Depends On What You Mean By Believe

photos by miriam rothermel

Aeroplane Pageant, Even The Kids Don’t Believe Me
By John Capone

Brian Kelly stole my John Cassavetes boxed set.

Cassavetes is the seminal director of the independent film movement in the 1970s; Kelly is the lead singer of the Seaford-based band Aeroplane Pageant whose second album, Even the Kids Don’t Believe Me, bends and moves with a celluloid elasticity. Cassavetes’ character-driven films meandered through long moody set pieces that allowed his actors the chance to expand themselves. The songs on Even the Kids dive deeply into characters and moods allowing them to expand themselves.

The album encompasses—in its imagist pop, tempo shifts, propulsion, revelry, prickly moments and some tender ones—all the makings of a grand cinematic foray. One that begins, if the intro track is to be believed, with a man being “swallowed up whole by a tiger.”

To be sure, there are lies on this record.

The song “Nobody Gets Hurt,” with its refrain “Nobody gets hurt tonight,” tells perhaps the most self-aware fib on an album full of tall tales—because, of course, everyone gets hurt. After a crescendo, the warm flickering hum of a projector sets the tempo, and the last line falls low with “It’s not just an empty bed,” thereby making clear the lie of the title.

The title track could be getting at deeper lies, but that depends on to whom you think the “kids” refers. The line “Even the kids they could see right through this,” could just as easily refer to Revolutionary Road-esque suburban superficiality as disillusionment with pop music. Or it could be a self-referential wink at the fantastical nature of some of the songs. Or it could be all of these. Or none.

The songs are forever taking themselves apart and putting themselves back together, never staying in one place for too long. Repeating figures, sound effects, crawling spiders, talking dogs, wandering guitars, jangling guitars, soaring strings and even a mariachi brass break all come and go, and as angular as some of the songs can seem, the overall impression is never disjointed.

The anthemic “I Remember I Think” is at once bare and baroque, and layers on top of itself until it threatens to collapse, but instead segues into the psychedelic “Mouthful of Flowers,” which wends its way through multiple time changes in its three minutes and ultimately culminates in scissoring strings and a cello wail that resolves in the interlude “End of the Impasse.”

At times, as in the closing track “After the Car Crash,” the music burbles in the background as if a soundscape, doing little more than setting the mood. Often for its live shows the band works with filmmaker Nisi Jacobs, whose projections operate in the mix in a similar way. Jacobs’ camera wanders over landscapes both real and surreal, picking up patterns and textures that break up into abstraction just as the music does, and in fact, as the entire songs do, buoyed by lyrics that are often more impressionistic than narrative. Kelly’s voice moves forward and back in the mix, sometimes painfully plaintive, sometimes so far away it becomes nearly unintelligible and fades into the music, leaving the listener alone to explore what’s left.

Aeroplane Pageant will appear on September 19 at 8pm at Broadway Bar (198 Broadway) in Amityville. For more information, visit http://www.aeroplanepageant.com.