Once every day for the rest of our lives, we should thank Sean Parker for deconstructing the CD and ushering out the Age Of The Rock Star. But at the same time, it’s depressing to watch talented, passionate artists such as Christopher Hoffee wrestle against the new music economy: “I hate this. Trolling the streets of music blogs showing my tits and ass in hopes to land a trick. [...] My pimp, me, always kicks my ass when I get back from the streets. No Johns. No money. Just less rubber on my sneakers and jonesed-out on triple espresso ristrettos. My whore hymen is intact, but I have a black eye to show for it.”
We met Hoffee (DBA Atom Orr) in June 2011, so Muse regulars may have followed along as he introduced Galaxies With Long Yellow Curtains in real time, song by song, over the course of five months. Some exposition here, some self-admonishment there, most of it along the lines of “What happens when I drink absinthe and read Tom Robbins,” or “When you feel like an antenna rather than the creator, you don’t feel too much like talking about it.” This was not the first time we’ve seen an album released a chapter at a time, but it has certainly been the most potent. Hoffee’s frustration is palpable. He is keenly aware of that direct link to those who will love the music and pay for it. And he is just as aware that it’s more difficult than ever to leave a mark and sell a record.
More than enough sermonizing, that. Galaxies With Long Yellow Curtains is here in full. It is better overall than its predecessor, with fewer high-altitude climbs, maybe, but fewer lapses, too. Recall that This Was Tomorrow was ostensibly a love story, but that a Woodstocky, sex-first love-second mood ultimately prevailed. The weed, whiskey, and cerebral space nookie vibe is back, and we mean it returns during the first seconds of the opening track:
Silver saucers of space echo omnipresent circles in the chrome high sky
Lips are like fists for the sexual transmitted knowlege of you and I
The strum-and-done acoustic guitar and the smeared one-microphone drums lend a yummy Ed Sullivan feel, and those baritone pipes couldn’t belong to anyone else. “Dive” is an early highlight, with its mountain ridge guitar chorus and pastoral verse runoff. And because of a single paragraph from Hoffee’s notebook, his fans will use the word turnstile as an insult for the rest of their lives. We can only wonder if the object of the song is really dive? Or diva?
As it happens, the wormwood-and-woodpecker liner notes belong to “Dislocation Daydream” (as for the present correspondent, absinthe’s primary effect is a fixation on math). The Beatles guitar and reedy Mellotron don’t just fit the theme, they’re part of the pigment. “Sparkler” — produced almost two weeks later — seems hatched from the same ovum: a hazy, reflective, and painfully short take on iRomance.
Not all of Galaxies is candlelight snug. Hoffee knows well that the guitar-and-voice has been done and overdone, and “Hand Drawn Circles” seems to avoid the plain-sight potholes by stepping into the unseen ones. The title track doesn’t quite grow out of its adolescence; where galactic synth and ringing acoustics join well in “Violets and White,” it comes off here as a sketch. And call it an old man’s preference, but some of us still hope for a four-minute track.Et voila, enter “Lindsey Woolsey,” the mournful, contagious, cattle-brand ballad Hoffee first issued in February, and which we’ve been humming ever since.
Which leads us to our last point.
Whether as listener or reviewer, it’s difficult to take full stock of an album we’ve watched come together since winter. The transparency has been a delight, but it is yet to be seen if the risk will pay off. Keep your fingers crossed that it will; Galaxies With Long Yellow Curtains is another sexy, heady excursion, and the tour guide is a natural.