and drugs: Late comedic underground legend Bill Hicks was the greatest
champion of the near-ubiquitous chemical consumption participated in by
purveyors of music that doesn’t suck. Few artists pay homage to this
all-illuminating muse like East River Pipe (a.k.a.
one-man-and-his-Tascam, F.M. Cornog) does. Clearly unconcerned with
being pigeonholed as a musician whose subject matter is entirely based
on drugs, Cornog ups the ante on What Are You On?, a collection of ruminations almost exclusively focused on characters and tales rife with substance (ab)use.
Unlike his Merge Records breakout album, 1996’s Poor Fricky, and well-received follow-ups The Gasoline Age (1999) and Garbageheads On Endless Stun,
the themes expressed on Cornog’s sixth album come out mostly banal. His
tried-and-true lo-fi routine is still there, and die-hard Pipe fans
will probably gobble up this release, but these thirteen smoggy ballads
are like that week-old liter of Grape Fanta: you know, flat.
From the pharmaceutical menu reading of the title track to the regurgitated Software Slump ode “I’ll Walk My Robot Home,” everything here is re-treading on some seriously well-worn ground. (Note to musicians: After The Software Slump and Yoshimi,
everything has been pretty much covered in regard to robots.) On one of
the tracks where Cornog gets it right lyrically, “Shut Up and Row,” he
botches the delivery and mostly compromises what would have been a
staggering statement: “The money flows, the girls are young/ Your
slaves row fast into the sun/ And you say, shut up, and row you stupid
What Are You On?
really beats the shit out of a dead hooker (or horse, whatever) and its
monotony washes out what few precious ploddy-pop moments there are. Cornog got off the juice more than ten years ago; now it might be high time (bad pun) that he steer his music away as well.