Let’s talk about poetry. Poetry is an art form that everybody thinks they can do, and chances are they can. Poetry is also an art form that everyone who tries it thinks they can do it well, and that simply is not true. Poetry is not just an interesting string of words on a page to be recited; it’s an incredibly nuanced art that is diverse across the body of people of who make it and within each poem themselves. To quote Philip Whalen, “poetry is a graph of the mind moving”, but on Between Bodies, the new EP by The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die, it’s hard to tell where that mind is going, if it’s going anywhere.
Of course Chris Zizzamia’s poetry will be the first thing to stand out on the EP. It’s a new element to TWIABP’s sound, but it’s not one that I think was executed or even included well. It’s a big deal to include spoken word poetry (if you can call this spoken word) in a single song, let alone an EP. I had mixed feelings about the words as they lay before me onscreen as one giant column of text (which does not lend itself to the poem and distracts from it instead). The concepts about space and the idea that we are made out of the same stuff as the heavens was interesting, but it’s all telling Zizzamia’s thoughts instead of words showing the unstoppable majesty of the universe expanding through time and space while simultaneously crammed into each of us tiny humans.
However, poetry is not only meant to be read silently. Words take on new lives as their tailor displays them reading aloud, and the reading on Between Bodies falls flat. Zizzamia’s delivery is monotonous loud talking with no regard the nuance of his poetry. Listening to the EP’s opener, “Blank #8/Precipice”, sounds like listening to a motivational speaker who’s never taken a public speaking class. Without any kind of variance to his voice, the dynamics of the words are completely lost, and leaning all of this up against the music only exacerbates that.
The music is interesting, which I expected. In fact, I think the instrumental parts do a better job of conveying the beauty of the universe than the poetry does by a long shot. It’s powerful and well-crafted to be so, which is part of the problem on Between Bodies. I’m all for art being unhindered in its creation, but that does not mean that you can just take two cool things and mash them together. It’s like Jim Gaffigan’s description of fruitcake. Fruit: good, cake: great, fruitcake: nasty crap. These two elements were not made with each other in mind. “Space Exploration To Solve Earthly Crises” exemplifies the clash. The music is beautiful, but the simultaneous singing and poetry (which is the same set of inflections but slightly less shouty) are just slapped together and messy.
I found “Thanks” to be the high point of Between Bodies. The band let the music do the talking, but the song is so short and starkly different from the rest of the massive, effects-heavy music that even this is hard to call a high point.
So what about other artists that use poetry in place of singing? One master of the craft is Dan Smith, also known as Listener. He’s released multiple albums under that moniker and was featured in The Chariot’s “David de la Hoz”. Take his delivery with a grain of salt. It’s not for everyone, but that gruff-prospector voice of Smith’s takes a side seat of his masterful control love language and the sounds of his words. Smith’s poetry moves both on its own and its musical backdrop because the two were crafted for each other. Between Bodies doesn’t have much of that. There’s a little bit of solid writing on “Shoppers Beef”, but the ratio of good poetry to poetry as a whole on the EP is pretty disappointing.