Morning Has Broken

Two years in the making, Western Robot's Music for a Morning's Work defies categorization: It's not punk, prog, jazz or rock -- just sublime.

All of this is entertaining, but what about the music? Simply put, Music for a Morning's Workis the story Lipstick Tracesshould have been. Marcus took the chaotic story of the Lettrists and linearized it; Western Robot took the anarchic spirit of the Lettrists and ran with it. Careering from the mournful gypsy violin and accordion of "Physician with His Operative Kit" to the hardboiled saxophone noir of "Women Using Opium" (courtesy of Dave Stone, who pops up a couple of times) to "Dead Newborn Baby"'s ridiculous union of heavy-metal guitar and Hammer horror sound effects, Western Robot display an invigorating defiance of categorization. Their music is not quite jazz and not really ethnic, it's not punk, it is not rock & roll and, despite Geddes' unnatural fondness for Yes' Close to the Edge, it is not prog rock. Music for a Morning's Work is a series of détournements, as each of those musical styles is appropriated and reworked to meet Western Robot's artistic needs. The music is intuitive data, meant to convey a specific mood. "The mood of the picture is in each song," says Davis, but Pryor disagrees: "You can create and superimpose your own arbitrary mood, and once that's coupled with the picture, the two are inseparable." The truth is, they're both right. If you have the pictures in front of you while listening to each song, it's easy enough to sense the similarities between the emotions inspired by the photo and those conveyed in the music. But if you don't have the photos, you can't help but create your own worlds to accompany the photos. The music of Western Robot becomes the Northwest Passage, if you are willing to look for it.

And therein lies Western Robot's greatest similarity to the LI, and the real tragedy. Like the LI, Western Robot has fantastic ideas behind its actions, a genuine appreciation of Art and a subversive streak of humor. And just like the LI, only a tiny percentage of people in St. Louis know Western Robot exists. And even if WR figures out a way to release their album without legal repercussions (they are kicking around the idea of simply giving it away to interested parties, thereby circumventing any chance of making a profit off copyrighted material), they suspect the audience for their music is limited: How many people are actively looking for a new world? This leads to the inevitable question: How smart are these guys, investing two years of work in making an album based on images they can't reproduce, knowing they can't afford to manufacture the CDs if they do get permission to use the art, for an audience they believe is no larger than a handful of people?

"We're pretty stupid, but we love it," says Davis with a laugh. "I hope if anyone hears this, they pick up on how often we were naked." With such catchy slogans as that, how can these guys fail?

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