Bryan Scary and the Shredding Tears – Flight of the Knife
(Black and Greene Records, 2008)
Brooklynite Bryan Scary and his supporting band, the Shredding Tears, achieve liftoff with their second album, Flight of the Knife, an exceedingly bizarre concept album about the heroic endeavors of Airship Valentine and his quest to commandeer the Knife, otherwise known as “the greatest flying machine ever to take to the skies.” And then there’s the fact that the album is inspired by a lengthy postmodern novel by Thomas Pychon (2005’s Against the Day).
There’s no denying it’s strange, but it works. Scary weaves an imaginative and compelling narrative throughout the album’s 12 tracks, creating a modern pop masterpiece that takes cues from all the classics but has ambitions of its own, transcending the type of vacuous retro mimicry – and pretentiousness – that many indie rock bands are so susceptible to these days.
The 25-year-old Scary released his first album, the impressive yet not nearly as cohesive The Shredding Tears, in 2006, an undertaking that featured Scary singing every note in addition to playing all instruments except for drums (Jeremy Black of Apollo Sunshine was enlisted for this purpose). Though his imaginative brand of theatrical pop caught the attention of several influential critics and bloggers, it never approached the kind of overnight success that greets a little indie band every so often (ahem, Vampire Weekend). The tight, out-of-this-world Knife should prove to be the album that gains Scary and Co. some much-deserved recognition.
Scary’s backing band, which had previously only accompanied him during live performances, are a considerable presence on Flight of the Knife. The Shredding Tears – comprised of Mike Acreman, Brian Bauer, Graham Norwood and David Ostrem – takes Scary’s kaleidoscopic compositions to another level. A certain amount of polish is required to pull off such lavish orchestration, and the Shredding Tears are more than up for the challenge, making significant contributions to this present-day Sgt. Pepper.
Scary and the Shredding Tears have a distinctly ’70s sound, borrowing from glam and prog rock influences like ELO, XTC and David Bowie. Scary’s has the vocal range and talent of Freddy Mercury, he demonstrates ably on the album’s probable first single, the soaring “The Curious Disappearance of the Sky-Ship Thunder-Man.” The album’s eclectic tracks include the playfully named “The Purple Rocket,” “La Madame on the Moon” and “Venus Ambassador,” highlighting the band’s jubilant harmonies, quirky chords and lushly layered melodies.
Get ready to be carried away by the Knife.
The album can be fully (and legally) streamed at flightoftheknife.com.