Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys
by Craig Regala
The octopi/roses/brokentoys/tattoo’d’olls/w/feathers (always feathers) cover is indicative of the music with. Good songs cobbled together from a couple hundred years of submerged queasy fin de sicle damaged desire, illness, and decay. I know, I know, “what the fuck are you talking about!?!” Well, America and art and stuff, ok? I didn’t do research and read what the smart folks had to say, so here’s what I hear: Walter Sickert and his Army of Broken Toys conjure up the shadowy, creepy, misty, doom of Trent Reznor with a cracked mic’n’acoustic guitar strumming away on a crisp New England October night with Edgar Allen Poe out looking for Absinthe and telling him that, “those Nico solo records are really good.”
(Nico is the Teutonically-beautiful German woman who sang on the first Velvet Underground record, betraying no overt emotion. You could project a whole lot on her detached monotone. She went on to record solo records with a pump organ that’d seed a fertile plane Rasputina and Siouxsie Banshee would ooze from. Nico covers The Doors’ “The End.: It’ll freeze your goddamn guts.)
Like the wonderful 16 Horsepower. Or if you could strip the veneer of irony/saturation off “American Gothic” (think pitchforks and 19th Century Midwestern spires). This is closer to the alt./outside, classicist country of Grey de Lisle’s Iron Flowers that I just got than “rock” or anything overloaded with electronics, beats, or sickly “please love me” hooks. The European roots of pop music are often downplayed or disregarded but are an integral part of form and function “over here,” and these folks make use of the folk/cabaret tradition without coping it. Every generation finds its own voice in archetypal forms to pay the bill of the eternal pain as feeling spill in and out of your head. Man if I were 16, I’d be so fucking happy to’ve found this. As it is, I’m glad to hear it and know the Circle Remains Unbroken.
Throw it on a mix with Johnny Cash’s version of NIN’s “Hurt,” Bowie’s Baal EP from ’82 (all Bertolt Brecht’s songs), Tom Waits’ “Black Rider,” 16 Horsepower’s “Prison Shoe Romp,” Nick Cave (when he’s not in love), Woven Hand’s “Sparrow Falls,” Lou Reed’s “Berlin,” Current 93’s “I Have Caught the Dead Again; I Click My Eyes,” and something by The Dresden Dolls.