World Entertainment War: The Televisionarium Is Always On

By Tess Lotta
Reprinted from "Instant Planet" Summer 2000

Your nightmares and traumas can make you rich and famous
Commercials can teach you all that you need to know
Kiss my flag   Don't look back   The past is gaining on us
Read my lips   Watch my lips   These are the Dark Ages. . .
Might be the Dark Ages but we're so happy   Happy to be here today

Soak in the above excerpts of Rob Brezsny's poetry doubling as song lyrics contained in the opening track of "Give Too Much," the recent release of Brezsny's band World Entertainment War. This is not the only Brezsny infotainment, to quote the man himself, that I have pondered recently. I was able to catch Brezsny and World Entertainment War gracing Kane Hall at the [University of Washington] on a stop during Brezsny's book tour for "The Televisionary Oracle." I have heard him speak, the band perform, have been listening to the CD in order to extract an education for a responsible review, and I find myself now more than halfway through the book, which I bought at Kane Hall. As I thought the universe was immersing me far too deep into the creative psyche of another human, I now feel strongly that the best way for me to ingest the subtler meanings of this record was to be immersed in the mind of it's creator via the book.

World Entertainment War, when viewed through the history presented in "The Televisionary Oracle," is more than an outlet for Brezsny's musical leanings. It is quite possibly the result of a prolific and prophetic performance artist and his band of co-conspirators. The mission of these talented soldiers is revealed more clearly within the personal transformation of Rockstar, one of the main characters in the book. The serious pitfall of any artist co-mingling message in various mediums is that the intent may get lost. Brezsny tiptoes on the border of this cliff and can be interpreted as either a genius narcissist [who] cannot separate himself from what he sees himself creating, or he is a genius, period.

Brave souls like Brezsny project the ego into character as a way to tackle the issues presented by the world-process and its subsequent lackey, the ego. Maybe that is why performance art is appreciated only when digested and why so many performance artists are misunderstood -- the mirror is unveiled. Brezsny seems to be using an alter ego, in Rockstar, to portray the spiky terrain where ego disembodies from the soul, and how the outer world distorts and disrupts this process by brainwashing with a social religion touting happiness via consumerism.

Two of his qualified predecessors in the rock-opera genre are Roger Waters and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Waters witnessed the descent of his bandmate and friend Syd Barrett into an artistically and physically crippling battle with drugs and insanity. The movie "The Wall," is a detailed documentary of the ripping of the ego from the soul. Blended with the album of the same name, the character Pink embodies the sacred minute soldier in a world of dysfunctional social norms hellbent on destroying the voice of the individual. Consequently, the more Pink strives to keep listening, the harder the world pushes to crush the faintest of voices. Brezsny's performance plays out in a novel accompanied by the musical work to convey a similar message. The hopeful contrasts are that Brezsny's characters are winning the battle and are not shy about sharing the secrets of their success. For Brezsny, the process is a grand and beautiful contradiction, and having a personal relationship with your demons works to deflate their power -- rather than running, one invites them over for high tea.

The musical work of World Entertainment War is full of Brezsny's tongue-and-cheek truisms. Rather than an interpretive style of lyric writing, Brezsny relies on performance-based poetry. No interpretation necessary as the message is laid in straight-out fashion -- the only interpretation is left up to the highly skilled musicians and Brezsny himself, who coalesce the package into a tight rock format. The vocal work is haunting and addictive, reminiscent of when Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, and Stevie Nicks collectively croon in Fleetwood Mac. Although Brezsny fronts on vocals, Darby Gould and Amy Excolere are indispensable at making the point.

"Give Too Much" plays out like a rock opera linked by a faint underlying media-toned jabber like one may catch in the subconscious when a television is on in another room. From reading Brezsny's book, I can only assume that the stream is indeed "The Televisionary Oracle" working to undo years of programmed socialization. Considering all the elements and the music itself, this piece fits well into the musical scheme. WEW are mostly 80s-influenced modernizing and slicking up good ol' rock 'n' roll in a similar vein as The Eurythmics. In "Marlboro Man Jr.," the fourth song on "Give Too Much," the band stretches rock boundaries with a danceable beat enhanced by Daniel Lewis' prog-style bass efforts and guitarist Anthony Kevin Guess' reggae-style guitar work. The song comes off as a dance song edged with Brezsny's message and the right amount of rock grit.

"Give Too Much" has plenty of musical merit to stand on its feet as a rock record. It is extremely well-written as a compositional piece and producer/engineer Marc Senasac draws out the incredible strength of musicians that spontaneously blend well together. As an accompaniment to Brezsny's total message, it provides an excellent sound track. Deciding whether Brezsny works out his demons or his demons are actually working him is left up to the listener. And just maybe, that is the grand disillusion of genius.

"Instant Planet" is a quarterly arts and spirituality magazine published in Seattle. Contact them by emailing or writing Instant Planet Press, P.O. Box 22229, Seattle, WA 98122.