Sunday, September 21, 2008

The longest suicide note in the world: The music of Scott Andrew Poole

In the song “The King of Nothingness,” from the album of the same name, Scott Andrew Poole sings “I’m writing the world’s longest suicide note, but don’t worry I’m not even half done yet.”

This lyric seems to epitomize Poole’s music, which swings from despair to a glimmering hopefulness, underpinned by a dark humor.The music always matches the lyrical content.

In the song “Amarillo” from his 2002 eponymous album, a mournful acoustic guitar echoes the words of this country ballad that Johnny Cash would have killed to have sung.

The song is about a man riding the range during a cattle drive in Texas with a band of miscreants “who always spoke of innocence” but whose bodies “wreaked of sin.” When the men get lost they turn on each other, but at the 11th hour an “angel from Abilene” in the form of a train arrives. “With their faces turned toward the sky, they shout hallelujah today our souls have been saved,” sings Poole. “But I could not share that sentiment so I shot them where they prayed.”

Born in North Carolina Poole’s wander lust has given him the chance to live in almost every region in the country.

Since moving to New York in 2002 he has put out a number of recordings including a self-titled album, The Gospel of New York, The Vice of Life, and The King of Nothingness.

His sound has changed over the years—from post-punk roots rock with his Austin, Texas band The Relafords, through stripped down Anti-folk to a highly layered and complex sound achieved with producer Jason Kronick.

Poole is a revisionist. Throughout his career he has constantly reinterpreted his own music. Each successive version of a song reflects not just his current fascination, but what he considers to be a better and truer interpretation. The possibility exists that his idea of “better” changes with his current fascination, but never the less, refinement of style and lyrical content lies at the root of his reasoning.

“Snowman in the Summer,” first heard on the Vice of Life as a muscular rock song with a guitar part that both shimmers and hangs on the edge of breaking apart, later appears on Poole’s newest album, The King of Nothingness, in a completely new form. In its current incarnation, Poole reshapes it into a song as fragile as a lullaby sung in a falsetto with deeply layered elements that come close to overwhelming his words. The lyrics are truncated in his newer version, which works within the new framework.

Poole’s sound continues to change, but according to him his next album will be a return to the stripped down acoustic sound of his early recordings. Through each transformation Poole manages to retain something of his past sound, building upon his experiences. So it may be safe to say that even though he may be returning to his roots the sound will continue to evolve.

To hear Scott Andrew Poole's music go to: