Listening to Return to Brigadoon, I’m not sure, but I think that The Billy Nayer Show is laughing at me. In a good way, of course… right? With a bizzare mix of wit, verve, and the musical equivalent of schizophrenia, this album is definitely…different.
So different, in fact, that I had to head over to the web site (www.billynayer.com) and check out as much as I could about who this strange ensemble was. All I was able to learn from the equally sparse and cryptic notes contained therein was that Billy Nayer is a character/alter ego of Cory McAbee, and some people think he’s a lunatic genius on the level of Frank Zappa.
For all I know, that could be true. Unfortunately, an album of The Billy Nayer Show seems to be similar to an album release of an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical: you just gotta see it to believe it. I don’t have a hard time believing that the live performances by this group are as strange and innovative as the recorded music (and the press release and web site) promise. But listening to the album makes what is supposedly a multi-media extravaganza a one dimensional experience.
That said, it’s still a refreshingly odd and twisted record. There is enough diversity among the tracks to keep it from becoming a monotonous repetition of insanity, but there’s still something missing from the experience, I’m sure. Perhaps it’s because without a live dynamic,The Billy Nayer Show, is just a little too pretentious to be readily accessible. Or maybe it’s because there’s obviously something being said, but with a simple listening ear, it’s hard to figure out exactly what that is. Think David Lynch’s Lost Highway set to ukelele music instead of schlock rock.
I don’t know who I’d recommend this album to. If you like They Might Be Giants, King Missile, Joy Division, or Soul Coughing, you might hate The Billy Nayer Show, but then again you might not. There are definitely shades of each in this music. Yet, alas, they are also one of those incomparable acts that strike out into their own territory and all else be damned. Which means that everyone should check them out at least once.
As far as the tracks go, the twists on rock music like “Everyday I Dream,” “Day of the Lie,” and “Only I Can Save the World” have subtle ironic qualities that leave your foot tapping while a sly grin plays across your face. Others, in the more strange camp, such as “John the Baptist,” “The Cat the Crow and the Snake,” “ABCs” or even “Apartment #5” are the kinds of songs you put in as filler on mix tapes to confuse and delight your friends. Then there are the tracks that are just too artsy for their own good, like “Bird of Prey,” and “Caesar and Barry,” which make the stereotype of art-student-as-beat-poet-and-bongo-drum seem sincere. Of course you have to substitute that ukelele for the bongo.