Pearls Before Swine

One Nation Underground

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Psychedelic-folk debut from one of the most erudite, literate minds in rock, Thomas D. Rapp (and the first of his ever-changing Swine). Although the songs here lack some cohesion, this is still a stunning piece of work, from the nightmarish sleeve art -- the "Hell Panel" from Hieronymus Bosch's 15th century painting "Garden of Delights" -- to the strange yet powerful songs. "Another Time," the most memorable selection, is an understated acoustic song, the first that Rapp ever penned, based on his experience in a horrific car crash where he walked away unscathed. Of similar mood is the beautiful "Ballad of an Amber Lady." "Drop Out" is a straightforward song built around a popular credo of the '60s. "Uncle John" is one of the earliest protest songs about the Vietnam War. Strangest (and funniest) of all is "(Oh Dear) Miss Morse," where Rapp adopts a Victorian persona and sounds out the Morse code spelling of F-U-C-K, accompanied by banjo and Farfisa organ.

Considering Rapp's fascination with history, it's not surprising that one of the songs here, "I Shall Not Care," features a co-writer credit to "Roman Tombs." The cryptic words that comprise this song's title were discovered on a tomb that dates to the final days of the Roman Empire.

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