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The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss—8

 

Released: 2003

1) Fixing A Hole  2) God Said, "Plastics!"  3) Vending Machine  4) Like The Backside Of A Bulimic's Teeth (#1:Bats=Bugs)  5) You Ruined Everything  6) Generic Shoulder Blade Tatoo  7) Mufasa Kisses  8) De Sitter Horizons  9) Hell  10) Wrong For The Right Reasons Is Still Wrong  11) Please Pardon Our Progress!!!

 

As I’ve said before on this site, I love songs about heartbreak.  Songs that make you remember what it is like to be in love…songs that clean out your closet like some sort of emotional custodian…songs that feel.  Chris Willie Williams (the one man, Detroit based “band” known as Disclaimer) exposes himself in these songs, keeping a dark sense of humor, good vocal melodies, and interesting arrangements, all while emptying his heart. 

 

The lyrics are the best thing about “The Airbag’s Lipstick Kiss,” which was intimately recorded in Williams’s basement.  Each song offers more than a few enduring twists and phrasings, paying homage to pop culture, but remaining absolutely original.  The music is a melting pot of styles, with each possessing that low-fi charm and production.  No, there aren't any guitar strummed stadium anthems here, but that doesn’t mean these songs aren’t catchy.  There are tape loops and beeps and whistles and all sorts of noises and voice modulators that somehow never get in the way of the melodies.  Williams’s honesty and straightforwardness within the lyrics are just as poignant in his music, and the desperation is just as obvious.                    

 

The album starts with a robotic computer voice listing all of Williams’s idiosyncrasies on  Fixing a Hole.”  The voice simulator sounds so cold and emotionless overtop an electric backbeat that it actually seems as if its list is a desperate plea from Williams’s own brain to his soul—'Just fix these stupid characteristics about yourself and she won’t leave.'  Because it is a robot voice, it comes across so honest and simple…as if changing who you are is as easy as downloading a new program.  The song includes an extra, unnecessary chorus at the end, making it a minute or so too long, but it is just so stark and inconsolable that it really draws me in.  "God Said, ‘Plastics!’" gives things a much more funky-pop sound, but is just as forlorn.  Williams’s lyrics here are bizarre, but somehow still possess accurately descriptive imagery, and the ending guitar solo soars. 

 

Vending Machine” immediately follows and is a minute long creepy atmosphere piece using an off-putting, but beautiful keyboard riff.  The lyrics are incomprehensible, buried in the sonic mess, but consulting the lyric sheet shows that they compare Williams’s inability to communicate his feelings to his partner with a vending machine.  Absolutely brilliant!  The absurdly titled “Like the Backside of a Bulimic’s Teeth (#1: Bats=Bugs)” is next and brings with it a more pulsating, marching beat.  Here Williams’s own voice sounds just as desolate as the robotic voice on “Fixing a Hole” and the tune exactly matches the last lyric, “Breakin’ up is hard to do, but breaking down is easy.”  The coda rules and actually does sound like what it is like to rot.  

 

You Ruined Everything” comes out of nowhere…a punk cry of anger.  The lyrics are typically first-rate and the melody is catchy, but the quirky atmosphere Williams was slowly building is completely wiped out.  Still, the tune is barely over two-minutes and it shows the absolute rage felt from a break up.  Conversely, “Generic Shoulder Blade Tattoo” limps beautifully in with its gentle acoustic picking and demonstrates the remorseful side of an ending relationship.  Williams finally lets us hear his voice on this track and he sounds a lot like Elliott Smith…in fact, the gorgeous tune itself sounds a lot like Elliott Smith, and it would have fit in snuggly on his “Either/Or” album.  Another eerie mood piece, “Mufasa Kisses” follows and is all tribal beats and electronic madness, containing the lone, heavily manipulated line, “I don’t want to know what you do for him that you never did for me.”  It is a confusing, unsettling, wandering, almost unlistenable mess…but so is a break up, so it works.   

 

De Sitter Horizons” deals with that dreaded phrase: 'I just want to be friends.'  This mid-tempo song is a strange blend of country and electronic, with Williams, like all of us on the wrong side of the separation, not being able to shelve his love to salvage the friendship.  It is the slowest song on the record, but the aura and melody gradually will win you over.  Hell” begins with the distinctly human sound of a cough, but brings with it a brief return of a robotic voice.  This time though, it sounds like Barry White’s computer voice: deep and sinister.  Overall, “Hell” is another funkier tune with a great and unbelievably catchy chorus of “The love you take is inversely proportional to the love you make.”

 

Wrong for the Right Reasons is Still Wrong” is an amazing, whimsical, circus song with a fast beat and a much happier feel.  The lyrics reveal the slightest hint of hope for Williams and the tune rules: toe-tapping, bouncing around fun (in a condemned man sort of way).  Please Pardon Our Progress!!!  closes out the album with a dirty, garage sound.  The low-fi production really shows on this track, but the background choir voices are ingenious and the slow coda chant of “Happiness is no longer an option” really leaves you feeling drained in a good way.  Still, neither can quite turn this messy last track into a highlight.  (Actually, there is a hidden bonus track following a short silence, but the “I couldn’t end it that way” chorus on this gentle lament is too hopeful sounding and Williams was smart to leave it unaccredited on this album of anger, reflection, guilt and confusion.  There just isn’t enough room for acceptance within those emotions).

 

Overall this is a strange record where you get a glimpse of the inter-workings of a man on a deathbed of emotions.  Each song displays a regretful tone, almost as if Williams is sick of feeling.  Some might be thrown off by the homemade production or electronic hinges, but this is an excellent album, unjustly overlooked and essential listening for any recent relationship casualty.
 
Note: You can order this album from amazon.com, but why not just go to Chris Willie Williams’s own site (here) where you can read reviews of his favorite and not so favorite albums and see his justification for labeling “Abbey Road” both “lazy and sloppy.” 

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