Bobby Conn The Homeland (and the Glass Gypsies)

[Thrill Jockey; 2004]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: glam rock, early metal
Others: T-Rex, Spinal Tap

So I might as well let you know that I am no glam rock expert. I understand the concept as mainly one of fashion and androgyny. Also, there's a sound to it, which I'd describe, via T-Rex and the New York Dolls, as Prog Rock dressed down a bit. This is an idea that appeals to me, having wanted to throw a monkey wrench at many a stuffy King Crimson or Yes composition. I love the concept of pompous, theatrical rock still retaining a raw, punk edge; a-la Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

I'll get this out of the way: the lyrics are beyond dumb. And in the context they're delivered, their dumbness is really allowed to shine. Ween should really love this record, but chances are they'd rather stake their own conceptual glam rock claim. I have unlimited respect and awe for this album's unpredictable song structures and sound production. "Relax" achieves a confident funky disco strut that makes the insipid lyrics irrelevant. "Ordinary Violence" skips along with some great jittery percussion and understated funk. It's a lot of fun, but I'll be damned if I'm not letting some ironic appreciation slip through. It's like Ween's "Buckingham Green." Sure, Gene and Dean want us to take it seriously as a song, but the over-emphatic vocal affectations and silly lyrics simply prevent this from happening. They're no joke band, but they definitely don't take themselves as seriously as Conn. As a result, my ironic distance from The Homeland is kind of palsied.

I'm not gonna touch the whole post-911 themes to the album because there's no rhyme or reason to them. I'll focus instead on the album's cover. A tunic'd Conn and his assorted Glass Gypsies finish up a round of golf on a hilltop that they were transported to via a canopied purple helicopter while a giant eye atop a pyramid gazes down at them. It seems to suggest an elevated self-conceptualization of the artist as some sort of persecuted man of privilege. And yet this recording seems to remain firmly under the radar. Maybe he's a star in Chicago, but all I can see is somebody with a lot of balls and charisma but little in the way of convincing song craft. The tunes bounce and swagger, which makes for some good cock rock fun, but they're entirely too silly and overconfident to endear themselves in the way a good Ween rip can. And referencing a Quiet Riot chorus ("Bus No. 243") is hardly a redeeming factor.

Conn, however, has much to offer die-hard lovers of the glam rock sound. Just because I'd rather throw on Here Come The Warm Jets doesn't mean you would. The record's got big hairy balls, and a professional, bombastic sound, but one that might alienate listeners like myself with only a passing interest in the tawdry realm of glam rock.

1. We Come in Peace
2. The Homeland
3. Laugh-Track
4. We're Taking Over the World
5. Shopping
6. Relax
7. Home Sweet Home
8. The Style I Need
9. Cashing Objections
10. Doctor & Nurse
11. Bus No. 243
12. Independence
13. My Special Friend
14. Ordinary Violence

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