It’s been a long time since an album has been so strong and so as-of-yet unknown that I am inspired to write about it. But such a record has recently impressed me to the extent that I can’t help but review it in detail.
The album is The Plastic Masquerade, by New York-based singer/songwriter/performance artist/musician Minq Vaadka. On this debut, Vaadka (a.k.a. Adam Cochran) mixes impishness and theatricality in a fresh punk/cabaret blend, the likes of which have been missing from that semi-underground scene for far too long (now that Amanda Palmer‘s traded her angst for a ho-hum solo album and an engagement to Neil Gaiman). But, rather than coming across as the next generation of would-be Dresden Dolls, Vaadka is fully original, a bright-pink-paint-besplattered mess of talent.
Distinguishing himself from his cabaret-rock predecessors, Vaadka throws hip-hop influences into his peculiar musical concoction. In “Glitzkrieg,” he chants spoken lyrics over guitar riffs set to three-quarter time. He seems to eschew the understated hipster culture in favor of something more unabashedly flamboyant: “We’re drowning the beggars, the poor bourgeoisie,” he proclaims, “Isn’t it rich to be free?”
The songs both satirize and embrace affectation. In “I Am A Fake,” the first verse describes a woman whose “lips are rubber cement, her breasts of made of jelly, and her belly has been flattened with an iron,” only to reveal that this “perfect” creature is a transvestite; Vaadka then asks, “So why is it that this fake’s more real than you?” This sort of double-flipping of cliches, coupled with unexpected combinations of musical styles, creates delightful surprises for the listener. If there’s a theme to the album, it’s a brash creed of being authentically oneself; paradoxically, everything about Vaadka–from the fake name to the swaggering bravado–registers as completely genuine.
With a voice that could belt a Broadway tune as easily as it fronts a rock band, Vaadka sings like the queer lovechild of Billie Joe Armstrong and Justin Bond. He could have leaped from the cast of “American Idiot” into the Galapagos Art Space, where he and director Sanaz Ghajarrahimi collaborated earlier this year on the performance piece “Orpheus and The Plastic Masquerade.” Ironically, on the album Vaadka laments, “The theatre is dead, and art will soon follow.” But as long as he’s around, we don’t have to worry about that.
Download The Plastic Masquerade on Minq Vaadka’s official site. Get it for free or pay-what-you-wish. I recommend the latter.