CD Review: Christopher the Conquered, “You’re Gonna Glow in the Dark”

christopherconqueredSo this is what 50,000 dollars looks like
10 o’clock sharp in the morning, whenever you’d like in the evening
So you can take it or you can pass it up!
But if you walk away with my money, you must uphold your promise
To never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever kidnap me from the war zone again!

These are the lines that kick off “Insane Idiots,” the opening track on Christopher the Conquered’s You’re Gonna Glow in the Dark, and they essentially set the loopy tone for an 11-track album that appears to have something to do with the exploits of a team of intergalactic “explorers and researchers” who come to Earth in the year 2606. On paper, it might all look like a lot of addle-brained nonsense with (the horror!) prog overtones, but let it come pouring through your speakers, and you’ll experience one of the most enjoyably off-kilter albums of indie rock you’re likely to find this year. As a narrative, it seems to have been cobbled together from deliberately incongruous parts (sample lyrics: “The wings will flap, and the neck will crack / While the falcon cries at midnight / And my feet are sore, I don’t want to walk around anymore / Still, the falcon cries at midnight”), but musically, it’s a lot of fun — the Iowa-based band bristles with a wonderfully unpredictable live energy, spinning waves of sound that crash around singer Chris Ford’s endearingly ragged vocals, and the whole thing is topped off with a three-piece horn section.

It’s all rather Nilsson-esque, really; although You’re Gonna Glow probably has more abstract moments than Nilsson’s entire catalog, the music and arrangements reflect a deep love of (and uncommonly strong grasp on) the woolly eclecticism that fueled his best work. And okay, so maybe Ford isn’t the songwriter Nilsson was, and maybe he’s so willfully obscure that you sometimes feel you’re on the outside of an inside joke, but there’s still something about this album that’s hard not to love. Listening to it is like riding a rollercoaster: There are enough twists and turns to make you scream, but by the time it’s over, you can’t wait to get back on again. Forget about those pasty-faced weenies on the Saddle Creek label — Christopher the Conquered’s joyful noise is the best sound coming out of the Midwest right now.

You’re Gonna Glow in the Dark reaches stores on October 13. In the meantime, visit the band at its official site to hear and see them in action.

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