Directed by Tom Berninger and Chris Sgroi. From Serpentine Prison, due October 2 on Book/Concord.
There’s nothing to pull you out of your quarantine funk like hearing an unexpected reference to Big Star in the opening verse of a new song.
I see the starlight through the clouds
Why won’t anybody listen to me?
Don’t make me say it again out loud
Big Star are doing “Don’t Worry Baby”
I had to look that up. Turns out a snippet was originally released on 2008’s Thank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story, but the full recording was finally released a couple years ago on Omnivore’s Complete Third (which I guess I finally ought to pick up now).
“Serpentine Prison” doesn’t sound anything like Big Star, or even solo Alex Chilton. But it was produced by Booker T. Jones, so it’s got at least a little of that Memphis soul.
Berninger says, “The title is from a twisting sewer pipe that drains into the ocean near LAX. There’s a cage on the pipe to keep people from climbing out to sea. I worked on the song with Sean O’Brien and Harrison Whitford and recorded it about six months later with Booker T. Jones producing. It feels like an epilogue so I named the record after it and put it last.”
Some of the lyrics are kind of dumb (“I’ve been picking my kid up from school / Smelling like girl scout cookies and drool”) and there are a lot of forced rhymes, but overall the cumulative effect sets a claustrophobic mood that reflects the lockdown vibe pretty accurately.