JOHN CARPENTER: FAIRY TALES FORGOTTEN
A brief bio of John Carpenter describes his music as “Nightclub Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which could be misleading if you don’t picture the right kind of nightclub. Listening to his unsettling new album, Fairy Tales Forgotten, the setting unfolds like so: you see a seedy dive tucked away in some industrial part of town. It’s dimly lit, with chain-smoked Camels doing the job of a fog machine. The patrons are a rough lot, mostly interested in when their next ice-cold domestic is coming. But on a tiny stage in the back corner, John Carpenter and his drummer, who humbly goes by the name J. Explosive, are brewing something sinister. The songs are bleak and even spooky at times. What keeps it all intriguing is Carpenter’s voice—theatrical without being over-the-top, sometimes a menacing baritone, other times a soaring falsetto. Carpenter occasionally engages his guitar in bouts of wild shredding, notably toward the end of the slow-burn blues epic “The Captain.” The overall sound is something like a down-tempo Gun Club or an off-kilter Jeff Buckley. Perhaps the biggest surprise on the album is in the title track. After a typically creepy opening, the song sweeps you into a tender, almost-triumphant chorus that recalls the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.” Then it suddenly spits you back into the shadows.