The Airbag’s Lipstick Kiss
Best song: Most of them; today I’ll say Generic Shoulder Blade Tattoo, tomorrow it’ll be different.
Worst song: Vending Machine
Overall grade: 6
The Airbag’s Lipstick Kiss is the first album by one-man band Disclaimer, also known as Chris Willie Williams, who I originally knew of only as the guy behind the only-technically-still-active Disclaimer Music Review Archive, and then as the guy who made that great song ‘Hell’ in the WRC compilation album, and now as a bona fide musician who, according to this website, is better than One Direction and Gorgoroth put together. (And now I’d really like to see them put together.)
This could almost be described as a concept album, since it’s all based on one true story: a break up story. Because of this, it’s a painfully realistic and cathartic journey through every negative emotion you could care to name, all stitched together with sarcasm. At times it’ll definitely make you think of someone specific, at other times it’ll just make you angry at the narrative’s unnamed ‘you’, but it would be impossible to listen to without becoming involved in the story.
So, why is it better than One Direction and Gorgoroth put together? Well, it’s unique and clever, two qualities which come across very well in opener ‘Fixing A Hole’, which begins with a robotic voice emotionlessly repeating criticisms such as ‘I’ve got to be more playful… I’ve got to be more assertive…’ As the song continues with the singer promising to change himself, melody begins to play more of a part, the voice becomes more human and more emotional; showing the possibility of an emotional journey in the music as well as the lyrics.
Connections like this continue throughout the albums, such as the electronic-based, idiosyncratic ‘God Said ‘Plastics!’’ that uses retro video game noises to complement its video game metaphors, however, ‘Like The Backside Of A Bulimic’s Teeth’ presents a juxtaposition: a light, dreamy, unaffected melody that floats gracefully over the rhythm in the background, counterpointing the sometimes violent and sometimes nauseating lyrics, bringing to mind the feeling of pretense and having to give across the impression of happiness.
The rhythmically catchy, no-nonsense ‘You Ruined Everything’ could definitely have been a single (the first one ever to include the word ‘coldcock’) which is both a good and bad thing – good in that it’s an energetic, angry punk song with more life in it than an entire Phil Collins album, but bad in that it doesn’t entirely fit in with the rest of the songs here, being a bit too straightforward and sticking conventionally to one genre.
The following ‘Generic Shoulder Blade Tattoo’ could not be more different, sounding more like a hopeless, melancholy lullaby. It’s another more normal tune, but the melody is beautiful and heart-wrenching. ‘De Sitter Horizons’, appearing two songs later, is the colder, more mechanical equivalent: I see them as counterparts, the first containing good memories of a relationship and being sad that those things are over, the second containing bad memories and not entirely knowing how to feel about those. And the ending of ‘I can’t, I just can’t’, has a worrying and ominous feel, like the singer might be about to do something crazy.
I’ve talked about ‘Hell’ before, but it definitely deserves a mention here. It’s an expertly crafted dark pop song that fits well with the moods on the rest of the album, and I still can’t get over the geeky Beatles subversion that is: ‘In the end, the love you take is inversely proportional to the love you make’. Not with that hook I can’t, anyway.
Williams certainly has a knack for a good melody, but he’s not afraid to experiment, such as on the fuzz- and effect-laden ‘Vending Machine’, which seems to have a lot of interesting ideas but is obscured by a wall of impenetrable noise that works better on a metaphorical level than a musical one and is probably the album’s only real weak link. Much more successful is the instrumental ‘Mufasa Kisses’, appearing just over halfway through the album, that features Williams playing a wide range of instruments and layering them around one another, showcasing his production talents just as much as his instrumental ones.
Of course, no matter how good that track is, the greatest thing about this album is its lyrics. Sometimes they’re unpretentious and down to earth like ‘I fell for you like an old man falling for a credit card scam’ using gritty, modern metaphors to surprise the listener; while other times they give a new take on tired clichés, such as ‘I’ll offer up my withered olive branch and hope it looks like a Christmas tree to you’. I could probably still enjoy this album a lot if the lyrics booklet was all I had, which isn’t something I could say for many records.
Probably the most lighthearted track here is ‘Wrong For The Right Reasons Is Still Wrong’, which sort of reminds me of that Neutral Milk Hotel instrumental, ‘The Penny Arcade In California’, with lyrics. Incredibly infectious and enjoyable in its own right, it’s also a welcome break from darkness giving the listener time to prepare for the final track. This is ‘Please Pardon Our Progress!!!’, a track which took a while to grow on me but I now like a lot. Joe Hinchcliffe’s contributions (synth bass and vocals) mean it sticks out a little, but it’s a great riff he provides, giving structure to the dense and intense mess of a song, and although this final descent into a black hole isn’t an easy listen, it’s a fitting and memorable conclusion to the album.
Or is it? Following this final song, there’s twenty seconds of silence and then a hidden track begins, a quiet, distorted acoustic song pairing intimate vocals and electronic bleeps, that offers some kind of hope for the future. These two possible endings are a good decision, leaving it up to the listener which they choose to accept as the true ending. Personally, I’m a sucker for a happy ending, and it doesn’t hurt that the song itself is so interesting.
So overall, there are many great things I could say about the music on this record, which is an excellent blend of traditional concepts of melody and weird experimentalism, but the most successful thing about it is the believability of every single emotion and the way Williams is clearly holding nothing back, putting everything he has into the songwriting, which really comes across. He’s the self-proclaimed ‘Unreliable Narrator’, but I’d trust him.