|Vic Chesnutt's About to Choke (Capitol)
Leapfrogging Gen X
Will Gentrifiction Swallow Him Whole?
Vic Chesnutt's music not only spurns Generation X, it downright leapfrogs it. The tentative piano
that dances around "Myrtle" evokes nothing so much as a sleepy 4-year-old resting on an upright; the
voice itself is ancient, a cross between J. Michael Pollard and Grampa Simpson. The 12 songs that
make up About to Choke are diverse enough instrumentally to avoid the strum (strum)monotony of so
many singer-songwriters. The distorted guitar of "Ladle" lets you know that Vic's wheelchair is
never too far from a wall outlet. Did I mention that he's a quadriplegic?
Drunk, Vic wrecked up his Chevette in Pike County, Georgia, 13 Easter Sundays ago. Physical therapy
has since enabled a sort of rudimentary musicianship with the Casio and six-string; emotional
therapy's right there in the lyric sheet, "whittled with an exacto knife/plumb right through (my)
load bearing wall."
Like his wheelchair-bound compadre, Robert Wyatt, Chesnutt's songs veer from major-key playful ("Why
don't we have a little symposium/where everybody takes the floor" from the jaunty "Little Vacation"
complete with Yamaha-induced flugelhorn) to minor-key hurt ("You've been sashaying around the picket
line/Wearing scarcely any sign/But always vocal in love and strife/and the politics of your
all-important life...And I ain't got time for niceties" from the album-closing, "See You Around").
By the way, Bob Mould produced him (turned out the lights at the end of sessions, by all
appearances). Michael Stipe discovered him (the aural equivalent of Howard Finster, sort of). And
the likes of Live and Soul Asylum are championing him on the alternarock circuit. Here's hoping
that Vic Chesnutt doesn't trade up from exacto knife to blowtorch, that the tunes stay elusive, the
lyrics impregnable, the injury incurable.