We almost made it / Invisible Parade - reviews
Joseph Arthur – We Almost Made It/The Invisible Parade
Band: Joseph Arthur
Wed May 31 19:48:35 2006
by Daniel Bristow
Joseph Arthur is an overwhelming figure; firstly when you meet him he towers over you as he's alarmingly tall and secondly anywhere you turn in this day and age you'll likely be met with something that he's conjured. After appearing on a few records recently, Greg Connor's 'Here, There And Anymore' and Twilight Singers' 'Powder Burns' and now nearing completion on a new album, he's amazingly found time to release a book of his wonderfully unique artwork. Accompanied by a CD of mainly instrumental songs, 'We Almost Made It' is what he's entitled the book and 'The Invisible Parade' is the name of the CD.
At his live performances he crafts a picture on a backdrop that stands at the rear end of his stage, all the while making the percussion, rhythm, lead and vocal to his songs and getting them to loop and play by themselves. He'll employ various painters' implements and turn out a haunting image that sits as the theme to the gig and is left standing there at the end to remind everyone of just what kind of a journey they've been taken on. It is a phenomenal experience and now you can live a similar one in the comfort of your own living room.
'We Almost made It' is full of marvellous pictures, etchings, photographs of sculpted artwork, incorporating everything from his trademark disfigured stickmen-like humans to music sheets that have been scrawled on and Barbie dolls plastered with glitter-paint. 'The Invisible Band' provides the most encapsulating soundtrack to it; it has songs which are subtle and superbly suited as backing to a manic and gripping visual experience. Others which grab your attention and, in the rare instance of a vocal insert, deliver a poignant view on the world: "Hello Mohammed, hello Jesus... they want us all to be together... We look different, but we are all one in spirit."
There are little phrases too in the book, scattered about that, in their sublime simplicity, stab a tenterhook into your heart and wrench tears from your eyes, for example; on a lonely canvas a black square contains two people, one made out of the basest of shapes and on the other's T-shirt is written the word 'Lonely', around them is 'I Love You' repeated thrice and 'Why is everything scary... I know what you mean.' It's an image that, even in its apparent ambiguity and abstractness, anyone and everyone can still relate to. The philosophy of all of us being the same is concurrent throughout his work on both the pages and in the music and yet a lot is conveyed from the angle of the observer, of the alien and a lot is presented as alien to the creator. Universally alien, universal alienation... It leads to these sorts of thoughts and musings on what it means.
And tantalising enjoyable thoughts they are too. This book is great to sit down with on an evening of self, a bottle of wine by your side, the CD coming through your headphones and the pages of mesmerising imagery to sit and pore over, linger on, question, figure out, laugh and cry and marvel at, it's something unique. The inner workings of a man's head on one level; some of the collages and scribbles resembling those of Kurt Cobain's from his journals, and a great question on another level, a question posed to the world at large, to the Gods, to the meaning, why? It challenges the flaws of religion, the flaws in the governments of the modern world, the flaws in the human condition; it challenges established notions and ruling decrees and it challenges conformity. Not violently, not vehemently, but with an air of nonchalance at times, and at other times with a sense of stupefaction...
It's a book that works on so many levels and will have people puzzled, amazed, scared, enamoured, lost and found, all at once. It's proven to work well in coffee-table situations and to work well amongst crowds of inebriated people eagerly trying to get a glimpse of a gifted artist's work (there may be a story behind that, but not for now...)
So, Joseph's quest continues and his future is a very exciting one to look forward to. What we have here is a portrait in time that reveals so much about the unparalleled artist and at the same time it's not so much about him as it is a reflection of the world he lives in. A book/album combination that works so well; for a unique first he makes it seem like a polished art he mastered long ago... 'We Almost Made It/The Invisible Parade' is well worth getting hold of... So, it seems appropriate to leave you with the man himself's words: "Who says you know where you are going going gone."