As I said in my review of Schooltree’s fantastic concept album Heterotopia, at the beginning of Act II of this amazing prog opera, there is an LP’s side worth of immediately accessible, instant rock and roll classics.
The power and sophistication of these songs is jaw-dropping, so I thought I would devote this current post to them alone, as I resume the synopsis of the prog opera’s storyline.
I also include the last track of Act I, Specter Lyfe, on my playlist of the five classic tracks on the album that became my first-listen favorites. Here are the other four, which kick off the storyline of Act II:
Suzi encounters three shadows who taunt her for her ghostly “condition.” We’ve seen how this story ends, they prophesize, and you’re already dead, just like the rest of your kind. (Dead Girl)
Metanoia reaches out to Suzi after this altercation and teaches her the power of the strange – throughout your experience you will encounter strangeness, you yourself will become strange, but don’t be afraid – form is illusory, lines can be broken down and shaped by your will. Use the strange to adapt yourself and the world around you. (Turning into the Strange)
As Suzi moves through this world and tries to adapt, she begins to realize she’s spent her life overcome, in a cycle of unwitting self-destruction. She’s been a sort of ghost all along, but feels more uncertain and insubstantial than ever now (for obvious reasons). She feels unsure whether it’s her life as a human or her life as a ghost that’s the “reality.” Metanoia offers some perspective on this – all these things that make being a ghost hard are also what make it extraordinary. You are alone, but that makes you singular; you can’t touch anything but you can move through walls; the lines of reality are broken so nothing confines you. This is what will enable you on your quest: the power of the ghost. For a moment Suzi sees clearly the path before her. (Edge Annihilate, Power of the Ghost)
In my review yesterday of Schooltree’s brilliant new album, Heterotopia, I focused primarily on its unexpectedly incredible music, and I didn’t really get into the album’s fascinating mythical storyline, which is reminiscent of the classics (e.g., compare Suzi to Genesis’s Rael, or Enantiodromia to Rush’s Cygnus).
But to give you an idea of just how terrific this fully conceived concept album is, I wanted to offer below an overview of the plot. Here’s the summary of Act I, courtesy of the band’s press kit. (I will place Act II in a separate post.) Use this as your guide to listen to Act I, if you have not yet tuned into this magnificent prog opera.
A Rock Opera from Schooltree
(Prologue) Suzi is a modern underachiever, clinging to yesteryear’s now-defunct dreams of rock-n-roll stardom. Her life became progressively darker as she found ways to support herself outside of the fame and fortune she thought was her destiny. And easier money came with a high cost. (Rocksinger)
A disillusioned Suzi reflects on the bullshit of contemporary life. In her despondence she sees having a soul in these empty times as her biggest problem, and makes a wish – someone please take it away. (The Big Slide)
This is a freakin’ amazing album. If you have not yet heard Schooltree’s Heterotopia, you have no idea what you’re missing.
Imagine if Kate Bush released, in 2017, a 100-minute long, double LP concept album. Imagine if it was so damn good that it ranked right up there in rock history with The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Quadrophenia. Sounds like a total fantasy — too good to be true, right?
Well, that is exactly the magnitude of what is going on here with this release. Except it’s not Kate Bush. It’s an incredible musician I had never heard of, called Lainey Schooltree, who has done the miraculous. With this amazing achievement, she has forever earned her place in the history of rock. This is seriously one of the greatest albums you will ever hear.