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.
If you’re in New York for Halloween, here are some events where you’ll find originally hip people doing originally hip things. In other words, this ain’t your Williamsburg Halloween party. Oh, and did we mention they’re all cheaper than a pair of pants from American Apparel?
Justin Bond at Joe’s Pub – “Justin Bond is Scary, Mary!! A Halloween extravaganza!”
From the website: “Tonight we celebrate Persephone-Queen of the Underworld, a fair young thing who went out one day to pick some flowers and ended up the sex slave of SATAN!” Expect fabulousness.
The Renaldo the Ensemble at The Living Room – CD Release party and concert (photo)
The self-described absurdist collective celebrates the release of their new album Why Are You? (It’s great, by the way.) The Renaldo takes the stage around 11 p.m., but if you get there early, you can enjoy performances by members of the Uke Salon. Never heard of the cult-like Uke Salon? Check out my “Uke Odyssey” podcast, here.
World/Inferno Friendship Society at the Grand Ballroom, Manhattan Center (with O’Death)
The Bowery takes a huge liability and fire code risk by presenting the annual World/Inferno Hallowmas show. What’s the danger, you ask? Read for yourself: last year I followed the band and their maniacal fans through the Halloween parade and into the Hallowmas ritual concert in Brooklyn. I still haven’t recovered from the mayhem. Word to the wise: do not wear glasses to this event.
The Lily’s Revenge at the HERE Arts Center
A five-hour epic musical extravaganza with a distinct downtown vibe. Playwright Taylor Mac performs, along with 40-plus New York artists. OH note: I sat in on one of the rehearsals. The show is terrific! Hilarious, wacky, smart, poignant. If you don’t see it on Halloween, see it before it closes on November 22. (And look for my article about it in the November issue of the Brooklyn Rail.)
It Might Get Loud at Cinema Village 12th Street
For a (slightly) more subdued evening, see Jack White, The Edge, and Jimmy Page in a documentary about the electric guitar. On 10/31, the film starts at 10:55 p.m.