e could have opened for Radiohead”, his grandchildren will whisper when he visits during holidays. “He was in this band that had a kinda-hit song in a movie once...”, one will whisper as they watch him relax on the couch. “...But he got sick, and he couldn’t be in the band anymore.” A sad story for Gordon Anderson, a.k.a. Lone Pigeon. Gordon was one of the original members of the Beta Band. He co-wrote "Dry the Rain," "B + A", "Dogs Got a Bone" and "The Cow's Wrong." Unfortunately, Anderson’s health got shady right as the Beta Band was being signed to Regal Records. Anderson returned to Scotland without his fellow band mates and started working with the Fence Collective, a loose collection of bands from Fife, Scotland. Concubine Rice is a collection of songs made with the Fence Collective, most of which have been released as homemade CDRs or super-limited EPs.
About one and a half minutes into the first song on this album, I want to either throw the disc against the wall or plant it in my cat’s litter box. Cutesy animal sounds are mixed with a shuffling beat and a melody that sounds like a college student’s Beginning Keyboard 101 attempt at an Abbey Road era Beatles like song. (It’s not the last time he’ll ape the Beatles.) It’s not terribly ambitious, and the lyrics stink. “She walks down to the Elephant Sanctuary tonight/ And writes a letter for the chimpanzee by the candle light.” The killer though, is that after he sings, “Elephant Sanctuary tonight”, there is a brief pause followed by the sound of an elephant call. The pause draws so much attention to the sound effect, that it comes off as affected, instead of charming. This might be at home if the Teletubbies were singing it.
Lone Pigeon also spends a lot of time revisiting his days in the Beta Band. Melodies and lyrics that were used in Beta Band songs surface again here, used like samples and snippets. On “King Creosote’s Wine Glass Symphony” Lone Pigeon sings the lyrics from “Dry the Rain” over a Windham Hill sampler song. “I will be alright/ I will be ok/ I will be alright/ I will be ok.” Or, at least that’s what it sounds like. This is followed by “The Road Up to Harlow Square”, another shameless Beatles rip that combines two songs, both of which, are shameless Beatles rips. He even sounds like he’s trying to sing like Paul. Oh, Paul...the legacy you left us. Countless bands with dog-eared copies of Revolver and Abbey Road, strumming their guitars, trying to write another
As much as I love a good mess of a record, most of what’s on here just reminds me far too much of other artists. Goofy, Smile outtakes. Troubled, zany troubadour Skip Spence. It’s interesting, imaginative and occasionally toe-tapping, but just mostly comes off as half-baked and haphazard. I get the feeling that Gordon sat around with his Fence friends and said, hey, lets do something wacky where I sing/speak over what sounds like a children’s toy. “Beatmix Chocbar Wrap” would be that song. Anderson starts out with some lo-fi static fuzz, and tells us, the listener, this little story, “Deep, deep in the land of the living poop. The people popped out, pondering in the fields. What were they looking for? They were looking for insectiflys. They were looking for buzzard fleas. No. They were looking for the Hubbard Cow. The ancient Hubbard Cow of Bubble Poop.” Ugh. You may now wince. Take comfort in the knowledge that it doesn’t get better, Anderson throws some train of thought rapping over the rest of the track. Another shade of the Beta Band, but not nearly as inspired as something like “Beta Band Rap”.
The best moments come in little bites of beautiful melody and graceful lo-fi bedroom pop. “Waterfall/Boats” is a tiny bit of a song, lasting only a hair over a minute. A pretty, twinkling guitar melody creates a lullaby that Syd Barret could have written. This song, and the others like it, (“Melonbeard/Lay Me Down/ Stars Won’t Sleep”, “Oh Catherine”, and “Bona Fide World”), are all examples of when the bedroom pop sound works. Little, intimate glimpses into the head of the artist.
It’s frustrating to feel like this album could have been great. If you’re willing to skip through a bunch of filler, and cutesy nonsense, Concubine Rice has some rewarding moments. It’s the start of something. Could be great, could be crap. Time will tell.
Reviewed by: Colleen Delaney
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01