When did the art start bleeding out of rock music? When did showmanship and concept get stuffed in the trunk so that the steering wheel could be locked in one direction and the cruise control could be set at 110 mph? (Arguably, it was the precise moment record company execs realized they could make just as much money without it. But I digress.) Even the Ramones, the leather-clad quartet who ushered in the lean, mean, back-to-basics punk era, had a vision and a sense of style. They understood that while a little artistic pretense goes a long way, a drop or two was vital to the creation of captivating rock 'n' roll.
The Slow Poisoner (aka Andrew Goldfarb) knows a thing or two about crafting compelling art from a modest palette. Goldfarb used to have a band full of blokes helping him stretch flesh over his skeletal psychobilly/glam-rock compositions, but the San-Francisco-based musician is generally found solo these days, standing behind a thumping kick drum, strumming away on a hand-hewn electric guitar and singing his little black heart out. And this guy's trip is pretty black indeed. He calls it "surrealistic rock 'n' roll." You'll call it wild. His minimal presentation, described as a collision between David Bowie and Johnny Cash, is riveting and long on character.
And that character is Goldfarb himself. Behind those piercing eyes and disarming grin lies the squirming brain of a demented genius. The one-man music/performance art dervish spins hair-raising musical tales of disease, decay and mayhem. His musical sets include renditions of what Goldfarb refers to as "traditional murder ballads," spirituals and melodies of his own design. His press photo has him casually posing with a severed head. Yet there is nothing contrived about his persona or his art. Nope, the Slow Poisoner is the real deal. Sign up this Sunday night at the Molotov Room (the old Masonic Temple in Hillyard) for a show guaranteed to stir your own sick heart to life.
And speaking of sick, Goldfarb also does an underground comic strip called "Ogner Stump's One Thousand Sorrows," which he writes and illustrates. His bold, contrast-y and nightmarish illustrations perfectly compliment his paranoid and surreal tall tales. His "first 25 sorrows" of a planned thousand-chapter epic are collected in book form from your favorite indie bookstore or through Wonderella Printed (wonderella.com). It is likely the oddest comic book you have ever seen. (Fellow comic artist Shannon "Too Much Coffee Man" Wheeler calls it "Genuinely creepy. Like David Lynch, like Eraserhead.")
"My intention is to finish by the time I'm a hundred years old," says Goldfarb. "I'm currently on track at a rate of 15 Sorrows per year."
Like his musical approach, like Goldfarb himself, like everything this guy does, "One Thousand Sorrows" is seething with an irresistible combination of whimsy and terror, at once delightful and deeply disturbing. Don't put it down, don't turn a deaf ear, and don't turn your back. Andrew the Slow Poisoner is in town.