So what's Stephen Sheehan up
to now? That's the first question that came to mind when I received an ornately decorated
box containing a cassette tape marked "Bliss Repair" a month ago. Also enclosed,
a letter explaining everything. But first, who the hell is Stephen Sheehan?
Way back in the '80s and early '90s, Dr. Sheehan (he's not really a doctor, as far as I
know) was the lead vocalist for an Omaha-based ambient rock band called Digital Sex. You
can read all about the band and their weird exploits right in this very website by
clicking here. In addition to Digital Sex,
Sheehan also's been involved in a number of eccentric and always interesting bands and
Hence, the new Bliss Repair 4-song demo, this time mixing spoken word with ambient,
pseudo-electronica backing tracks and noises. What's the deal these days with spoken-word
performance albums, anyway? Belle and Sebastian offshoot Looper is scoring heavy college
attention with their new CD, Up a Tree, a collection of writings spoken in a thick
Scottish brogue (a review of Up a Tree also is online at that good ol' Lazyeye reviews page). And what about the enormously popular
spoken word track by Baz Luhrmann -- "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)"? Is
it a trend? Is it a fad? Most likely. Although I know Sheehan isn't trying to capitalize
on it (he tells me he's never heard either recording).
Bliss Repair isn't nearly as slick as those two CDs. It's DIY all the way, with Sheehan
recording his recitations on a tape recorder, then sending them off to St. Paul's Eric
Rea, a former Omahan (who used to be in a band called The Decades), who places them over
looped drums, bass and synth sounds. The lyrics for the first track, "This is
Reality," features Sheehan reading the directions from a Reality female contraceptive
box. Lines like:
Reality only works when you use it.
Before using Reality, read the directions and learn how to use it properly.
Because Reality is new, it may look different to you or you may feel
nervous about trying to insert it.
Get it? It's sort of, I don't know
ironic? Rea's bass is a 4/4 funk thing, lying
beneath all sorts of noises, including what sounds like a backward-tracked sitar. About
halfway though, Rea breaks up the old-school drum beat and turns in a
middle-eastern-flavored electronica rant. Eventually, Rea has no choice but to distort
Sheehan's voice. It's weird, it's bracing, it's what we've all come to expect from a
Sheehan project. Translated: It's ain't boring, and will take repeated listenings to
smooth the rough edges. A much more experimental second mix of the track appears at the
end of the tape. Everything gets distorted. Sort of like listening to the track under