Bob Harper

Just when I start to think I’ve reviewed every conceivable medium, along comes a CD that is in rotation on XM Satellite Radio. (Does one capitalise that phrase?) Unfortunately, I am far too poverty-stricken to have satellite radio in my car, but at least I can listen to the CD and dream of the day when I am one of the riches. And I can long for the days of old-time radio when such shows as “X Minus One,” “The Shadow,” and “Suspense” made you exercise your brain, instead of straining your eyes and churning your stomach.

The selections on Twisted Rhymes are lavishly produced and presented, with an emphasis on pure entertainment. It’s a shame that this review won’t be out ’til after Hallowe’en, because what a great party activity it could be. This is the equivalent of gathering your sleeping bags into a tight circle and trying to scare the pants off each other with horror stories. Even better if you were camping in an appropriately “Blair Witch”y forest. No need to shine a flashlight under your chin with these sound effects and creepy music to put a fright into you.

Most of the tracks are, indeed, rhymes, of simple construction and rhythm amped up several notches by the high production values. It’s impossible to discount the influence Edgar Allan Poe and kitschy Vincent Price movies in such tongue-in-cheek offerings as “Cup a’ Joe” and “Cap’n MacKnee.” They are gleefully wallowing in camp; the author, Bob Harper, brave enough not to take himself and his work too seriously, which would have spoiled the entire package.

Of the ten tracks, only “Patient #9” ventures outside the comfortable spookiness that pervades the disc. The notion of a sadistic sociopath with a penchant for experimentation is just a little too possible… Hell, it’s probable, these days. It’s a subject too disturbing to laugh off easily. And maybe it’s that repetitive chant that adds an extra chill to “Voo Doo.”

Harper choses a perfect closing verse for the collection, “And Nothing More.” For those of us who think it’s sheer hubris to imagine that any presentation can attain the perfection of Bart Simpson as the ubiquitous Raven, “And Nothing More” is a delightful tribute to that immortal lament to the radiant Lenore. It is only that and nothing more…

The next time your teenagers gather together for a sleep-over, slip this CD into the player and hit the lights. Mwah ha ha. Or wait until your next late night solo drive to tune into XM’s Sonic Theatre Channel 163. Just make sure you have a full tank of gas and you’re positive you checked the back seat for axe-wielding maniacs.