Reviwed by Scott A. Johnson
Written and read by Michael A. Arnzen
Published by Raw Dog Screaming Press
Occasionally, this job puts a few things across my desk that I really can’t classify, and I’m not really sure what to do with. Case in point, Audiovile. While I suppose technically it’s an audio book, it’s much more than that. One part performance art, one part beat poetry, one part music, the whole thing comes together to create a CD that is both hilarious and disturbing at the same time. For anyone who has ever heard it said that horror is not an art form, Arnzen fires back with the proverbial “up yours,” making himself out to be a twisted Ginsberg for the horror fan, Kerouac for the demented, and a Dylan Thomas for those of us with a dark sense of humor. And no, I’m not exaggerating.
Audiovile is a collection of flash fiction and poetry set to music and read in the theatrically manic style of Arnzen. This, however, ain’t the typical poetry of Lit class. With subjects ranging to why zombies shamble to the proper step-by-step instruction of how to stab someone, the stories in this CD are adapted from Arnzen’s 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories, which was released from the same publisher in 2004. While the stories are fun enough in print, hearing them set to everything from lounge music to crunchy acid rock makes the experience all the more enjoyable. Added to that Arnzen’s voice, which can sound like anything from George Carlin to some over-polite Brit, and what you have is something that listeners will be playing for their friends prefaced by lines like “You have to hear this!” and “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard!”
To begin, Arnzen treats listeners to “Psycho Hunter,” a little ditty about a mad man in flannel who’s bent on killing every living thing in the forrest. Following is “Obictionary,” which seems to be a nod to Edward Gorey, the funky “In the Middle,” and “Domestic Fowl,” in which a man watches his friend turn himself into a chicken. “Dreamachinery” is next, where a woman’s desire to get rid of her nightmares proves to be her undoing. Next is the riotously funny “Stabbing for Dummies,” followed by “Why Zombies Lumber.” Arnzen sends a love letter to vegetarians in “The Cow Cafe,” with “Brain Candy,” a detailed account of an encounter with a zombie. There’s also “Driving the Sick Elephant” and “Take Out,” the first of which in indescribable without giving it away, the latter in which a man is cut up and served like sushi. “The Seven-Headed Beast” appears to be about a monster of biblical proportions, while “Little Stocking Stuffers…” let’s just say that what’s in the stockings aren’t what normal people get for Christmas. Then there’s “Six Short Films about Chauncey the Serial Killer,” “Donation,” and finally the strangely beautiful and philosophical poem “Not the Reaper.”
Backing up Arnzen in his maniacal tirade is a capable and capable musicians comprised of… well… Arnzen. With the exception of a couple of guests, notably Jason Jack Miller and Mark Meritt on banjo and guitar solo, respectively, Arnzen does it all, which makes him something of a true modern-day renaissance man. Highlights to this album include “Stabbing for Dummies,” “Not the Reaper,” and “Obictionary.”
A warning must be issued to anyone who listens to this CD: I played it in my car (as I often do with review CD’s) and laughed so hard I damned near had a wreck. Of course, reading the liner notes reveals just such a warning, but who ever reads those things anyway?
1. Psycho Hunter
3. In the Middle
4. Domestic Fowl
6. Stabbing for Dummies
7. Why Zombies Lumber
8. The Cow Cafe
9. Brain Candy
10. Driving the Sick Elephant
11. Take Out
12. The Seven-Headed Beast
13. Little Stocking Stuffers
14. Six Short Films about Chauncey the Serial Killer
16. Not the Reaper
5 out of 5
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