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Cale Parks

Illuminated Manuscript

(Polyvinyl; US: 26 Sep 2006; UK: 25 Sep 2006)

Boy, is this album ever a disappointment. Illuminated Manuscript‘s premise—indie drummer bums around and records a slew of almost totally instrumental keyboard-based songs—sounds a lot more promising than the actual results. Where the idea itself sounds like quite a bit of fun, there’s precious little humor to be found here, and the same goes for practically any other emotion you can think of. Too often, Parks finds a melody and runs it into the ground. There’s no tension, no release, and very little to make any individual track stand out. But that’s not to say it’s best listened to as a whole, either, as that makes for an even bigger letdown. The disc is almost entirely hook-free, the notable exception being “This Garden Is a Maze”, the lyrics of which are as follows: “La la la la la / La la / La la / La la la la”. (I know, cuz they’re printed in the booklet, in a jab at pompous pseudo-lyricists that would be a whole lot funnier if Parks’s music wasn’t so dull.) They shimmy over a slightly exotic melody line sung by two voices, one male and one female. The drums are tribal, the keyboard tinklings intermittent and understated. The two-and-a-half minutes are bookended by brief party sounds (chatter, the clinking of glass on glass, etc.), and you can
imagine the partygoers all dressed up but willing to give the old rump a sexy little shake or two before going back to their cocktails. The whole thing is cheesy, weird, funny, stupid, and perfect. In other words, it has everything that’s missing from the rest of the album.

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