Comic books are an interesting medium. They leave so much to the imagination, letting the reader fill in the blanks, the action between the panels. Comics are what Marshall McLuhan called a "hot medium," requiring a lot of work and participation from the audience, as opposed to the more passive "cool medium" of TV. And while comics are more popular than ever, thanks to the never-ending cycle of superhero movies, some readers who've never had the pleasure of losing themselves in sequential art.
On Spurs #2.2, Grammy-Award winning artist T. J. Troy explores a fascinating concept: the immersive comic book. I haven't had the pleasure of reading the comic (although I'd like to), but judging from the accompanying soundtrack, Midnight Road Trip, it sounds like an existential Western road trip to hell and back, like one of Jim Jarmusch's road trip movies to the SoCal desert of the second season of True Detective.
Troy describes Spurs as "Johnny Cash meets Tortoise," which for those who don't know, means mean-spirited, down-and-out, amphetamine-driven authentic country western twang shot through with many threads of the 20th century underground - from the doomy Western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone to the loopy minimalism of Steve Reich and Philip Glass.
While it might sound like a weird, hot mess on the page, it certainly doesn't sound it when you listen to it! Midnight Road Trip sounds mostly like a classic country record with Troy's deep, rich baritone (not to mention the sweet, sweet baritone guitar, which you don't hear enough of). Album opener "Fever" is a wonderful example, with its stuttering staccato palm-muted guitar, like a steam locomotive running over some uneven track, which is further augmented by Troy's chilling, keening vocals. Your hair will stand on end, as you peer through the steam and let the narrative take hold.
"It's All About The Money" turns down the artifice to sound like some lost, great Springsteen outtake, which might be the soundtrack for a small mining town dancing to a Wurlitzer, blowing off some steam on a Friday night. A great soundtrack needs to balance the atmospherics with straight action, so "It's All About The Money" could be the dance scene montage.
The moodiness comes back with "Kickin' It", one of the most heartfelt and emotive ballads which stands well on its own, even if you never pick up the pages or care a lick about soundtracks. There's truly something for everybody who loves artistic country/western music.
Fans of the True Detective soundtracks, the Handsome Family, the haunted gothic country coming out of Denver and, of course, Johnny Cash and Tortoise, will flip out for this one! Excellent songwriting, masterful musicianship, exquisite production, and an interesting concept. If only every indie release could be this good!
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