Dogbowl

Flan

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Creating an album based on a novel may sound like a prog rock atrocity, but then again, Stephen Tunney actually wrote the novel himself, so there's no reason why his Dogbowl incarnation shouldn't give it a go. A classic Shimmy-Disc production in more than one sense of the word -- there's Kramer's echoed shroud of production, the goofy cover art, and the whole air of gentle shambolic oddity -- Flan is also a happy demonstration of Tunney's particular vision. Starting with "Flan Awoke," the beginning of the title character's unhappy day, Flan dips into winsome psychedelia (Gorky's Zygotic Mynci would probably some of the arrangements, while the Olivia Tremor Control definitely had to be listening in), wacky '20s jazz jams, and whatever else takes Tunney and company's fancy. Strong moments often occur when Tunney cuts through the Kramer-produced Shimmy-Disc house style -- check out the staccato lyric delivery on "Walking Away," with a brisk, clipped guitar chime offset by various odd overdubs, or the almost unplugged "Hello Helen" and "Metropolis," with Tunney's voice as clear and direct as it gets. Then there are the song titles, of course -- "Michael the Human Headed Dog" and "Here Come the Cannibals" aren't exactly going to be featuring on most sunny-day singalong selections. Not everything is on the verge of crazed weirdness, to be sure, and that's Flan's strength -- even if the lyrics of "Grey Tulip" or "Mermaid in My Coffee Cup" are a bit unusual, the inclusion of low-key clarinet from Christopher Tunney is downright soothing. Still, any song sequence that has a character confront a naked cannibal queen, only to immediately result in a dream that the characters are in an episode of Roseanne, is never going to be entirely easy listening.

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