The Impostume may not know much, heck half the time he doesn’t even know what he likes, but if there’s one thing of which he is certain it’s that Oxbow’s “The Narcotic Story” was a masterpiece and Eugene Robinson, king of fools that he is, is hereby crowned with that mightiest of accolades, the Impostume’s joint number one album of the year. (err, take your place beside Panda Bear, ahem.)
The Narcotic Story massively expanded on Oxbow’s piledriving Sabbath blooze adding orchestration and jazz-lounge piano, bringing in space, depth and colour, warping 50’s big band swing and croon. There was new-found restraint in the music, the lyrical and the lush, the strings and violin slowly spiralling into a melee of twisting riffs, powerhouse drums, strung out gibbering and wailing. Apparently Robinson recently got told off for his sexual politics in the Wire ( gahhhh!) but no-one has ever caught or , dammit, given substantial voice to the vertiginous instability of “maleness” better than Robinson. Where the lyrics are audible there’s a recurrent theme of loss and pain, uncertainty, as Eugene shrieks and mutters, mumbles, harmonises, ululates and sometimes just plain sings, giving voice to all the states of male abjection from demonic revelry to murderous hate, to mewling little-boy-lost fear, scrabbling after the shreds and scraps of a self that the cruel blows of life keep casting to the four winds. The narcotic story is magnificently seductive theatre of abjection, the ghosts of Frank Sinatra and Robert Johnson fighting in a Vegas back alley over the last wrap of smack, Edward Hopper re-imagined by Francis Bacon. An imperial, blood-red Burroughsian epic, but the neglected Burroughs of “Junky” rather than the over-quoted “Naked Lunch”.