The Gorey (not a typo) End
by, 11-04-2011 at 06:18 PM (757 Views)
Around eight years ago, a small package appeared in my mailbox. Inside was a CD from my niece, featuring a band I had never heard although the cover artwork looked familiar. Turned out that the art was done by Edward Gorey, whose work you may know from the animated illustrations that accompany PBS-TV's Mystery series. Gorey had lived near my niece in her Cape Code neighborhood until his then-recent death. His legacy includes many books and illustrations, mostly dealing with the delightfully macabre. Shortly before Gorey died, as a fan and admirer, he sent an unsolicited box of his unpublished works to Martyn Jaques, the founder and frontman for the Brit neo-cabaret (I really don't know how to concisely describe the group; some say "surrealist pornography") trio, The Tiger Lillies, sensing that he and Jaques were kindred spirits. Inspired by Gorey's writings and illustrations, Jaques created the music and lyrics for what was to become "The Gorey End", a collaboration with the Kronos Quartet. Alas, not to be published until after Gorey's demise.
"The Gorey End" soon became a curmudgeon household staple, and my ten- and twelve-year old kids declared it to be the finest CD they had ever heard. "The Gorey End" chronicles the woes and tragedies of the Hipdeep family and other unfortunate characters, much in keeping with my children's interest at the time in the books of Lemony Snicket ("A Series of Unfortunate Events", etc.) For several years, we heard it again and again, finally retiring it to very occasional use after the kids developed other musical interests in their high school and college years.
Last night, "The Gorey End" became my Album of the Evening. I wanted to hear the Tiger Lillies again on my new PSB Image B6 speakers, especially after I had been listening to another "cabaret" group -- the wonderful, bring-a-smile-to-your-face-anytime Portland-based group, Vagabond Opera -- all week. And as well I had been revisiting a lot of my Kronos Quartet music.
(Hey, I heard sonic nuances I never knew were there!)
The Tiger Lillies, if you haven't heard them, amaze in their delivery of material that makes you wonder if you are about to laugh or cry. In a few seconds, "The Gorey End" can flip from irreverent, almost deranged zaniness to startling beauty or haunting sadness. Martyn Jaques in his distinct falsetto (counter-tenor?) seems to hold nothing back. The track titles give you a feel for the album's contents:
1. Hipdeep Family Intro
2. ABC (Arsenical Bun)
3. Weeping Chandelier
4. Jesus on the Windshield (aka Jesus PL or The Birdpop Jesus)
5. The Besotted Mother
7. Learned Pig
8. Hertha Strubb
9. Dreadful Domesticity
11. L'Histoire de K
12. Trampled Lily
13. Hipdeep Family
"Gin" has become something of an anthem for The Tiger Lillies, as shown by this YouTube example:
My daughter tells me she believes that she has watched every Tiger Lillies video on YouTube (often surreptitiously), and there are many. I'm going to try to catch up with her now.