Bob Drake The Skull Mailbox (and other horrors) Review

Album. Released 2001.  

BBC Review

Listener, enter at your peril, for what we have here is possibly the strangest, and...

Chris Jones 2002

OK, I admit it. It's taken me a long time to review this album BECAUSE IT SCARES ME. How long has it taken me to quell my shaking hand in order that I can warn you, dear listener, about this incredible disc? Mr Drake has fashioned something almost indefinable in its creepiness.

Let's look at the evidence: The self-designed cover with gloomy engravings of dark abandoned houses and empty rooms, the disconcerting dedications to "Britain's most famous Ghost Hunter" and a mysterious "HPL" (that couldn't be...could it?), titles like "The Shocking Efflorescence" and "Fearsome Heads (I & II), and, finally, the album's very title. Apparently it is based on a real mailbox which "if you open on certain nights you'll see something inside you wish you hadn't." Listener, enter at your peril, for what we have here is possibly the strangest and most morbidly amusing little morsel for many a year.

Twenty seven vignettes that are all played and sung by Bob himself (apart from some acompanying gravel-shovelling and er...dogs) re-define the term renaissance man. Bob is an engineer, musician and member of experimentalists 5UU. As label boss Chris Cutler states on the ReR web site, "People that work this hard are becoming an endangered species". The level of playing is absurdly high and Drake's guitar technique alone deserves an essay to extol its subtleties (as on "The Wig Screamed Murder"): Kind of Zoot Horn Rollo meets Woody Guthrie in Arkham asylum. Tunings are elastic. Ghostly choruses wail. Harmoniums drone menacingly and a whole kitchen of ironwear seems to clank and squeak as punctuation to the dreadful tales of indescribable horror which (in true HPL fashion) fill you with an unnameable dread.

The lyrics are, at once, shocking and hilarious. This little snippet comes from "The Tragic Séance": "Something unexpected and equally uninvited materialised itself amongst them, with unspeakable appetites. And unfortunately for them, it was very hungry." Edward Gorey on acid? You're getting close. But be careful, dear listener, not to get too close, for you may never be quite the same again...

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