Twelve years is a long time to wait for a musician to release their second album. But, as they, whomever the fuck they are, say, there’s many a slip between cup and lip. And according to the liner notes included in Aaron McMullan’s newest full length recording, Angus After All, there were plenty of cups and slips along the way that hindered this release from seeing the light of day.
McMullan’s first release, Yonder Calliope, in which I think I compared him to a mix of Billy Bragg and The Clash, released in 2007, was a thing of wonder. Many of us, including the man himself, had high expectations of something grand as a follow up. But as McMullan tells us frankly in previously mentioned accompanying notes to this release, expectations can be a mother fucker and the death of creativity.
McMullan started working on what was to be called Angus soon after he released Calliope but his own demons ended up getting the better of him and in spite of his friends’ and accomplices’ best efforts it was never finished. Oh bits and pieces of rough cuts and demos have been brought forth over the years – released as four track EPs etc. But the thing itself never made it out as a CD in its entirety.
Even now what McMullan has released can’t be said to be a conventional CD of music in any shape or form. Rather Angus After All is more like a sonic stream of conscience poem contemplating the struggle to release the album. Sure there are bits and pieces of songs, even complete tracks included and remixed for this event, but there are also echoing bits of song recorded in what sounds like toilet cubicles and scraps of conversation appear randomly like some sort of weird chorus commenting on events.
So why listen to this thing than? Well, because its a brilliant examination of how things can go wrong. Now its not one of those self-pity, oh I’m such a fucked up rock star but look at how honest I can be about it so my buy my songs so I can keep supporting my coke habit things. No this is the work of a poet. The closest I can come in way of comparison is a book by the French novelist and dramatist Jean Cocteau, Diary of a Cure, in which he wrote about his withdrawal from opium.
Not that McMullan is writing about rehab or shit, but both pieces are by somebody willing to go into the dark parts of their life clinically and objectively, without glamourizing or making themselves look special for being fucked up. The other thing the two works have in common is their quality.
In Angus After All McMullan is able to give us a collage of sounds and words which creates a piece of art that resonates. Its not easy to listen to, or particularly ‘nice’ in places, but good art shouldn’t be. It should fucking make you think and force you to have an opinion. If you listen to something, read a book, look at a painting, or whatever, and walk away saying, “Oh that was nice”, than you’ve wasted time and money.
It needs to stab you in the vitals, and that’s what McMullan has managed with this piece. However, a caveat: Make sure you read the liner notes accompanying the download as a PDF file. They provide the necessary context to the audio.
Angus After All may not be the second release everyone was expecting from Aaron McMullan, but it is a brilliant piece of art. Download it, read and listen and learn something new. What more could you ask for?