The Spinners

♪ Lewis Takes Action / Lewis Takes Off His Shirt (Owen Pallett, 2010) ♪

In Canadian, Indie Pop, Richard Bolisay, Track Reviews on April 12, 2010 at 7:15 am

From the eight schools of magic in Dungeons & Dragons, Owen Pallett now dives into the “imaginary landscape of Spectrum”, ruminating the dialogues of a “young ultra-violent farmer named Lewis” with his Creator Owen, who of course, no joke intended, is Pallett himself.

Even with his previous projects under his moniker Final Fantasy, it’s given to comment on how lush Pallett’s orchestrations are, how they leap out to leave sparks of amazement, and how his live performances are even more breathtaking than his recordings. Unlike Has A Good Home and He Poos Clouds, his third album Heartland feels so confident and sounds so cocksure that it can only give a black or white impression to its listener—no middleground, only a like or a dislike. Its first two singles—”Lewis Takes Action” and “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”—are quite representative, proving how much Pallett has grown and developed musically, his gift for words most especially.

The drums at the beginning of “Lewis Takes Action” sound very much like the Johnny Boy song, only it’s not about the generation that bought more shoes who get what they deserve but a violent description of Lewis’ acts. Although this violence is only revealed through the two paragraphs told in the first person, the strings and the woodwinds also have their story to tell, ornately subsiding the images conjured by “stony hiss of cockatrice”, “spur Imelda down the mountainside”, or “the night is split by the whistle of my amber whip” to provide a sense of contrast. When Pallett sings such grim lines as I got a thirst for liquid gold, I’ll bludgeon ’til the body’s cold or I took No-Face by the beak, and broke his jaw, he’ll never speak again, it becomes an expression of endearment, of caressing the gloom he is sharing. The mention of No-Face alone—from Spirited Away perhaps?—is a cheery thought.

Three tracks afterward, Pallett narrates “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”. It’s a step forward from the previous single, both lyrically and melodiously, which makes it one of the highlights of the album. The title is naughty enough, but once Pallett sings, I grab the hem and lift the fabric over my sweet head / I know what you’re looking for, and I’m never gonna give it to you, it’s nothing but a remark of mischief, softening the seriousness, making the confession all the more intimate. The words that follow serve as proof of his wealthy imagination, as he writes a beautiful poem and gives it an equally beautiful tune. The often overrated need for a refrain is likewise satisfied: I’m never gonna give it to you is one marvelous hook that uplifts as much as it confounds, for a number of images that “it” substitutes spring to mind.

What happens to Lewis after he takes action and takes off his shirt? What happens in between? If Owen, the Creator, is telling Lewis’ story, what are the answers He provides? Quite simply, how does it end? An imperative for the curious: whichever way, just listen to Heartland in full. The answers are waiting. Don’t miss the confetti.

– Richard Bolisay

Download “Lewis Takes Action”

Download “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”

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