Turfseer‘s epic new 33-track Scamdemic Collection – streaming at Soundcloud – is the bucket of ice water at the end of the marathon. It’s a suicide hotline on wheels. If you’ve been thinking the New Abnormal nightmare will never end, this record will lift your spirits. Outrageously funny as many of these songs are, they speak truth to power.
The studio-only project’s mastermind, Lewis Papier, started writing protest songs shortly after the global totalitarian coup in March of 2020 and he hasn’t stopped since. He’s the missing link between Jeff Lynne and Jello Biafra. Musically speaking, his big anthems are a blend of New Pornographers and ELO, with frequent, sarcastic detours into theatre music, circus rock and occasional stabs at country that sound more like Sean Lennon. The Alan Parsons Project are also a good reference point, considering that band’s rotating cast of singers and musicians. Behind the hilarious lyrics, there’s forceful neoromantic piano, sweeping strings and lush harmonies, or scruffy guitars and soaring pedal steel.
What’s it like to listen to all 33 tracks? Redemptive AF – and a little chilling, with moments of full-blown PTSD. Papier, who hails from Queens, doesn’t mention the lines outside Trader Joe’s, or the cringe-inducing nightly 7 PM pots-and-pans psy-op ritual, but he has vindictive fun satirizing every other scam the behavioral scientists of the Gates Foundation and the propagandists of CNN have subjected us to since then. And not all the songs are satirical.
The first track is Forever Freedom Brigade. a cheery, upbeat anthem spiced with banjo and pedal steel: “They keep us apart, we all have been fooled, freedom is something you don’t learn in school.” Things get considerably more grim from there through the end of the record, but Papier’s message is clear and bright: you’re not alone.
Papier is wise to Covid groupthink as both death cult and new religion. The Virus Is My God, a brisk Old West gothic shuffle, is one of the most tellingly detailed parables here, right down to the out-of-work bartenders and hookers, and the hanging judge who’s going after the town doctor. An unidentified woman sings the piano ballad My Mystery Cult with an unrelenting, rapt reverence, even as the initiation ceremony transforms her DNA into something distinctly inhuman. And amid the baroque-rock cadences of Church of the Pandemic Mind, “If you don’t believe, you’re a snake, we’ll burn you now at the stake.”
The devil is in the details throughout the rest of the record. Kids’ video games are weaponized to spread fear porn in the ominously swaying historical parable O Holy Roman. The Tyranny Train is where you’ll feel “the noose slip round your neck, and not so loose.” And the Statue of Liberty recurs as an unnamed, tarnished image throughout the angst-infused Nevermore.
Other songs draw deeply on how history repeats itself. The Ballad of Typhoid Mary, a ragged circus rock number, recounts the doomed saga of the feisty Irish cook who was the first to be accused of asymptomatic disease transmission, which we now know is basically an old wives’ tale. 1692 Was a Very Good Year, the most vivid ELO/Carl Newman mashup here, makes the Salem Witch Trials connection. The funky I Drank the Kool-Aid references the Jim Jones massacre. And the brooding folk-rock anthem Days of No Immunity traces the turbulent and largely unsuccessful early history of vaccine science.
There isn’t a song here that doesn’t have a wicked punchline. Some of the funniest tunes include Who Stole the Boston Cream Pie, a snarky, witchy parable of lockdown-era binge-eating, and the faux-earnest Sheeple University, whose students pledge never to disobey or think for themselves. Gaga’s Gone, packed with sarcastic Lady Gag references, ends with a couple of breathless, diehard fans being turned away by security on the way into the concert. And It’s Just a Mask features a fierce debate between a guy who’s in the Covid cult for life, and the soulful belter who wants to sing her way out of lockdown.
1984 Is Here, a parody of American Idol excess, quickly escalates to where “They’ll give you some loot if you persecute all those who don’t fit the mold.”
“No more indoor restaurant dining, now there’s no more whining, you can always order delivery,” is the cynical message in Passport to Hell, a Vegas noir ballad. The most sinister of all these songs is The Commandant, a menacing, Schumann-esque art-rock piano anthem where
I’m the Commandant, you must play by our rules
You didn’t listen, we gave you the tools
That’s what you get, a knock on the door
We’ll take you away, you’ll be feeling quite sore
We blocked all your funds, you can’t pay the rent
You don’t understand, we brook no dissent
Someday, when the world has a much smaller population, children will ask some of us what the plandemic was like. Not many of us are going to want to talk about it: Instead, we can give them this album as evidence of how we survived…and how so many others didn’t.