♫♪  Richard Dawson - “The Vile Stuff”

Burryman taken to A&E with Flower Head in his eye.”

Every year, on the second Friday in August, a local man in South Queensferry, Scotland is covered head to toe in the spiky seeds of the burdock plant: burrs. He’s paraded through town, stopping at landmarks through the day to have drams of whiskey poured into his mouth. The burryman is not allowed to speak for the entire day, and keeps his arms raised in an exhausting, awkward crucifix to avoid the painful sting of the plants which cover his whole body.

Sometimes this can end in disaster.

As I’m fond of telling my rapidly bored friends, Richard Dawson made my favorite album of last year. The Glass Trunk was a cobbled exorcism, a museum of living, screaming folks at the edge of life, voices lent a certain philosophical weight by their shared brutality, their inescapable past, an uncanny valley of the dead. Nothing Important manages the difficult feet of finding posterity in the present and the intensely personal, of capturing the epiphanic spiraling of a long drunken night in Newcastle, of lifelines borne along a dot-to-dot of warm beer and sour trebles. Richard Dawson unpacks his liver, like he once did with a carved Wooden Bag, on a song that still dissolves me fizzing like a morning Alka Seltzer.

It’s difficult to think of a lyricist able to transfigure childhood story swapping, city center debauchery, all out hilarity (that careful breath between bum and bag!) and supernatural invocation so spectacularly. Wild Beasts tried, but left a taste of ironic machismo that is just utterly transcended by the oddball, belligerently witty hero of The Vile Stuff. Harry Wheeler’s damp, ale soaked video captures the mood perfectly, poking fun at the exoticising gaze of the Hisham Mayet’s of this world, while leaning on iconographies that are suitably unfixed and just as entrancing. This aint no supplanted religion of the book, but a spiritual message as engrossing and wild as it’s warped pilgrims. As the video implodes, we are left with a sense that, like all the properly enjoyable traditions of our weird little island, this is a spirituality that involves a fair amount of booze and a journeying that, thudding on, never quite ends, unless in hospital.

Who said epiphanies only lasted a moment?

• Richard Dawson: http://www.richarddawson.net

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

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