Only a Mother

Feral Chickens

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Released four years after Naked Songs for Contortionists, Feral Chickens remains Only a Mother's strongest effort. The 17 tracks are once again split half-and-half between instrumentals and songs. This time though, and thanks to better recording techniques, all the details in the tunes can unravel. Under their conspicuously simple frame lies complex, inventive, and most of all playful playing. The songs tend to be more focused, with memorable melodies, and better arranged. To the voices of Mary Richards and Bobbi Benson, Frank Pahl now adds his own to great results. He also wrote almost all the lyrics, except for a fable by Jean de La Fontaine here and a poem attributed to Anne Boleyn there. His stories belong to dark humor and weird surrealism. Highlights are numerous and include "Crosslegged and Amazed," a hilarious rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Mother's Little Helper," and a completely revamped version of an already outstanding song, "A Little Blackout" (which appeared on the previous album). The CD ends with a 12-minute "Collection of Warpeds," a medley from Pahl's pet series of strange, gloomy, Pascal Comelade-on-a-bad-trip instrumental pieces. Once again Eugene Chadbourne plays banjo on a couple of numbers. If one can find a copy of Feral Chickens, it is one of the two best places to enter the highly personal world of Only a Mother and Frank Pahl (the other one would be the latter's "In Cahoots"). A must-have that is strongly recommended.

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