In our weekly MKE Music Rewind, we revisit a notable Milwaukee song that was released before Milwaukee Record became a thing in April 2014.
For someone who works with words for a living, I’ve never been much of a student of song lyrics. Lines and couplets flit past me in favor of melody and harmony. Fussed-over poetics and deeply drawn metaphors are lost on me. Even in songs where the lyrics are delivered clear as a bell, there’s something in my brain that simply resists processing the words. Except in Weird Al songs. I can sing pretty much any Weird Al song from memory.
But it’s no longer Weird Al Week here at Milwaukee Record, so let’s not talk about Weird Al. Let’s instead talk about a criminally underrated band from Milwaukee’s recent past, Fahri. Formed in 2005 in a “small northern suburb of Chicago,” the group’s two principle players—Sarah Long and Miles Murray—eventually made their way to Milwaukee and became a staple of monthly show calendars. Funny, then, that Fahri only released two official albums: 2010’s Perfect Present and 2012’s Final Disconnect Notice. The latter, a perfectly named send-off record if there ever was one, contains one of my absolute favorite Fahri songs, “The Island Cannibal King”:
The sound is immediately and recognizably Fahri’s: melodic but off-kilter, pretty but fuzzed-out, a latter-year Sonic Youth with a knack for a hook. “The Island Cannibal King” is a gorgeous haze of a song, with Murray both swimming through that haze and soaring above it. What, exactly, is he singing about? I haven’t the foggiest.
And I really don’t want to know. Sure, I can pick out a line here and there (“Hey folks / Bet you never thought I’d get the best of you”?) but I prefer to enjoy “The Island Cannibal King” the same way I would enjoy it live: head down, bobbing, letting it all wash over me. Words can make a song, but there’s also a certain power—and mystery—in the things left unsaid.