stripped for the sense of collectivism. For better or worse, a collage emerges, a real time visualization of associated elements. Somehow, the product is a touching depiction of sand and water and hectic industry.


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