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Tales Of The Old Detective, And Other Big Fat Lies



 What is it like to be old, to remember things no one else remembers? Are there any brighter objects in the mists of memory than those you've loved?

Phil Austin's audio book Tales of the Old Detective is a great feast for the ears, dangerous hilarity not nicked from the FT but breathing the same chemical smog. A journey into Phil's past, as longtime Nick Danger chronicler, Shakespearean understudy, kid from Fresno and source of enough inspiration to sink beaver teeth into. It is both the longest and the most serious audio product by a member or the collected Firesign, that I'm aware of. Over two hours of tales, images cascading over you in that sonorous Austin voice - a different feel of course than Roller Maidens or any Fireplay. Not a play at all; just stories, but what stories.

Tales begins with Salad Days, nostalgia's hold on the soul, through the telescope of a luxuriant vocabulary. Time's so slippery, you don't remember when things were, and how they pop up at oddest angles to each other, your memories. The 2nd story, The Age of Brass, confuses the whole idea of age, of living in a particular time that is not some other watch maker's construct. Again, the old detective's yarn is heliotrophic to the love he felt for that out of time Queen.

Even when he leaves Detective mode and spins a tale from his past (The House of Little Men) or urban fantasy (The Precipice of Angels), the narrator is drawn to women like an immortal moth to an eternal flame. Only his automotive visionary C. Bob Heeblehauser (Side 2), blinded by a beaver tale, and Developmental Valley School Lunch Menus ( Austin in "2nd" childhood, the product of the great romance of others) is love not the dominant theme. How many Firesign works can you think of even allude to, much less dwell upon, or show any cognition of love's power over the past, present and future?

Although you'll find much to laugh at in the Tales as you would expect from the title, Firesign's drawing power over their fans has alway been more than a history of chuckles. From The Plague to Princess Goddess, the lads have always been holding our eyes to deep and fearful things. It is a struggle to reach side 6, but you are rewarded by no longer needing your passport. The old detective may be spinning Big Fat Lies and hallucinating getting paid for them, but we trust the narrator is telling us the deepest truth.

The last tale, Yesterday's News, although told in the same Raymond Chandler with a Bozo Nose full of Laughing Gas style we expect of all of Austin's detective chroniclings, moves you as only a necessary ending can. Images flash and burn from memory and imagination and cremation.

What? Tales of the Old Detective is not in your Firesign collection? Click on over to Lodestone or your bookstore of choice and order a copy. Like Ossman's solo works and Proctor and Bergman's Vaudeville for the new Millennium, they aren't Fireworks but can be savoured by any who've fallen under the spell of the 4 or 5, or any lover of language. To surf the sheer weirdness of the world. What else are words for?

cat simril ishikawa