Bob Drake

The Skull Mailbox (And Other Horrors)

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Bob Drake's third solo album is his most deranged and (consequently) delightful. The theme of The Skull Mailbox (And Other Horrors) is scary stories, the kind where ghosts remain discreet and fear is palpable for unknown reasons -- the kind HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe wrote. In 43 minutes, the singer/songwriter finds a way to storm through 27 songs that range from warped folk tunes to full-fledged (although very short) avant-prog pieces. He performs all instruments, mostly acoustic guitar, junk percussion, air-pump organ, and vocals, plus some electric guitar, bass, and keyboards. Oh, and lots of miscellaneous noises. Drake intended to keep the focus on the acoustic instrumentation, but his extensive production warps every track. The whole project was allegedly recorded in a decrepit barn, hence the strange background noises one can hear. The whats and wheres don't matter: The Skull Mailbox is a masterpiece that takes listeners back to 5uu's Crisis in Clay. Shortness is elevated to an art, background sounds and textures have been turned into living elements, and seemingly innocent guitar-and-vocals songs hide horrible lyrics and detuned instruments. The dead must have been dancing all around Drake's mixing desk in a grotesque parody of Edward Gorey's drawings. All the characters are demented, dead, or locked up in the cellar. Not for the faint at heart (or ears), this album will delight fans of classic horror literature with a taste for bizarre avant-rock. Strongly recommended.

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