Patrick Porter is one of those rare artists. He’s a brilliant poet, a published writer, accomplished painter (word is that the drummer from Slipknot bought a ton of his work… which makes little sense to me. Even more perplexing is Porter’s claim that he threw bananas at the band during the transaction), and a great songwriter. He’s also incredibly prolific at all of this while somehow being something of a vagrant. He tours on Greyhound buses, holes up in vans or tiny studios, and manages to always keep his wandering mind focused on recording his memories in one way or another. Sometimes those are beautiful memories, sometimes ugly, nightmarish even, hilarious or sometimes they’re just plain weird. All in all, Porter tells the stories of himself, and if you can bet one thing when you get a Patrick Porter disc spinning in your CD player, it’s that it will be something honest. Whatever happened to him, what he was going through, if he’s angry or uncomfortable where he is, even if it’s unreasonable, he’ll let you know.
His last extended stint (during which time these tunes were laid to tape) brought him back to Colorado where he slept in the extra room of an old friend’s apartment, frequently played gigs at places like Wax Trax Recordsand the Skylark Bar for meager audiences quietly admiring his commanding (if also modest) presence at relating the world as he sees it unfolding all around him. I knew Mr. Porter during this period, and I found him to be remarkably friendly, incredibly interesting, highly intelligent, very funny, but, indeed as this record indicates, there was something a little off about him, too. He would hang around Gabor’s Bar a lot back then, his A Swan at Smiley’s LP was in the jukebox there, and we had some great times over games of rummy and bouts of Miles Davis, but I never really saw the loneliness his record harps on… which is a little sad to think about now, actually. I wonder how well I really knew him. But then you hear this record, and it’s a window into who Patrick Porter really was on a much more total level at this specific time in his life.
And the record doesn’t sound all that sad all the time, either, so don’t worry, I think Patrick’s doing alright. Opener “Hello” tricks you into thinking Porter’s shifted gears to some kind of folk-ambient sound before blasting into a ho-down of an introduction, screaming and yelping “HELLO!”s to anyone who’ll hear his story. And with a following spoken-word welcome, explanation of the record, an extended dedication, and a tip of the hat to Denver, I think Porter right of the bat wants to make sure he tells folks that no matter what happened during this “very feverish time… a time of great strife and complexity” (as he says), he wasn’t taking any of it too seriously.
Still, lines like “Make my next meal a loaded gun” are delivered cold enough to shake you to your core. There’s plenty of sadness and a lot of frustration to be found in tunes like the toe-tappin’ “Big Frowny Face,” which is something of an assault on an ex-girlfriend. “Zero” and “No One’s Ever Gonna Love Me” are pity parties that Porter’s pitching to no one but himself through country balladry twinged with the sting of stark lonliness and ghostly backing vox. Sometimes doubled vocals are just off-tune enough to grate the nerves, which might mirror Porter’s own internal, ugly demons. Another plus is that Porter’s tales are well adaptable to a range of styles from prettier, hazy ballads to more uptempo banjo or guitar-based riffs. Then there’s a healthy share of stone-gorgeous moments that make it all worth it. “Fogelburg” is a simply wonderful light-rock tune, and “Lizzy Turtle Laylo,” aside from being about a turtle that actually lived in my apartment for a few months, might just be the purtiest piece of music I’ve heard all year.
Sorry for the lengthy post here, we usually try to keep them below 500 words.. I don’t owe Porter anything, and he doesn’t owe me nothin’ neither, so maybe it’s a little odd that I had this much to say. I guess this record just resonates a little more deeply on a personal level. And the best part is I have a feeling it will do the same for a lot more pairs of ears if they’re willing to put up with the guy… many have tried and failed (even his own record label, Greyday—they rejected this album). I don’t think Patrick wants any of us to feel sorry for him. But it’s a pretty interesting thing to hear him being sorry for himself for some reason. Plus, it’s usually positively beautiful, even when he’s at his weirdest.