Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Big Boy Pete "World War IV: A Symphonic Poem"

A psychedelic oddity from the warped mind of Big Boy Pete (aka Pete Miller), an entirely unreleased masterwork from his prodigious and endlessly creative 1966-1969 period. World War IV is labeled a "Symphonic Poem," and whatever that exactly connotes in pop terms is anyone's guess. It is certainly not a conventional song-based effort but a true epic, one that is segmented into extended classical-like sections with titles such as "Overture" and "Movement." One certainty is that the album is wide-lensed, a sweeping and ambitiously panoramic experimental piece of avant-garde psychedelia that shares numerous qualities with the equally idiosyncratic but still commercially minded psyche that Big Boy Pete had previously created, while transferring those qualities to a much larger, mural-sized canvas. As can be expected, the storyline (if it can be called that) is willfully obscure and far-out even by psychedelia's standards, loosely imagining a fourth world war peopled not by military personnel but rather a host of eccentric characters. While World War IV is not exactly designed to be accessible in the manner of a collection of Big Boy Pete's pop songs, it sustains both a painterly and literary quality that is every bit as enveloping. In fact, John Lennon loved the album and Apple Records nearly released it in 1969. Miller's uncanny penchant for wordplay is vaguely Beatlesque, although a more appropriate comparison might be that World War IV is a British counterpart of sorts to Love's Forever Changes, betraying the same kind of warped worldview shared by Arthur Lee. Demented observations and mad, darkly humorous puns often undercut the whimsicality of the piece. Miller imagines a world in which the crucifixion of Christ, Nazi Germany, Hansel & Gretel, Oz, Alice's wonderland, Barnum & Bailey's circus, mediƦvalism, and Wordsworth seem to coexist and intermingle in a freakish alternate universe in the countryside of England. Biblical imagery abounds, as do fairytale characters, gypsies, and armies of children straight from the "outsider" art of Henry Darger. Without immediately dating itself, the album contains embedded commentaries on war, spirituality, political power, and a great number of other subjects that were especially endemic to the era. There must be fragments of 20 or 30 individual songs spliced into the mix -- ranging in style from mindbending psychedelia to Baltic folk melodies -- including perhaps the most beautifully sustained example of backwards phasing (during the dirgelike fifth section, "Quietus") in the entire psychedelic canon. The cycle culminates in the stunningly ambitious "Finale." Prophetic, unpredictable, labyrinthine, and frequently disturbing, World War IV is just about as imaginative as pop music gets. It is ultimately impossible to follow the path that Big Boy Pete is trying to burn through the forest, but it is thrilling even when the listener gets lost along the way. The album, as one lyric during "Movement 2" has it, is "deformed so beautifully." Not the first stop for neophytes looking to understand the Big Boy Pete legacy by any means, World War IV may nevertheless be his definitive artistic statement, and the premier slice of "outsider" pop from the period. ~ Stanton Swihart, All Music Guide



NinjaBerserker said...

this is great..thanks a lot!


Anonymous said...

Awesome album-I love this one!
Thanks a lot!!

sav said...

great album! Thank you...


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