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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

REVIEW - The Lightning Bug Situation - A Leaf; A Stream

For eight years I attended the smallest elementary school in the known universe. At a time in my life when my willing suspension of disbelief was being put to its first big test, my grade five class exchanged Christmas presents. This was something we had done annually since I started school a handful of years earlier. Political correctness had yet to skulk into our young lives and the intentions of said “Secret Santa” tradition were pure and as I would discover, even life-changing. This is the story of how a simple Yuletide tradition changed me forever and how it reminds me of my favourite cd so far this year.

As I have recently rediscovered, the unbridled anticipation of a ten year old can be a powerful if not affecting force. (Imagine if that energy could be contained. Small villages could be powered sufficiently for years.) But I digress… As was the practice every year, Santa would make an appearance minutes before noon on the last day of school before Christmas break. The paunchy red and white one would dutifully visit each classroom to hand out the aforesaid gifts. Wrestling with an almost “Shakepearian” sense of “to believe, or not to believe” that year I earnestly waited, along with my sugar fueled classmates for the big man to grace our classroom and dispense with the loot. The fact that Santa was wearing the school superintendent’s same gold rimmed metal glasses merely reinforced that sinking feeling tugging at my gut that morning. The usual squeals began as “Superinsanta” dug into his sack of presents and one by one drolly called our names. (Think Principal Skinner with less glitz.) That day, there would be no sitting on knees or long, wish list confessionals; we were in Grade Five after all. Rather, this year only seasonal greetings, a candy cane, and a single wrapped present would be the rule. Efficiency is always cruelest for the young folk, but in the end we all learn to adapt. This time though I was third in when my name called out. Third! Not bad considering the W’s usually suffer unendurable waits for everything otherwise. I made my way to the front of the class to collect my booty. I didn’t look at Santa too closely because I needed this to be real just one more time. “Gold Rims” handed me a small, red and green tissue paper carefully wrapped box shook my index finger and handed me a broken candy cane. The present, weighty in my estimation meant something good. I opened it to find a Hallmark Christmas card box. “Ahhhhhh, the old gift decoy diversion tactic “, I recalled. Without any hesitation I opened that package. I found, much to my ten year old minds delight, a toy revolver inside. This was not the orange plastic fluorescent tipped child-safe guns that you can buy today. This was the real deal; A metal beauty with enough caps to last me until Easter. My pulse quickened as I held the pearl grip and felt the weight of the toy in my hand. This was exciting and the kind of thing my mother wouldn’t let me buy in a million years. Some grade fiver and their mother had clearly done it right.

Agreed, that nothing says Christmas like toy weaponry but when I walked home that afternoon I remember the pure elation I felt from receiving a gift of such substance. Now, despite obvious contemporary violent associations the gift was by no means representative of that. Just the opposite in fact; I remember everything about that day because of that one secret Santa gift. I remember the cold, bracing air of that day and the sound of the snow under my boots; I remember the purplish colour of the sky as the sun began to set on my usual walk home. I remember the smell of smoke coming from the neighbours chimney. I remember it was a perfect day and it set my spirit sailing. A measuring stick by which I would measure the quality of twenty thousand days to come.

If you have stuck with me this long you will no doubt wonder what this has to do with a new cd I received from San Francisco last week. To cut a long review short, this is a “toy revolver in a box” cd. When I listened to this disc it took me back to that perfect day so many years ago. The atmospheric and intimate songs and dialogue that inhabit this recording reminded me of how a person’s intensely personal experiences always become a part of them and how they can resonate within for years and years. They affect you and they change you. Listening to the stories and songs on this disc remind you of your own stories (good or bad) and the listening experience becomes a truly palpable one. In the end the disc is almost entirely familiar because of the way it makes you feel. Listening to this disc is why I remembered my Christmas story and why it affects me to this day.

The Lightning Bug Situation is the nom de plume of San Francisco guitarist and songwriter Brian Miller. His latest album, A Leaf; A Stream is a intensely delicate collection of pop songs ranging in subject from the birth of his daughter (Message to Myself After Franny Was Born) to the death of a beloved family pet (Topher's Last Song). The tunes are interspersed with spoken heartfelt interstitials featuring the voices of his immediate family. A recent review likened the results to a Roger Waters recording were he an indie artist. Accurate to a thematic extent but this one is entirely unique. The results, quite unlike anything else you will hear this year.

A Leaf; A Stream is a well tempered sounding record about life events; things that change you and things that go awry. Miller digs deep to recount the stories of his life and others; sometimes he remembers to laugh and other times he offers only a fuck you. It is through these stories that you remember your own. The effect is wholly one of a kind. If you have followed my reviews you will know that I like to walk and listen to new music. That nights’ walk was profound. Almost in tears twice this recording is affecting and deeply personal.

When so many recordings merely move your feet, this one will move your soul. The songs and stories on A Leaf; A Stream are intensely personal and as a result they breathe life back into your own stories. With unlikely song titles like Iraqi Man and Baby Daughter, 2007 and The Unhappy Robot Version of Me vs. Coldplay, this disc offers a listening experience that is unique and most unforgettable.

I urge you to seek this cd out. It is highly original and deeply moving. High praise perhaps but once in a while one leaves you awestruck and reminds you of that purple sunset thirty years ago.

PPPPP Highly Recommended

Buy A Leaf; A Stream.

Brian is also the other half of the Speakers. Check them out as well.


Motorcitybooty said...

Hey, Cool review. Never read one quite like it.

Do a search on Youtube (lightning Bug) for some interesting results.


Anonymous said...

This review is bang on 100%. Get this cd immediately. Yes it is THAT fucking good.