The scientists are:
- Mary Anning (the “bone girl” of Lyme Regis)
- Luther Burbank (who brought us the Russet Burbank potato among other plants)
- Marie Curie
- Charles Darwin
- Albert Einstein
- Buckminster Fuller
- Galileo Galilei
- Werner Heisenberg
- Jan Ingenhousz (this is the surely the only pop song in the world containing the word “phlogiston”)
- Thomas Jefferson
- William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin
- Joseph Lister
- Thomas Malthus (who always makes me think of the Malthusian Belts in Brave New World)
Many of the songs on the album are mini biographies of the scientists combined with recaps of their accomplishments and theories. Charles Darwin, Luther Burbank and Albert Einstein are the most straightforward of these. Albert
Einstein’s is the lone first person entry, beginning the album with the words: “I was born in Bavaria…” but the rest are third person. Thomas Jefferson, Marie Curie and Jan Ingenhousz are minimalist vignettes of their subjects, while Buckminster Fuller and Werner Heisenberg focus on the ideas rather than the lives. Werner Heisenburg
describes the issue of the observer’s role in reality, but endears itself to me by not promoting any
particular interpretation – as the song says, “why is not the question, but how.”. I especially liked how backup vocals echo the “how” into “ow” and a very appropriate “wow”; in another part of the song they seem to sputter “but- but- but-” just as Heisenberg’s critics did.
Luther Burbank is my new favorite song. The use of a spoken voice
in part of it, surrounded by a catchy beat, reminds me a little of Beck. The band has a slightly gravelly male lead singer with some wonderful ethereal female backup vocals, and the album is constructed from the usual complement of electric and acoustic guitar and drums, along with pipes and harmonica and other things I can’t identify. The sound is full bodied and masterfully evocative of mood, from wistful and charming (Thomas Jefferson) to punkishly energetic (Joseph Lister).
I got my copy of the album digitally from iTunes for $9.99 but you can also spend $12 postpaid to
get the CD direct from Artichoke’s web site
complete with a free sticker. I highly recommend it!