Charlie McAlister

I'll See You In Hell

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Given how many releases McAlister has -- the dedicated fan may well have a lifetime's worth of tracking them down to look forward to -- singling out I'll See You in Hell as a starting place isn't merely useful as a critical signpost, but eminently practical. It's also got a lot to offer -- 36 songs all told! -- and given Tape Mountain's cheap prices, it's the type of thing any curious listener can easily pick up on a whim even in the mp3 age. McAlister's speak-sing strum and clatter is very eminently himself -- recorded over two years time on a trusty four-track, it sounds just like what it's meant to be presented as one, one random but worthy burst of musical inspiration after another. Compared to the often strung out and atonal performances of Jandek, say, McAlister is given over to focus -- barely any song crosses the two-minute mark -- and sheer sonic merriment. Even the murky crumble and crash of songs like the self-descriptive "Clatter," with overdubbed layers of just that, and the overdubbed jams of "Beer Can" and "Homecoming Football Game" are all about the joy of sound. McAlister's South Carolina twang could get Appalachian music purists happy if it weren't for the fact that he's not interested in revivalism per se. As for the ever present banjo, it's not used for po-faced recreations as for having fun (though sometimes there are scarier moments -- thus the live "Austin TX 3/16/01," where someone insistently says "Please don't burn the audience" several times before the white noise kicks in. Brilliant standout track: "The Fucking End," seriocomically mourning an ex over bemusingly plaintive banjo and random percussion: "She's listening to every feminist band…she never wants to see my again…she's throwing my poem into the trash can."