The Oslo Deadtrash Project – Prairie of the Dirt EP
(Grandma Pop Records)
By: Brett Spaceman
After a brief dalliance with a full band line-up, Pierre Lejeune returns to his solo guise of The Oslo Deadtrash Project. Good news for those of us in the ‘aint broke, don’t fix’ camp. And believe me TODP certainly isn’t in need of any fixing.
Prairie of the Dirt offers seven tracks, starting and finishing with its strongest. ‘Last Breeze’ is one of the best Lejeune ever done. His voice is really becoming a stand-out of TODP soundscape – disheartened, dispassionate – not a million miles away from Paul Banks tired timbre. The closing (title) track is happysad personified – a cowboy Lejeune slipping into a Western sunset astride a mule he has fabricated out of plodding drum machine and a warm guitar refrain.
The reason why this music works so well because of the way Lejeune has stylized TODP. He uses, (or seems to use) retro, analogue keyboards and programming. The effect is something akin to pressing the ‘cha cha’ button on an old Casio while watching a 70’s children’s TV show. It sounds cheap and/or a bit kitsch and only works precisely because it shouldn’t work. Lejeune succeeds by walking a tightrope between gravity and absurdity. His is a highwire act where one loss of balance in either direction sees a tumble into ridicule. Only Lejeune doesn’t fall. Instead we witness a breathtaking mastery of a space only he can inhabit. These songs remain ambiguous, never quite reaching self-importance or triviality. If this seems unlikely or implausible, consider literature. There’s the finest of lines between comedy and tragedy. TODP has found a rich mixture, staked claim, and is intent on mining it for all it’s worth.
In a way, the surefootedness of both guitar and vocals take our minds off the electronics but I see this as an enhancement of the TOLD portfolio rather than the contrary. The tracks in the middle of the EP behave more according to type. ‘Ghost River’ being 1.41 minutes of noise, isn’t really a song so much as an intro for ‘Buffalo’. ‘Pyjama’ is typical whimsy and ‘Mirror In Your Eyes’ really is TODP by numbers. Still terrific though, take nothing away.
If you don’t know Lejeune previous work, think of him as a master of melancholy. Nobody does dejected quite like TODP. The ignorant might throw brickbats around such as ‘depressing’. Well, let them. There’s a difference between sadness and saddening, After all, world-weary characters have always possessed an innate ability to charm us from Marvin the Paranoid Android right back to Chaplin. TODP strikes my mind as the musical equivalent of St John’s Wort, i.e. a happy alternative to popping pills for depression.
Prairie of the Dirt is like a rainy Sunday afternoon – comforting, cosy and free. I never quite understand why musicians give their work away for nothing but it is their perogative. Lucky us. We can download the whole EP from the link below.
Forget prozac, you need some TODP in your life. And here’s a free prescription.