A Shrinking Violent, the new CD by Montreal-based spoken word artist Skidmore, aka Bob Loblaw, is an 11-track, 57-minute ride through the trials and tribulations of a motley cast of wild and crazy characters. Set in Bali, the overall narrative is marked by a strong sense of North American travellers going far afield in order to discover what we may have already known — you can take us out of the west but you can’t take the west out of us.
Beginning with a parodic introduction in the spirit of Alistair Cooke’s Masterpiece Theatre, the CD from Skidmore’s Pay Per Verse label possesses what the opening narration deems “some of the 21st century’s most unflinching literary filth.” Skidmore’s flights of fancy move raucously from metaphoric hockey lessons representing menstrual cycles (“My period is in overtime”), to somewhat obtuse references to Canadian socialized medicine. In its entirety the CD creates a kind of surreal critique of colonialism graced by a fluid, ambient soundscape that moves effortlessly from classical music to jungle sounds, with sections of original music by Jackie Gallant.
Tracks nine and 10 provide perhaps the most “per verse” sections of narration as we meet a “lady doctor [who] plunges her well-greased fist back up into the orifice, the room falls quiet, the silence broken by the sound of the knuckles on her small hand cracking in the ascent.” This graphic hospital scene is quickly followed by the entrance of “a paraplegic named Woody” who wields a “claw-tipped riding crop” with erotic dexterity. No subject seems taboo in the able hands of Skidmore as she makes her way, in a darkly humourous and infectious manner, through subjects such as “herpes Chlamydia crabs HIV RSVP.”
The melodic lyricism of the writing is first rate, while the narrative tends to flag a little midsection, taking us into a variety of engaging yet prolonged scenarios that move away from a somewhat xenophobic western gaze into indirectly related tales of suburban mayhem. Not for the faint of heart or the politically correct, the often religious-based xenophobia is always critical of itself in subtly comic ways and is held together by a highly erotic and violent master narrative that never fails to amuse the most perverse among us.
A Shrinking Violent is also graced by the voices of performance artists such as Alexis O’Hara, Stephen Lawson, Aaron Pollard, Jon Anderson and Serena the pig. If you feel the need to cuddle up with a cacophonous stroll through imperialist chaos then this is the perfect bedtime story. As the lasciviously selected liner notes state, as you listen you may very well be “awoken from a dream” as the “nightmare begins.”