You remember Town Monster, right? I brought them up a while to celebrate the legacy of Bela Lugosi in song, then ended up doing a feature on one of the most brilliant independently produced music videos I've ever seen.
It made No. 8 on our Best Music Videos list last year, beating out some pretty impressive work by Erland & the Carnival and Dudely Jones. That was honestly the last I'd heard from the band until now.
True to form for a group that has already proven themselves cinematically, the promo for their upcoming album New Life comes in the shape of a short film... and a massively disturbing one at that.
"I've always wanted to do something like this and it probably won't be our last attempt," says singer Nathan Photos, who stars in the short. "I loved Thriller when I was a kid, I would watch it over and over again on VHS. I think music video could be such a great art form if people would take more risks with it."
And risks they do take. In sharp contrast to "Bela Lugosi" with its bright colors and crystal clarity, Ready for My New Life is as dark and grainy as an Ed Wood flick, with characters always half-shrouded. It opens with Photos standing on a highway overpass watching the cars come and go beneath him. He's clearly thinking about launching himself in the path of the traffic, but decides against it and walks out of frame.
Immediately after you're blasted with the band's new sound, something much more aggressive than the seductive, if bloody, approach they've employed in the past. "This World" hearkens to the throbbing wall of distortion that Ghxst uses, but with the speed and rally of our own Morgue City. Over continuous footage of death and transformation in the animal world, molting and decompositions, Photos thrashes in an ever-changing camera angle focused on his troubled, screaming face.
Once that settles down it's time to get into the heart of darkness. Photos meets up with a mysterious man in an odd mask who takes him down to his basement. That's already a pretty good score for how a horror movie starts out. Photos offers the man a $100, which the man casually sniffs then puts back in Photos' pocket while handing him a knife. Whatever transaction is taking place here will cost more than money.
After slicing off the tip of a finger, Photos finally gets what he wants... a mannequin in pieces that suddenly comes to life and starts boning him.
"It's a metaphor for a lot of things: human ritual, sacrifice, devotion, love, marriage," says Photo. "Nothing says 'I love you' like self-mutilation, I guess."
There's hope amidst the horror of Ready for My New Life. Photos promises his new paramour that he'll take her away from knocking boots with strangers that assemble her like IKEA furniture to further the business of a man that accepts payment in phalanges. Of course, that hope is all hinging on more violence for escape, which Photos proceeds to do while driving off with his box of sex in the backseat.
From a strictly technical point, Ready for My New Life doesn't have the polish of "Bela Lugosi." It is definitely a more amateur looking production, but what it lacks in being slick it makes up for in a fertile ground of possibilities.
"Bela Lugosi" is great, don't get me wrong, but Ready for My New Life hints at Town Monster using film the way Cory McAbee does with the Billy Nayer Show. We're talking the difference between a music video and a whole other way to view music presentation.
Music needs more Thrillers and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasies and Stingray Sams, and as far as I can tell the Town Monster is one of the few groups out there that realize it. With a little time, money, practice, and maybe some lessons from Jordan Utley, they'll go from unnerving to groundbreaking.
Check out the video below, with a special encore of "Bela Lugosi" to follow in case you missed it.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
New Life comes out October 19. Check the Town Monster BandCamp page for details.