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Misc. Mayhem: The Insect God
June 5, 2009 — 10:11 pm

Being one of the tracks on my Misc Mayhem! mix-tape.

I’m not sure what entity entered my sphere of awareness first, Edward Gorey or Camper Van Beethoven. For the purpose of this post, I’ll assume I came across both at relatively the same time. Stick with me here.

First, Camper Van Beethoven. I don’t want to stick with this band too much…we’ll see them more in a later post. When the band broke up in the early 90’s, two feuding bands emerged: David Lowery’s Cracker and Victor Krummenacher’s Monks of Doom.

I was perfectly happy to pay my allegiances to the Cracker side of the rift. They stumbled with their first release, but I still think their second effort, Kerosene Hat, is a fine, fine piece of work.

I didn’t pay much attention to Monks of Doom until Eric sent me a mix-tape (literally a tape) with The Insect God included.

For those not familiar with The Insect God, I give you Edward Gorey, who wrote the original poem:

O what has become of Millicent Frastley?
Is there any hope that she’s still alive?
Why haven’t they found her? It’s rather ghastly
To think that the child was not yet five.

The dear little thing was last seen playing
Along by herself at the edge of the park;
There was no one with her to keep her from straying
Away in the shadows and oncoming dark.

Before she could do so, a silent and glittering
Black motor drew up where she sat nibbling grass;
From within came a nearly inaudible twittering,
A tiny green face peered out through the glass.

She was ready to flee, when the figure beckoned;
An arm with two elbows held out a tin
Full of cinnamon balls; she paused; a second
Reached out as she took one, and lifted her in.

The nurse was discovered collapsed in some shrubbery,
But her reappearance was not much use;
Her eyes were askew, he extremities rubbery,
Her clothing was stained with a brownish juice.

She was questioned in hopes of her answers revealing
What had happened; she merely repeatedly said
‘I hear them walking about on the ceiling’.
She had gone irretrievably out of her head.

O feelings of horror, resentment, and pity
For things, which so seldom turn out for the best;
The car, unobserved, sped away from the city
As the last of the light died out in the west.

The Frastleys grew sick with apprehension,
Which a heavy tea only served to increase;
Though they felt it was scarcely genteel to mention
The loss of their child, they called in the police.

Through unvisited hamlets the car went creeping,
With its head lamps unlit and its curtains drawn;
Those natives who happened not to be sleeping
Heard it pass, and lay awake until dawn.

The police with their torches and notebooks descended
On the haunts of the underworld, looking for clues;
In spite of their praiseworthy efforts, they ended
With nothing at all in the way of news.

The car, after hours and hours of travel,
Arrived at a gate in an endless wall;
It rolled up a drive and stopped on the gravel
At the foot of a vast and crumbling hall.

As the night wore away, hope started to languish
And soon was replaced by all manner of fears;
The family twisted their fingers in anguish,
Or got them all damp from the flow of their tears.

They removed the child to the ball-room, whose hangings
And mirrors were streaked with a luminous slime;
They leapt through the air with buzzings and twangings
To work themselves up to a ritual crime.

They stunned her, and stripped off her garments, and lastly
They stuffed her inside a kind of a pod;
And then it was that Millicent Frastley
Was sacrificed to The Insect God.

This is dark stuff. Dark and fun, especially married up to Gorey’s black inked drawings. Get yourself to a bookstore and check out some of it in person.

As good as this is, it’s absolutely spellbindingly delicious when set to music. Krummenacher has an indescribably beautiful and instantly recognizable voice. When he belts out the above stanzas, it’s not a cliche to say the effects are haunting. And yet, it’s one of the best rock and roll songs I’ve ever heard. Add David Immergluck’s wailing (as stated before, the wail he lets out mid-song almost defies universal logic. He just keeps going and going) and guitar to the rest of the band and what you have is something amazing.

Again, the live performance doesn’t do the studio version justice, though they both have their virtues.

— Justin M. StoddardComments (0)

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