Rick Berlin is so far off the wall that he's back on it again…and back again period. His last, Old Stag (here), defied categorization even though not some Beefheart-cum-Penderecki-cum-Juncosa case of terminal schizophrenia, and Paper Airplane jumps right back into the deep end of the pool once more. Commencing with the hilarious If I Wasn't Such a Bum and its way-past-cool whistled secondary hook, he's in Root Boy Slim / Zoogz Rift territory, though maybe more in the vein of a wino folkie than those demented bastards (God bless 'em!). The middle eight isn't an instrumental break but a cracked rant that'll have you snorting milk out your nose, spluttering and guffawing. Berlin ought be doing cartoon voiceovers; move aside, John Leguizamo.
With a sloppy/precise backing band of various hands—a gaggle evidently of perverts, rummies, and malingerers—Berlin seems to have found a match made in heaven...or maybe the dump. These guys sound funny just playing but are also impressively perspicacious. Andy Plaisted's drop-dead telepathic drums are so on it that you almost don't notice the guy. He blends right into the intramural conversation—if, that is, you can hear him above your own laughter as Berlin relates Bukowsky tales of guttersnipes, misfits, lunatics, terminal cases, and even a halfway sane individual or two (probably a semi-lucid error, that). Then there's the Long John Silver / Tom Waits merman shanty PBR.
But there's also a deep deep iconoclasm present in every bar and measure, not to mention riveting insights amid the satire and realistically absurd. Berlin possesses a rare gift for an incredible range of expression. One day, I think the Old Stag needs to meet Old Red (Paul Kirwan—here). If they both don't explode, get into a fisticuffs scuffle, or race each other to the bottom of a barrel of Scotch, the meeting would be fairly epic. Regardless, Rick Berlin's one of only a very small handful of people who would dare to even attempt this kind of music and then have the mystifying chops to pull it off all-around. If you doubt this for a moment, fly over to the guy's website at MySpace and sample the many songs there, including alternate versions (especially catch Psycho, the original of which is on *Old Stag*). You'll either be consumed with gratitude for this advice or running down to the local courthouse to swear out a summons.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles