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Chris Brett Bailey
Verbal Battery Nick Roseblade , August 8th, 2019 09:21

On his new spoken word album Chris Brett Bailey goes for a quicker and more direct approach of storytelling, finds Nick Roseblade

When reviewing Canadian poet, spoken word performer, musician and audio auteur Chris Brett Bailey you have to be careful. In the past he produced a t-shirt emblazoned with a bad review. While this hints that he doesn’t take his reviews too seriously, it also shows he isn’t afraid to call people out if he disagrees with him. With that in mind I tentatively press play on the cassette re-issue of his 2018 album Verbal Battery.

On his previous albums This is How We Die and Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight, Bailey sounds like what would happen if Lenny Bruce started writing David Lynch scripts and released them as spoken word albums. They are dark, dense and hilarious. Due to their length, both clocking in at eighty minutes, Bailey could take his time to get going and really draw out the detail. On their follow up Verbal Battery it is a much different affair. Recorded live during Bailey’s Suicide Notes book tour, the performances are a much looser, more spontaneous collection of short stories, poems and one-liners.

On ‘This is How We Die’ and ‘Kissing the Shotgun Goodnight’, Bailey was being recorded directly from his microphone and any extra sounds were just bleed from the room, but Verbal Battery feels like the microphone is in the middle of the crowd, not only recording his unrelenting verbal assault on the audience, but their giggles, cackles, and uneasy chair moves. The recordings sound cruder and give a more intimate experience.

At first it’s hard to keep up with not only the plots and jokes due to the blistering pace of Bailey’s delivery, but when you get used to this, you begin to grasp his brilliance. But this is also the downside to Verbal Battery. At times Bailey’s scattershot delivery is so fast that you’re still trying to comprehend what you’ve just heard halfway through the next routine. What makes Verbal Battery such a visceral and enjoyable experience is Bailey himself. Through surreal imagery, the use of repetition, and one of the sharpest wits on the scene today, the stories feel otherworldly yet deeply grounded in reality. A tale about a one night stand with Adam – of Adam and Eve fame – feels believable, even if we know it’s not. And this is down to his wordplay. When he describes the bar, we instantly recognise it. When he catalogues Adam’s flat, we know the furniture he’s describing. And it’s this attention to detail that is the more rewarding on repeat listens.