“Anyone who has not heard her does not know the power of song. There is no one but is carried away by her singing, a tribute all the greater as we are not in general a music-loving race.” ~ Franz Kafka, 1924
On his deathbed at the age of 40, Franz Kafka wrote a story called “Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk.” It’s terrifying because you can see Kafka change before your eyes from someone who had been as good as dead since his diagnosis with tuberculosis seven years before, someone who was fine with that because he knew he was out of place from the start, to someone who wanted to live. He had no ear for music and was deathly afraid of mice–in his final story he got into the ring with both.
There isn’t a volume loud enough to listen to Frances Quinlan sing for Hop Along. Her voice demands your body tense and tear, holler at the void, live and die with her. It’s an internal cage match, a frenzy. No workaday piping, but flooding. Not ephemeral because it’s death-gripping the ground, but too unobtainable to rot or root. During one the many times I’ve listened to this album, my coffee kettle screamed in the background for three minutes before I noticed.
In Kafka’s story, Josephine the Singer “does not save us and she gives us no strength; it easy to stage oneself as a savior of our people, inured as they are to suffering…who always have managed to save themselves, although at the cost of sacrifices which make historians…quite horror-struck.” (Sorry to butcher the quote, but German sentences are long.) Hop Along’s Quinlan cannot be accused of staging because she is more like the historian, documenter of puzzling evidence. When she sings “Elvis never gave an encore greater than my love gone out the door,” or “There are some parents whose children long for divorce,” or “I’m gonna be creepin’ on you so hard!” it’s without pretense. The band has done all the work to build to the horror-struck history-book choruses and refrains.
“My love is average. I obey an average law,” she owns. It’s an album of deathbed moments from short lives that sometimes felt full. You’ve been steadfast in wanting to die, you’ve embraced the fact that you won’t be remembered, you realize how worth-while life is and how many worthy people are forgotten.
Quinlan started Hop Along as a solo act around 2005; they’ve released one 10″ as a full band, and Get Disowned is their first long player. They’re from Philly. Their record is a beaster.
Buy Get Disowned on LP or CD from Hot Green Records. Computer version available from Hop Along’s Bandcamp. Follow Hop Along’s blog “We Have Not Met…” for tour news and journaling. Like Hop Along the band on Facebook. Watch the video for “Tibetan Pop Stars” and watch them go crazy for 13 minutes performing “Second Name.”