Friday 07 May 2004
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.
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
Best underrated Christmas movies from Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga