Red Crayola - The Parable of Arable Land (1967)

Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 5:08 AM

The Parable of Arable Land (1967) is the first album by the Red Krayola, then known as the Red Crayola. The album is self-described as a “Free Form Freak-Out,” and remains one of the most infamous in their catalogue. A “Free Form Freak-Out” segues each of the actual songs, often resurfacing again elsewhere within the songs. The songs introduce mainstay Mayo Thompson’s signature style of abstract lyrics wed to minimalist (and often avant-garde) melodies and rhythms. The album is also notable for instrumental cameos by label mate and 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson.
While the songs themselves introduce Mayo Thompson’s signature style, it is the inclusion of the “Free Form Freak-Outs” for which the album is best known. They are seen by many critics as a foreshadowing (or a direct precursor) to the Industrial music which surfaced in the 1980’s. While at the time marketed as a “psychedelic” album, the album has more to do with (like Frank Zappa’s work of the time) modern 20th Century Composers and the avant-garde in general.

Thompson’s lyrics, while seemingly fitting in with the often surreal tone of typical 60’s psychedelic lyrics, actually demonstrate a more literary and artistic approach than what was common in rock music of the time. On the other hand, Allmusic critic Richie Unterberger points out that “Hurricane Fighter Plane” is “one of the closest American approximations of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd.” “War Sucks” is very in line with the protest songs of the time, and sports a minimal, tribal-like rhythm not too far removed from the early Velvet Underground.

The most untraditional and avant-garde of the six songs is the title track. An instrumental, it features nothing but a sparse and exotic-sounding percussion loop with minimal improvisation on top of it, building in intensity and then settling down over the course of about three minutes. This is not part of the “Free Form Freak-Outs,” as it seems to be somewhat orchestrated. The song carries the subtitle ”And the End Shall Be Signaled By The Breaking of a Twig”, and indeed, there is the sound of a twig (or some other piece of wood) breaking as the intensity reaches its climax. This track in particular foreshadows the blatantly minimalistic and uncommercial nature of their rejected second album, Coconut Hotel.

It should be noted that each of the songs bears a lengthy subtitle (listed in quotations instead of the typical parentheses) lifted directly from its own lyrics (except for “The Parable of Arable Land,” which is an instrumental).
1. Hurricane Fighter Plane
2. Transparent Radiation
3. War Sucks
4. Pink Stainless Tail
5. Parable of Arable Land

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