Alexis Gideon – Flight Of The Liophant

Alexis Gideon
Flight Of The Liophant

Flight Of The Liophant may sound like a Napoleon Dynamite creation but that’s sort of the point. That movie tapped into “nerd culture” and made it cool. And since then the line between nerd and hipster have become blurred. Big goofy glasses, ironic shirts handed down from your brother or sister, tight pants, cheap beer, crazy hair, etc, nerd or hipster? To complete the look you need a soundtrack. Enter Dan Deacon, the Baltimore Wham City scene, Animal Collective (whose members spent their formative years in the Charm City area), and now Alexis Gideon.

With all the success that has come Deacon’s way in 2007 and with Wham City getting exposure, it’s strange that folkie/hip hopper/all around nice guy Beck Hansen hasn’t been linked as an influence. Perhaps it has to do with his mainstream popularity that he’s not mentioned in the same breath as that scene but clearly he is class valedictorian of the dance punk thrift shop hipsters. In fell swoop “New York hillbilly” Gideon has taken Beck’s entire oeuvre and boiled it into one album.

Every song on Liophant can be likened to something Beck has already achieved. It’s an album full of schizophrenic beats, middle eastern tinged guitar songs, and white boy rapping. While Gideon’s delivery makes Nic Offer of !!! sound like Rakim, the content? I don’t know if the Bloodhound Gang have released anything this year but I’m pretty sure this will be the only album with the words “itty bitty titty” on it. (I think I was able to decipher a line in there about seashells by the sea shore, too.) With that said, it’s a fairly enjoyable album. Once you get through the initial cringing during the delivery and predictable flow on the hip hop songs you find they’re catchy, if a bit repetitive. There are big disco like beats much like on Midnight Vultures and even an out of nowhere banjo solo makes an appearance a la “Sexx Laws.”

What truly stands out are the slower guitar based songs. A mood of melancholy permeates the album and comes to the fore on these tracks sounding like a hi-fi One Foot In The Grave. “Gone Goodbye” may start off uplifting enough with a pedal steel over a subtly shifting guitar line but soon a Calvin Johnson-like baritone comes in lamenting days gone by. The melody of “Your Eyes,” is drawn out recalling the more somber moments on Mellow Gold and somehow feels even sadder when it sounds as though it’s being played on a toy guitar. The Johnson-esque voice makes an surprising appearance originally on “Waves In Waves.” Surprising first because throughout the album Gideon sounds nothing like this. The hip hop songs sound like your basic suburban white boy.

Second because the song begins as many of the others, fast paced rhymes about god knows what, but then as it stretches out for nearly 7 minutes, the last half slows down amid some sort of electric glockenspiel and lap top malfunctions to give way to a mournful horn and some deep otherworldly voice. “Waves In Waves” is perhaps the best example of what Gideon is about, the juxtaposition of crazy good time fun and introspection. Liophant sags a bit in the last quarter; the songs are aimless and noisy but redeems itself on the closing track “Sweet Dream (for My Irish Lass).” Sounding like an early 20th century folk ballad it’s gracefully augmented with touches of bells and horns.

There are two sides to Alexis Gideon and both work well when they are kept far apart from each other. The bad rap songs are tuneful and humorous and certainly appeal to the set that’s afraid to take anything seriously, or worse, to be seen taking anything seriously. The folk songs are for the opposite types of people; they feel earnest and irony free. Placing both types of songs on one album is not a wise choice giving the listener conflicting feelings. It does show however that he’s quite capable of both and would make for an strong album if separated in the future. For every Odelay there’s a Sea Change.