Tolan McNeil

There'll Always Be a Salesman

BY Fish GriwkowskyPublished Apr 1, 2005

Now everyone gets to understand what is meant by the "genius of Tolan McNeil.” If by nature of his tight connection with Carolyn Mark (and other famous quasi-rural wits-about) you’d expect a mere alt country album from Victoria’s main Tolan, please think again. No mere sideman, McNeil is secretly an older soul than any retro Hee Haw stuff: his palette reaches back into the "wyzard mysts of history” — a freakball anthem experience right out of 1971 — played straight up. It’s far beyond cool — no Blue Steel-faced poser would ever have the brains to rescore Captain Beefheart’s "Cardboard Cut-Out Sundown.” "You will burn, you will burn,” McNeil begins with relaxing, breezy menace, which is sweet until you realise he’s serious. Next up, he milks some Martian Delta blues, crooning a hand-written Depression song that actually fits today like a pair of wet rubbers. Moving around from atonal, light ’70s pop to scary piano chases to anthems for psychedelic witches in Ken Kesey’s woods, this could certainly be defined as "concept,” if you could pin McNeil down to one idea besides restlessness, especially on "Mom Mom Mom,” a Frog Eyes-y song where he plays a hyper kid asking, "Can we have a box of Honeycomb for dinner?” On "2200 Block Chamber St” Tolan goes ’80s goth, dragging out his vowels like a spinning record weighed down by an ashtray — which then melts into Legendary Pink Dots creepy organs on the Beefheart cover. Sublime and challenging.
(Red Cat)

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