Stan Ridgway

Drywall Incident

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The Drywall Incident is a curious double-disc compilation from Australia that comprises a straight reissue of Drywall's Work the Dumb Oracle on disc one, and a previously unreleased collection of incidental music from a low-budget picture called The Drywall Incident on disc two. Drywall was, of course, Stan Ridgway's mid-'90s side project that allowed him to experiment with darker, more industrial sounds than on his solo records, and Work the Dumb Oracle was the band's one and only album. For those who liked Ridgway's early work with Wall of Voodoo, Work the Dumb Oracle was a welcome return to a darkly mechanical, Devo-influenced sound, with Ridgway's usual Western-influenced twists. The album also served as an impressively impressionistic chronicle of pre-millennium, post-Rodney King Los Angeles. One of Ridgway's strongest (and strangest) albums, it appeared without much fanfare in 1995, and promptly sank without a trace when issuing label IRS went under shortly thereafter. For any serious Ridgway fan, though, Work the Dumb Oracle is a must-own, whether in its original incarnation, or as part of this somewhat harder to find (and more expensive) re-release.

However, it's the second disc of unreleased material that's the obvious collector bait here. The tracks on disc two are, as advertised, incidental soundtrack music, and consist almost entirely of instrumentals. (The only vocal tracks utilize some found snippets of dialogue, and aren't voiced by Ridgway.) Of course, Ridgway's instrumentals can be almost as compelling as his better-known lyrical stories at times, and for those who liked the odd, atmospheric musical interludes on Partyball, the second disc of The Drywall Incident will be a particularly interesting listen. But it would be stretching things to call the soundtrack portion of this release anything more than ephemera; this incidental music doesn't have the scope of a fully fleshed-out score, or even of some of Ridgway's earlier instrumental work (such as the fully orchestrated "Heat Takes a Walk", the stunning opener to Mosquitos). This gives The Drywall Incident the rather odd distinction of containing one of Ridgway's most vital discs, and one of his least. For those who already own Work the Dumb Oracle then, this album is hardly a necessity, but it is recommended listening for Ridgway fans who don't already have a copy of the Drywall album in their collection.

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