Of course I went for the pre-order deluxe edition of Not Your Typical Victorians, the new album from The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. It wasn’t the super deluxe version with gin or chocolate. It came with a bonus disc of demos and outtakes and a liner notes zine. My inedible extras gave me an appreciation for how the album developed.
I always assumed that the humor in their punk rock steampunk came from guitarist Andrew O’Neill and bassist Marc Burrows. They’re comedians. I was lucky enough to see them perform in a Chicago living room. They were unlucky because the band cancelled an American tour because their singer Andy Heintz had cancer. It’s not the case that these two bring their comedic skills to the fore in the band. Apparently the bulk of the lyrics come from Heintz, who used to sing with thrash goths Creaming Jesus. The comedians flesh out the music. This is not 100% accurate, but it’s the gist of the liner notes zine On the Origin of Songs.
Going through the deluxe package, I got to read about and hear how the final songs resulted. I liken it to watching Tig, the documentary about comedian Tig Notaro. She used to have a joke about the size of her breasts, then she lost them to cancer. This turned into fodder for another joke The movie reveals how it develops. It begins in a restaurant with her writing partner. The joke evolves onstage until the final version takes a darker turn, and it kills.
The Not Your Typical Victorians package works the same way. Andy worked out most of the songs before the cancer diagnosis. As The Men were forced to take a year off, the songs had time to gestate before they were recorded in the studio. This gave The Men their best sounding album to date. However, I would not recommend cancer as a creative tool.
On the Origin of Songs: Not Your Typical Victorians Liner Notes illuminates the work that went into the album. Drummer Jez Miller goes into gearheaded detail about mixing it. Heintz recalls stories like the eureka moment when he leapt from the bath to write the lyrics to “The Gin Song” in a steamed-up mirror.
Even without the tales, the album is a sonic improvement on their previous works. Perhaps it was working with Tony Harris, who engineered for REM, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Smiths. There has been effort in making an album that sounds good, as well as providing clever lyrics. An Andy Heintz points out in his notes for the title track, “The most interesting and progressive people of any era are the ones who push the boundaries of accepted society and challenge stereotypes and expected behavior. Besides, we’re punks. Victorian punks. SteamPUNKS.”
Not Your Typical Victorians is officially released on October 18 and is available at https://blamedfornothing.bandcamp.com/album/not-your-typical-victorians.