Diversions Page 8, Album Review: William S. Burroughs

Spare Ass Annie And Other Tales

Island Red Label

Diversions Story by George Eckart, 10/22/93

At first glance, the coupling of 79-year-old author William S. Burroughs 
and rappers The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy might seem to make 
absolutely no sense in a sane universe. However, Burroughs rarely deals 
with a sane universe, so this collaboration has a certain odd logic to it.
Like Burroughs, The DHOH play by their own rules. They go by their real 
names, use a guitarist, resist the obvious rap stereotypes and lead rapper
Michael Franti's vocals even border on spoken-word recitals ("Television:
The Drug of a Nation").

Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales features Burroughs reading his spoken-word
monologues and excerpts from his novels while The Disposable Heroes 
construct background music around it. Even though the tales don't 
necessarily connect, the Heroes make the whole album stick together as 
one, creating a funky, surreal and absorbing trip through Burroughs' 
twisted literary vision. Rather than just kick out the jams, Michael 
Franti and Rono Tse piece together a soundscape that underscores 
Burroughs' word imagery sharply.

The title track features a stripped-down phat beat with a quirky wah-wah 
guitar lick that augments Burroughs' Kafka-esque tale of mutants with 
assholes in the middle of their foreheads and centipede bodies (from 
Interzone). A syrupy orchestra backs "Mildred Pierce" while Burroughs 
weaves a tale of the military raping and pillaging their own people. 
Burroughs' dark humor is in effect with "Words of Advice For Young 
People," "Dr. Benway Operates" and "Did I Ever Tell You About The Man That
Taught His Asshole To Talk."

The themes of drugs, madness, desperation, alienation and supernatural 
mutants all are dealt with in a humorous, surreal and oftentimes 
compassionate fashion. Burroughs' worn and oddly addictive voice tells a 
poignant story on the intense "The Junky's Christmas" with The Disposable
Heroes illustrating the narrative without becoming intrusive.

Spare Ass Annie is a solid spoken-word album that is sure to please 
Burroughs followers. Each tale stands on its own and has a unique flavor 
due to The Disposable Heroes' clever and varied production. Burroughs' 
confounding surrealistic tales might not be for everybody (think about 
whether or not you liked the film Naked Lunch) and hip hop purists might 
not dig this due to the complete lack of rapping and restrained use of 
beats. So Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales ends up an interesting concept 
album to be sat down and savored; not boomed out of a Jeep.

+++1/2