Album: Charlemagne

Charlemagne, Loose

Charlemagne is the solo project of Carl John, leader of the alt.country band Noahjohn and proud possessor of the most disturbing face-fungus in pop. Charlemagne is what he did to relax after touring last winter: holed up in his Wisconsin home studio with an acoustic guitar, a primitive drum-machine and a few old keyboards, he wrote and recorded an album of character sketches told from shifting viewpoints, playing all the instruments and layering all the vocal harmonies by himself. The results combine the deceptive complacency of West Coast close-harmony country-rock with the darker, more sinister undercurrents of post-modern exponents such as Smog and Bonnie "Prince" Billy: both men spring to mind in "August Evenings" for lines like "I was stupid for your terror" and "Now you laugh at a dying man/ Who must partake of medicine/ To keep from doing himself in". Elsewhere, there are jolly songs of treachery ("How Could He?"), wretched men haunted by dead lovers ("Dawn Upon"), complex depictions of love and loss ("In Absentia") and, in "Portrait with No Shortage of History", a devoted, pained appraisal of a junkie lover. The sketches have an engrossing depth of character and an engagingly philosophical attitude.

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