I spend my time playing outer-space swamp rock and drawing pictures of zombie gorillas. -Andrew Goldfarb (The Slow Poisoner)
Andrew Goldfarb, also known by his one-man band moniker The Slow Poisoner, takes his listeners to a strange and otherworldly place called Lost Hills in his new album by the same name. This is not your run-of-the-mill album, mind you, but rather a rock opera of sorts. In other words, Lost Hills is an absorbing piece of bizarro fiction, a road tale that eventually finds the main character in as weird a destination as one is likely to find in this world or the next. Our protagonist, or antihero rather, is actually Goldfarb himself, or The Slow Poisoner, who lays out the bones of the story through a fine first-person narrative which takes place between songs, while the lyrical content of each serves an elaborative purpose.
Each song on Lost Hills is like a chapter, from the opener “Almighty Powerful Crystal Magnetic Eye o’ the Lord” to middle tracks such as “Sinister Minister,” “Mint Julep” and one of my personal favorites “The Poisoner’s Lament,” and then from the songs nearing the end of the album, like “Spanish Moss” and “Don’t Hang Me Too High,” to the song that concludes it all, the title track, “Lost Hills.” Throughout this process, The Slow Poisoner takes the listener down a dark and mysterious road to a bizarre town whose inhabitants prove equally bizarre, where he struggles with certain matters of the heart, concocts an excess of potent spirits for the townsfolk to imbibe, experiences pine box tragedies and a fugitive’s paranoia, and finally comes to a most unexpected realization.
The Slow Poisoner strums and picks his rhythms and leads on an oddly shaped electric guitar, stomps out his beats on a small kick drum fitted with sleigh bells, and uses his vocal cords to sing out his interesting, entertaining and remarkably well-written lyrics. To be sure, he does the one-man band thing as it is meant to be done, and with his own style and sound.
It is not all that surprising that Goldfarb would compose and record a rock opera, especially one involving such a weird, dark and twisted tale as Lost Hills. His signature sound of surrealistic rock’n’roll, art pop and roots music is still present, of course. And so too is his theatrical, charistmatic personality, which makes his releases that much more absorbing and enjoyable. As such, he transports the listener through dark, insect-swarming swamplands, past the kudzo-draped branches of tall cyprus trees and the still muddy water; into strange dimensions and weird cosmic planes; down backroads overgrown with weeds and dilapidated homesteads; past odd creatures and freakish humanoids and so many glowing, slitted eyes peering through the blackness; through obscure black-and-white horror and sci-fi film settings; into bubbling couldrons and vials of poison and barrels of green liquor; and so many other such places.
You see, Goldfarb is not just a multi-faceted artist, he is also a mult-faceted individual, and he doesn’t seem to let any of his talents go unused. Singer/songwriter, novelist, comic book creator, and visual artist, he undoubtedly has his hands full much of the time with a number of different endeavors. In addition to these things, he is also a traveling snake oil merchant of sorts, who makes available at his Slow Poisoner shows his special patented Slow Poisoner Miracle Tonic, which is made from “the finest Egyptian oils and herbal ingredients,” and which he advertises as “effective in the treatment of consumption, women’s troubles, gout, neuralgia, wandering limbs, stoutness, onanism, disinterested bladder, elephantiasis, cholera, barnacles and boils, the fits, excessive abscesses, necrosis, lavender fever and general wasting.”
The Slow Poisoner’s Lost Hills album is available on Andrew Goldfarb’s own Rocktopus! Records. Like all of The Slow Poisoner’s other releases, it comes in a nice gatefold case with original artwork by the singer/songwriter himself. Lost Hills, however, comes in a case with felt art depicting images relating to the story told on the disc.
Though The Slow Poisoner calls San Francisco home, he does take his show on the road sometimes. So watch for him at your local laudromat, art gallery, book store, sci-fi or horror gathering, watering hole, or punk venue. You never know where he’ll turn up, or what his set will consist of.