Friday, 12 June 2020

REVIEW: It’s Not Really the Apocalypse, Concept Album

Much like the characters in the story, I was a bit lost, a little confused, and left wishing things had turned out differently. 

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Michael A. Grant’s first foray into musical writing, I did, it just didn’t live up to its own expectations. As a self-described ‘tongue-in-cheek take on the classic end-of-the-world plot’ there’s nothing much tongue-in-cheek about it. As the character’s wake from a ‘Four-Day Bender’ (the opening number) they realise that they are the only people left on earth, so they pack up, move to a farm, and… well, that’s it really. Instead of poking fun at the genre, the plot, lyrics and characters rather insert themselves into an underwhelming version of it. The story lacked scarcity, and by that I mean I was never worried for the characters because they seem to have everything they need all the time, in spite of the literal end of the world. This includes a fully functioning farm, all the petrol they’d need for a non-stop, eye-test to Durham, and enough surplus to even have a picnic at the beach. The only problem they seem to have is that sometimes they don’t get along, which also isn’t a hugely fleshed out plot point. All of these narrative choices would have really hit the mark if there were some witticisms about the ‘Ex Machina’ style luck that characters in apocalypse stories often have. Unfortunately, that was lacking, which meant I was left waiting for the lyrical tongue to find its way into any cheek. Perhaps Deadpool has given me too high expectations of this style of writing, but I can’t help feeling Apocalypse wasn’t sure what point it was trying to make about the genre anyway. 

A lot of these forthcomings stem from (as far as I can tell) a first attempt at lyricism. It seems Grant has placed more emphasis on making the songs rhyme rather than pushing the story, which means, if you listen from start to finish in one sitting, the songs begin to feel samey. What is abundantly clear, however, is that this is not Grant’s first attempt at instrumentals, and maybe this is really why I felt underwhelmed by the lyrics in comparison. The Overture is wonderful; it’s interesting and fun, and really sets the tone for what you’d expect of a rag-time tongue-in-cheek apocalypse musical. Throughout, the pianists, Andrew Hopkins and Christopher Fossey, do wonderful justice to Grant’s playful score, and one can only wonder what he would be able to do with a more fleshed out orchestra. 

The instrumental makes it clear that Grant has an obvious ear for comedy and tone, which means the show has a lot of potential should he want to develop it further. I must admit that having visuals or dialogue would probably go a long way to filling in the gaps that are missing, and in letting the writer’s comedy truly shine through, outside of the constricts of rhythm and rhyme. I also firmly believe this show would be a big hit as a short and intimate fringe piece. It just has a relatively long way to go to really hit the tongue-in-cheek nail on the head. 

You can download my favourite track, ‘I Never Did Expect That It Would End Like This’, for free on Michael A. Grant’s website if you want a little taste of the apocalypse. There is a huge amount of potential in the show so I would recommend keeping an eye on it should it be developed further. 

Review by Anna Smith 

Rating: ★
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