Emperor X: Western Teleport

Emperor X, take me away!

Emperor X

Western Teleport

Label: Bar/None
US Release Date: 2011-10-04
UK Release Date: 2011-10-04

Former high school science teacher Chad Matheny returns with Western Teleport, a big frickin’ record that’s not only his Bar/None debut but perhaps his best album to date. Opening with the Fleetwood Mac-ish groove of “Erica Western Teleport”, the record develops in numerous unexpected (well, unexpected from virtually anyone besides Matheny) ways, as it drifts from the suburban dread of “Sig Alert”, into the lo-fi masterpiece “A Violent Translation Of The Concordia Headscarp” and ends with the hallucinatory “Erica Western Teleport Geiger Counter” just over one half hour after it all began.

There’s an automatic quality to Matheny’s songwriting, a freedom evident in material such as “Canada Day” and “The Magnetic Media Storage Practices Of Rural Pakistan” that is enviable for its utter lack of pretentiousness, perfect imperfections and ability to touch the soul of the damaged land dweller in most of us.

“Defiance (For Elise Sunderhuse)” would be a feel-good hit of the summer on some other planet, somewhere where Sebadoh, Pavement, and Guided By Voices ruled the radio waves, somewhere where you could speak the unmitigated truth the way Matheny does throughout. There are pieces that challenge the listener’s sensibilities more than others: “Anti-Rage” is not as immediately accessible as some of the others and “Sincerely, H.C. Pregerson” is far more acid-drenched than those Flaming Lips boys have ever been and you can almost feel your DNA recombining as you try to decide whether you want to stay with the song or run for more comfortable climes.

Those moments converge with the more accessible ones to make a coherent statement that examines the more surreal images of American life in this new century with a poetic sense that is at once of the moment and largely of the future, uncovering truths we didn’t know we needed -- or even wanted -- to discover. In the past Matheny has created some works that were uneven in their execution (this writer once commented that the artist had made a “disasterpiece” with one particular record). But if there is an unevenness to Western Teleport it’s hard to detect or, rather, if it is there it’s as much a part of the aesthetic landscape as the odd noises that occasionally drift across the spectrum, not so much interrupting the matters at hand as enhancing them, making them fuller, more true-to-life.

This is ultimately an album of its time, a portrait of the landscape, a portrait of a nation prone to disaster, decay, decline, unsure of its future but unable to make good on the promises of its past but also unwilling to revise its plans to reconcile them with this new awareness, this new world. In short, a magnificent jumble of uncertainty. It may have been a while since an artist has made such a potent statement with such mighty accuracy, without hyperbole, without the hype and self-aggrandizement that big name rockers seem to bring to such affairs when they release IMPORTANT RECORDS.

If you’re looking for the real America, leave that last Arcade Fire record behind and follow Emperor X as he winds you through this troubled but necessary American life.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.