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Michael Zapruder – Pink Thunder

on October 29, 2012, 7:56am

Each of the 22 tracks on Michael Zapruder’s Pink Thunder is a free verse poem, each written by a different writer. The Oakland singer/songwriter teamed up with a collection of “a few dozen musicians” to flesh these brief lyrical moments out. As such, Zapruder is speaking in 22 different voices, telling 22 different stories, all jammed together into a single package.The poems of Pink Thunder will also be available in a hardcover collection; some of those will be much more effective without the  clutter of music behind the words, and others are enhanced by the eccentric flourishes.

The precisely twee storytelling of many of the tracks warrant comparison to Jon Brion, with Zapruder’s smooth vocals cascading over jig-sawed compositions of every conceivable instrument. While the music rarely breaks from the picturesque, the poetry often looks at plain moments which makes the Pink Thunder feel disjointed. Matt Rohrer’s look at conflicted emotion on a rainy day (“we are happy/ and then inexplicably sad/ then happy again”) clashes with a majestic frame, a particularly dour line about “the graves of our lesser pets” lost in swirling clarinets and trumpets.

When things come together, though, the results dive deep into the emotional well. On “Pennsylvania” (which has the ambiguous writing credit of Various Poets), Zapruder’s grinning simplicity about how “I found a tree/ a naked tree/ a big fucking deal tree” suits the technical acoustic guitar frills and weighty timpani thumps. Valzhyna Mort’s quirky, epic description of her grandmother (“she swallows the sun-speckles of pills/ she calls Internet the telephone to America”) finds its grandiose match in marimba plinks and a rich chorus. The conflict of the disc comes down to the fact that some of Pink Thunder‘s musical half amplify the inherent emotional power of the poetry, and others over-power it.

Essential Tracks: “Pennsylvania”, “My Grandmother”

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