“When Magnus looked at Imasu, he saw Imasu had dropped his head into his hands.
"Er," Magnus said. "Are you quite all right?"
"I was simply overcome," Imasu said in a faint voice.
Magnus preened slightly. "Ah. Well."
"By how awful that was," Imasu said.
Magnus blinked. "Pardon?"
"I can't live a lie any longer!" Imasu burst out. "I have tried to be encouraging. Dignitaries of the town have been sent to me, asking me to plead with you to stop. My own sainted mother begged me, with tears in her eyes - "
"It isn't as bad as all that - "
"Yes, it is!" It was like a dam of musical critique had broken. Imasu turned on him with eyes that flashed instead of shining. "It is worse than you can possibly imagine! When you play, all of my mother's flowers lose the will to live and expire on the instant. The quinoa has no flavor now. The llamas are migrating because of your music, and llamas are not a migratory animal. The children now believe there is a sickly monster, half horse and half large mournful chicken, that lives in the lake and calls out to the world to grant it the sweet release of death. The townspeople believe that you and I are performing arcane magic rituals - "
"Well, that one was rather a good guess," Magnus remarked.
" - using the skull of an elephant, an improbably large mushroom, and one of your very peculiar hats!"
"Or not," said Magnus. "Furthermore, my hats are extraordinary."
"I will not argue with that." Imasu scrubbed a hand through his thick black hair, which curled and clung to his fingers like inky vines. "Look, I know that I was wrong. I saw a handsome man, thought that it would not hurt to talk a little about music and strike up a common interest, but I don't deserve this. You are going to get stoned in the town square, and if I have to listen to you play again, I will drown myself in the lake."
"Oh," said Magnus, and he began to grin. "I wouldn't. I hear there is a dreadful monster living in that lake."
Imasu seemed to still be brooding about Magnus's charango playing, a subject that Magnus had lost all interest in. "I believe the world will end with a noise like the noise you make!"
"Interesting," said Magnus, and he threw his charango out the window.
"I believe that music and I have gone as far as we can go together," Magnus said. "A true artiste knows when to surrender."
"I can't believe you did that!"
Magnus waved a hand airily. "I know, it is heartbreaking, but sometimes one must shut one's ears to the pleas of the muse."
"I just meant that those are expensive and I heard a crunch.”
― Cassandra Clare, The Bane Chronicles
Idiot Glee is a 23-year-old Kentuckian named James Friley, a one-man-band who surrounds himself with multiple keyboards and effects and a looping device. The term idiot glee, though, is something of an affliction as described by Brian Eno in his essay “Into the Abyss.” Friley phones during the homebound commute from his part-time job cashiering at a Cajun restaurant; he says he first heard about it during a YouTube interview from 1983.
“Somewhere towards the end, Eno just starts talking about, like, this sense of being overwhelmed with joy and excitement because you just had what you think is a significantly awesome idea. Maybe it's not, actually, but that feeling you get is idiot glee and I was like, I get that feeling all the time.”
At least some of Friley's ideas, significantly awesome or not, led to Paddywhack, his first full-length CD. It is an echoey collection of pop-flavored songs best described as ethereal, de-boned, and adrift in a funhouse of sounds and textures. “I needed a contrast between what I was doing before I started Idiot Glee,” he says, “which was loud-ass rock and roll.” That would be his previous band, Bedtime, which he started when he was 16. “It [Bedtime] totally de-evolved into more of a Doors-Sonic Youth hybrid as I got older.”
The UK Guardian called Paddywhack creepy. Is that what Friley was
shooting for? “Not really. I thought that was funny because Bedtime was
a lot creepier, and I kind of got away from that, I thought.” Actually,
Friley considers Idiot Glee post doo-wop. “I was just experimenting in
the bedroom, you know, and once, I came up with a bunch of them,”
meaning songs that held the currency and shape of doo-wop. “I also
listened to Al Green and Sam Cooke and a lot of soul dudes. I still like
that stuff a lot. I guess that's what I was doing, trying to bring that
sound back a little bit.” And then, there's Brian Wilson.
Friley's affection for Pet Sounds has been well-documented. He
listened to it a lot throughout '08 and '09. He also listened to the
spawn of Pet Sounds, meaning bands inspired by the Beach Boys classic,
which provided a moment of self-discovery. “I'd always been writing pop
songs and stuff but I kinda just put them away in the back of my head,
like, this is just too cheesy, I'm in a rock band. Whatever.”
But if there is a Beach Boys connection, then Paddywhack conjures the
bleaker essence of Wilson, a songwriter who idealized sunny days and
high times on the beach but in truth experienced painfully few of them.
“I didn't realize that [Paddywhack's] kind of, lyrically kind of dark at
times. I didn't pick up on that until I just kind of heard everything
all together and I was like, maybe this album's kind of a bummer or
something. I totally didn't mean to do that,” he says, “but I guess
that's just what happened.”
After Friley told a gay joke to a reporter that in turn
circumnavigated the globe via the music press it is tempting to cast him
as a Mormon-Eagle Scout (he is both) who is trying to re-brand as a
regular guy. Friley disagrees. “I don't think to myself, that's what
I'm doing. I haven't really gone to church on Sunday in a while, just
out of laziness,” he says. “I'm still totally Mormon and I hold all the
same beliefs. But I think that there's a difference between a Utah
Mormon and like, a Kentucky boy Mormon. I'm not saying that Kentucky
Mormons say gay condom jokes. I don't think they do that either. I may
be a little more vile than the average guy. But you know, that's just
how I am.”
What's next after Paddywhack? “I've got a handful of new songs I'm
not sure what to do with.” He worries that the new material sounds too
different. “I think it all still has [my] sound, 'cause I'll share these
demos with people and I'll ask them, does this sound like Idiot Glee?
Am I like, way too far off? Should I just start another band? And people
say no, it still sounds like Idiot Glee. It sounds like the next step
in Idiot Glee, just a little more upbeat this time.”
Idiot Glee was performing at Slidebar in Fullerton on Sept. 29, but that show got canceled. He will instead be at The Smell in LA on Sept. 30 and the Tin Can Alehouse in San Diego on Oct. 1.
Filed Under: MusicTagged With: Brian Eno, Idiot Glee