CD Review by J. Schwindt
Mercy Mercy Me, the Human Ecology!
"Songs From A Porcelain Trailer" (EISC)
In this album of eight songs singer-songwriter Kim Palmer emerges as the muse of those with MCS, as the diva of the dispossessed. These songs are worth your listen, not because they're about MCS, not because they're performed by one of our own, but because they are genuinely interesting songs performed with exceptional emotional range and resonance.
"Allergic To The 20th Century" establishes the frame of reference for the set: "Industrialized, deodorized, volatized for my demise...Formaldehyde, benzaldehyde, pesticide, I'm paralyzed!" This doesn't sound very lyrical, because it isn't. There's nothing lyrical about being poisoned. The electronic backgrounds on this and several of the other songs provide a nervous, surrealistic atmosphere that is appropriately disturbing and disorienting.
"The Dispossessed" is an anthem for all with MCS, especially the homeless. Kim sings it with both the vulnerability and the authority of one who knows how it feels to have lost everything:
Oh can't you read the warning sign?
This is the modern epidemic unconfessed
We're trapped inside a toxic time
With nowhere we can run
We are the dispossessed
We are the dispossessed.
The acoustic guitar gives "The Dispossessed" the sound of a classic protest song, while a strong bass line and vehement percussion make this song especially intense and memorable. The pain here is real, much too real.
Coming after "The Dispossessed", "Bizarre Beds" is welcome comic relief, although it isn't really funny when you can't find a safe place to sleep. In any other album "Bizarre Beds" would be about relationships
-- but, not if you have MCS. Kim's song conveys both the humor and the gravity of the situation.
"Cedar Fever" is about -- well, you already know. If you crash during the cedar/juniper pollen season (or any pollen season), this song's for you. Don't miss the surprising little bridge in 3/4 time, it's a musical gem!
"I Wanna Be A Brat Today" deals with the frustration, the exhaustion and the anger that are inevitable no matter how hard we try to be patient and optimistic. "To feel the joy", Kim sings, "you gotta let yourself feel the pain/ and rage at the world we've made/ where even time seems like a toxic waste." No facile acceptance here.
"Haunted House" is maybe my favorite song on this CD. It is ostensibly a relationship song, but it's also a brilliant metaphor for chronic illness, which haunts your nights and days no matter how hard you try to live a normal life. Kim's haunted house sound effects, both instrumental and vocal -- "Yay-eee...Yay-eee" -- are effectively scary and not quite funny. I want to laugh, but I can't: it isn't funny when it's your house that's haunted!
In the last two songs, "Walk With A Dreamer" and "Leave A Light", Kim moves beyond the bizarre nightmarish world of the MCS struggle and explores some of the dreams and hopes we all cling to. "Walk With A Dreamer" expresses the hope for personal wholeness and fulfillment, while "Leave A Light" expresses the hope of all who are "refugees" -- the homeless, the exiled, the alienated -- of finding our way back home:
Leave a light, leave a light
Leave a light on out there for me
I won't look behind, I'm ready to go
Leave a light, leave a light
Leave a light for this refugee
So I can find my way back home
So I can find my way back home.
This is a fitting close for this CD, a lovely lyrical song that you can't help but to sing with and perhaps even to cry with. It is a comforting way to close this musical journey through the surreal experience of MCS.
"Songs From A Porcelain Trailer"
is available from The Environmental Illness Society Of Canada (EISC) for $14.95.
Proceeds support The EI Homelessness Project. Call 1-877-313-3472.
Two pop rock albums "Kim Palmer" and "Meltdown To Bliss" and an acoustic album "Soulo" are also available on cassette at $10 each from the artist.
Listen to a few samples.