The playground phrase “silent but deadly” is but the vulgar reduction of an ancient koan—”If he poos clouds in the Forbidden Forest, does it make a sound?”—here answered in the affirmative, with a “gloriously!” appended. But the thicket of exclamation points in the lyrics book to Toronto violinist/Arcade Fire sideman Owen Pallett’s new project seems forced. Are the grand string quartet sweeps meant to support the stories those lyrics tell, or just wave beautifully in the breeze? Pallett’s poetry (intentionally) transmogrifies Dungeons & Dragons imagery (“And then as an apprentice/He took a Drowish mistress/Who bestowed upon his youthfulness a sense of Champagne Chic/Oh seduction, his seduction to the world of construction/Now his mind will start to wander when he’s not at a computer”) into Chris Ware’s closely observed bathos crossed with Stephin Merritt’s wittily theatrical realism. The result modernizes nerd mockery into a literary sincerity: best lyrics of the year. The music doesn’t quite rise to the same level. It’s purty but not particularly passionate—these bows will slay no orcs. As a whole, though, Clouds runs as deep as the Old Dwarf Mine, with more replay value than your favorite GURPS module. + 5.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 13, 2006