CD Review: Alan Moore’s THE BIRTH CAUL

This week’s recommended Album/CD:

THE BIRTH CAUL is the first of the six Alan Moore spoken word collaborations (typically with Bauhaus front man David J and/or Tim Perkins). As a whole the six albums are odd, dark recordings; mixing new wave, gothic, spoken word and the type of mourning, stream of consciousness litany, dissection of our human landscape… that has made Alan Moore, in the graphic medium, unparalleled. All his albums from the best (THE MOON AND SERPENT THEATRE OF MARVELS) to the worst (V FOR VENDETTA, worst is not fair, let’s just say… the least) should be listened to with headphones, or with good speakers in a dark room, holding on tightly to someone you love, while the world around you… darkly turns.

THE BIRTH CAUL is from 1996 and is arguably as a whole, one of the weaker of the six albums, but is just as arguably Moore’s most personal album, dealing as it does with Moore’s generational ruminations, both his eulogy and his diary of his travels from embryonic seas. There are, however, one or two tracks that stand out as pretty darn masterful.

The first track, the eponymous THE BIRTH CAUL is an endlessly haunting ode to Moore’s discovery of his birth caul, among his mother’s belongings. And the affect such a find has on him. “a map of lost interiors, first continents, upon its parchment breath the log of older tides”. The language makes this track… brilliant.

The next notable track, and the one that makes this album a must have is the absolutely addictive THE WORLD’S BLUNT ENGINE. Much love must go to David J for the sound-scape on this one, but the words… the words. What makes Alan Moore (I consider) the Shakespeare of his age is his ability to work in denigrated mediums, yet create insightful, cutting masterpieces and critiques of his age that will reverberate beyond him. It is his ability to use language like a scalpel and to employ it not in the slicing of flesh, but in the revealing of that strange common thing we might call… our humanity.

“We talk of work and films; and of the hurricane make not the least acknowledgement…Have sex each Friday. Screaming rows (fights) each Saturday. We Work and sleep. We work and sleep.”

A hard CD to find, long out of print, but worth the hunting down.

Birth Caul

Alan Moore UNEARTHING CD, LP, Spoken Word Review Pt 2 of 2


Now getting past the packaging and into the audio itself, it consists of 2 cds that comprise the audio book/audio odyssey proper and one CD filled with instrumental tracks (pretty catchy, a trance, hypno vibe, definitely of the school of sound created by the Dynamite Brothers. It works better as stand-alone ep, than as an accompaniment to Moore’s lyrics. More on this in a bit).

Ostensibly a biography on Steve Moore, supposedly a friend of Alan Moore for 40 years who taught him to write, am I the only one who has figured out Steven Moore is just a pseudonym for Alan Moore? What Stephen King would refer to as his Dark Half, his Richard Bachman, and UNEARTHING is him putting to rest, finally, this old friend of the id.

What’s that you say? “Steve Moore is a real person, has a page on the Internet and everything”. Well then he has to be real, hasn’t he?

UNEARTHING is Moore at what Poitier would call “The Summing up place” in his life, and it’s him putting his house in order. Using a pseudo biography to speak on larger themes of loneliness, loss, creation, mortality and magic. It takes a few listens to make out his journey, and when Moore deals most clearly with battles of the id the work is compelling.

However, unlike his collaboration with Bauhaus front man David J, here the music works against Moore’s monologue rather than with it. Quiet when it should be loud, and loud when it should be quiet.

So we’re left primarily with Moore’s voice to carry us through. And while Moore has an astounding voice, the subject matter is not as engaging.

It’s an interesting listen but ultimately one that tends to wear out its welcome relatively quickly.

So while I love the audacity of the packing, the actual content fails to live up to it. For those interested in seeing Moore’s
“A+” game when it comes to spoken word, try the brilliant MOON AND SERPENT, followed relatively closely by the almost as brilliant SNAKES AND LADDERS. I would also recommend BIRTH CAUL, HIGHBURY WORKING, and ANGEL PASSAGE, all before I would recommend UNEARTHING.

But for Alan Moore Completionists like myself, it will look pretty on your shelf. B+ for the packaging, B- for the content, earns it an average grade of B.

Alan Moore UNEARTHING CD, LP, Spoken Word Review Pt 1 of 2

UNEARTHING is Alan Moore’s 6th Spoken Word Album (not counting those he just lends his voice to, but only those that are him in mass), Aural Odyssey, and is easily his most lavishly packaged.

Arriving on one’s doorstep in a box big enough to bludgeon the unsuspecting, UNEARTHING is an elaborate slipcase that includes a more elaborate jacket, beautifully adorned with photographs by Mitch Jenkins of Alan Moore and company. The jacket includes a poster, a transcript of the lyrics, a photograph, 3 lps, and 3 cds.

Feel free to gasp, I did upon receiving it.

It is just an amazing tome, and hearkens back to old world concepts of form as part and parcel of function, and the packaging as part of the experience. An idea that is being lost, or buried, in today’s download, digitization, miniaturization age. But a download can’t grasp the child-like joy of receiving a package like this and the experience of leafing through its lavish contents. Nothing like having that CD or LP staring up at you, and that anticipation of voices from the ether, that you are about to discover.

Moore’s UNEARTHING in packaging alone dazzles and ingratiates and seduces and tells a story, and is art in and of itself. Like LPs of old,

And I am of that not yet extinct clan, who appreciates the journey, who appreciates a thing as a work of art onto itself, and as the first, inaudible part, of the process of embracing the world the artist is crafting.

To be continued