Monday, September 19, 2011

Music's Only Airship Pirates

With a crew of drunken pilots, we're the only airship pirates!
We're full of hot air and we're starting to rise
We're the terror of the skies, but a danger to ourselves!

Over the last decade or so, untold amounts of digital ink have been spilt trying to define the term "Steampunk". Part of the problem is that steampunk is more of a stylistic genre than anything else, and as such can be applied to film, or literature, or prop-making, or music, or pretty much any other form of art.

Now, while I've been interested in the genre since I first heard of its existence* that last category, steampunk-as-music-genre, didn't really appeal. Back in 2008, however, I came across a reference to a little ditty called "Airship Pirates", by a group called Abney Park. An intriguing title, to say the least. Once I had tracked down and listened to the song, well, I really liked what I heard:

Unfortunately,none of the other songs on their "Lost Horizons" album really grabbed me in quite the same way - not even the incongruously upbeat (not to mention plot-relevant) "Post-Apocalypse Punk". So, I bought a copy of "Airship Pirates" as a single, and went on my merry way.

A couple of years later, I heard a rumor that "The Wrath of Fate", a song from the band's new album, was something of a sequel to "Airship Pirates". Now, I'm a big fan of gratuitous continuity, so I decided to give it a shot.

Now, that's more like it. As I poked around, I discovered that the new album -  called The End Of Days - takes "gratuitous continuity" to a level possibly unheard of in the music industry.

It seems that, since Abney Park decided to brand itself as a "steampunk band", they've been using their songs to create a fictional background for themselves; a complex story involving time travel, accidental apocalypses ("plot-relevant", remember?), and of course Airship Piracy. In recent months, they've even branched out into a role-playing game and upcoming novel further exploring the setting.

But even without this lovingly crafted backstory, many of the songs from The End of Days (as well as their previous album, Æther Shanties) are quite enjoyable themselves. I would especially point out the aforementioned "The Wrath of Fate", "To the Apocalypse In Daddy's Sidecar", and "Neobedouin", from the former; and "Building Steam" and "The Clockyard" from the latter, as being well worth a listen.

With these last few albums, Abney Park has easily made itself one of the most unique-sounding bands I've ever heard. Even if they have written a philosophically questionable lyric or two (I'm still trying to work out whether the references to Christianity in "I've Been Wrong Before" are complimentary or not), I will be quite interested in whatever they end up doing next.

They're certainly better musicians than they are pirates, at least . . .

*The date of which, for the historically minded, I can only say (though with some certainly) was between 4 November 2004 and 23 February 2007.

No comments: