Unmistakable originality, glittering musicianship and acres of free thought
Chris Long 2008
As bands go, Rasputina are always going to come across as odd. They're a chamber-rock trio made up of two cellists and a drummer, who dress in a brilliant bizarre amalgam of Victoriana – all hoop skirts, corsets and bloomers, and their original concept was written as a manifesto by lead singer/cellist Melora Creager. So you approach any of their releases – this is their fifth studio outing – with the knowledge that anything that could happen. Yet, even taking that into account, Oh Perilous World will stretch the most open of minds on a first listen.
Taken at face value, the album is a musical adaptation of an imagined "Pulitzer prize-winning" book, The Files Of Thursday Christian – a novel that tells the tale of Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary, leading her armies against the tiny Pacific colony of Pittcairn Island, where Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian's son, the aforementioned Thursday, leads the resistance. Along the way, there are songs about the Easter Island stone heads, Medieval Israel, the Galileo Satellite and the fact the year 1816 didn't have a summer (which, it turns out, it actually didn't, thanks to the eruption of Mount Tambora the previous year), all set to a sound that is an addictive mélange of Joanna Newsom, the Fiery Furnaces and Throwing Muses, with a topping sprinkle of Marilyn Manson, just for good measure.
It would be easy to dismiss it as dazzling madness, but take a step back and a deeper listen, and you realise that it's actually Melora's brilliantly vivid response to the insane world she finds herself in. The lyrics for Choose Me For Champion are largely a translation of a speech by Osama Bin-Laden; Child Soldier Rebellion’ knocks about the issue of African boy battalions; and In Old Yellowcake takes in the harrowing images of the devastation of Fallujah. In fact, scratch through the surface of that imagined story of Mary Todd Lincoln's attack on Pittcairn Island and you find what Melora thinks of America's current foreign policies.
Listening to Oh Perilous World is like hearing one long argument for the idea that the line between genius and insanity is a very thin one, but one that any truly adventurous musician must walk – even disregarding the lyrical content, their use of the cellos, chopping out fuzzed out chords and genuinely leaving you wondering how they made the instruments make the tunes, can only be described as maverick.
It is an album of unmistakable originality, glittering musicianship and acres of free thought - and that last fact alone means it must be applauded.