posted on November 07, 2007 16:01
Last night your blogger went to the Flèche d'Or in Paris to see New York singer-songer Thomas Truax. Nothing strange in that, says you.
Well, in fact, everything about this man is bizarre. First, his music is of a genre he calls 'steampunk'. Furthermore, he plays his steampunk on the most unlikeliest contraptions - instruments that he made himself.
For instance, there's the Hornicator - a gramophone horn fitted up with a microphone and the type of sound-making gadgets you'd find in a Christmas cracker or a Kinder egg. There's also the Sister Spinster, a sort of spinning-wheel drum machine. Then there's the Stringaling, which (as the name suggests) is a roll of string with a tom-tom, ventilation tube and lots more little gadgets attached. (He also plays a rather conventional steel guitar - but with the spinning blades of a little plastic fan.)
And the man himself has the lanky, wild-eyed look of David Byrne or Kramer from 'Seinfeld'. Between songs he reaches for another queer instrument and continues talking to the audience even when he's away from the microphone and no one can hear him. His performance sometimes stretches 'quirky' into 'irritating' - during 'Full Moon Over Wowtown' he does the tired old down-from-the-stage, play-in-the-audience, run-around-the-room routine. God punishes him by having him miss a step and fall on his arse.
But, for the most part, Truax is highly entertaining. His instruments are genuinely fascinating in their ingenuity and intricacy; more importantly, they sound fresh and intriguing. As for his songs, some are a bit too self-consciously oddball ('The Butterfly And The Entomologist' drags on and gets boring) but plenty others are catchy, witty and a little bit scary in their skewed world-view. We're reluctant to used that much-abused word 'genius', but there's certainly something special about this man: he reminds us a little of our beloved Jonathan Richman.
Truax toured around Ireland earlier this year, as support to Duke Special (who also played in Paris last night) - did any of our readers see these shows? The American, resident in England, has no concerts upcoming in Ireland, unfortunately - and without the visual impact of his instruments, his recordings just don't capture the essence of his act.
You can listen to some Truax tracks on his MySpace page, and you can find out more about his music and inventions on his website. Here's the video for our favourite song of his last night, 'Prove It To My Daughter'. Chapeau to Louisa and Céline for bringing your blogger along to see him: