Angel Olsen avoids a massacre, Will Oldham's mustache becomes aroused (and then not), and Aaron Dessner makes a fool of himself.Drag City, 2016
8.2 / 10
It’s a warm summer evening in Stuyvesant, N.Y., and The National’s Aaron Dessner has just stepped out of the barn/studio to pick up some organic tofu pad Thai.1
Will Oldham hits the playback on one of his tracks for ”Day of The Dead” and gently pets his mustache as he whispers to it gently. His phone buzzes, and he cracks a rare, slight smile as his screen flashes a Snapchat of Zach Galifianakis’ ballsack resting on Oldham’s tractor at home on his farm in Tennessee.
On the other side of the booth, Angel Olsen hacks away blindly at her bangs with a pair of rusty shears she had found in a corner of the barnstudio.
“Do you think this looks good, Will?” she asks.
He bristles at the use of his “government name”, but decides against correcting her. Instead, he slowly looks up, sees the mess Olsen has created, and decides her punishment will be this.
“It looks great. You should leave it that way for the cover shoot for your new album.”
“Really?” she says. “Ok, you know what? I will.”
“Hey Will (he winces again), speaking of covers, it would be cool if we did some sort of cover album together.”
“Yeah, I could be up for that. Lately, I’ve been super into some of Huey Lewis And The News’ early b-sides. Or maybe we could do a cover album of my last LP.”
“Uhm, that’s not really what I was thinking. How about something a little less bizarre?”
Oldham narrows his eyes, buffs out the wax drying on the top of his glistening skull, and scans the room for something to club her with.
“Less bizarre?” he asks her — simply stalling until he can find a bludgeon with a suitably rustic mien. “What do you suggest?”
Sensing the immediate danger she’s in, Olsen quickly scans the music on her phone — filtering by “Most Popular” and scrolling down fast. Knowing that she’s always been one comment away from being murdered by Oldham, she blurts out the very last artist at the very bottom of the list.
“The Mekons! How about a cover album of The Mekons??”
At that exact moment, Oldham’s eyes settle on his weapon of choice — an antique leather doctor’s satchel filled with misshapen marbles and gynecological instruments — but Olsen’s suggestion distracts him. His mustache becomes engorged.
“Yes! The Mekons! Of course! Have they ever done any cover albums? Better yet, how about a cover of the Pine Valley Cosmonauts’ “Songs of Johnny Cash”?”
Beads of sweat start to form on Olsen’s brow, and just as she’s about to reluctantly agree to cover PVC’s Johnny Cash cover album, Aaron Dessner walks back in, pad Thai in hand — the pockets of his vintage 1920s vest overflow with chili sauce packets.
“Did I hear someone say something about Johnny Cash?” Dessner blurts out excitedly. “He’s so cool. You should definitely do a Johnny Cash cover album.”
Oldham rolls his eyes. His mustache begins to go limp.
“No Bryce,” he says, fully knowing it’s Aaron. “Not a Johnny Cash cover album, you hipster doofus. A cover of the Pine Valley Cosmonauts’ Johnny Cash cover album.”
“Yeah,” says Dessner, ignoring everything Oldham had said after “Bryce”. “That would be really cool if you covered Johnny Cash again. I mean, I love what you did with Cash’s “I See A Darkness”. That was a pretty big hit for you, relatively.”
A trail of blood begins to run out of Oldham’s nose, down his now fully flaccid facial hair. The beginning stages of a rage stroke start to set in.
After years of working together, Olsen instinctively recognizes that one — or all of them — might die at Oldham’s hand if she doesn’t intervene quickly.
“Bonnie Prince,” she says. (Oldham looks up, his mustache follows.) “How about the Mekons? That was a good idea.”
“Mekons?” asks Dessner, secretly guessing that “mekons” are obscure depression-era slacks. “If you have a good mekon guy, I’d love to get a pair.”
Oldham cracks a smile at Dessner’s fatal tactical error. His stroke subsides; his mustache regains its former tumescence.
“Angel, call The Cairo Gang. We’re covering The Mekons.”
[Author’s note: Fanatic Voyage is a well-produced, wide-ranging collection of irreverent tracks dutifully served by one of the most irreverent arrangers in music today. Oldham and Olsen often hit the mark on this album — fans of either of these two artists, The Mekons, or none of the above will easily enjoy Fanatic Voyage]