Everybody knows the solution to a crappy day, week or month is some good music and anime! And Open Mike Eagle has had a real shitty year.
Anime, Trauma and Divorce is OME's detailing of the past year in his life, most notably how the divorce from his wife and mother of his son has affected him. His usual wittiness can be found here in spades, cleverly referencing several anime and comics among other things both in humour and in relation to his struggles.
For instance opening song Death Parade is about the cycle of pain/trauma that goes on:
"That kid grew up
And messed his kid up
He fucked her shit up
Then she fucked dude up
It all got screwed up
And that fucked me up
So imma fuck you up"
The title of the track is also an anime, about judging whether a person's soul should be reborn on earth or should be sent to hell. So for Mike it must feel like even if you avoid hell you're just going to passing things on to someone new.
Bucciarati, one of the singles that led up this project is an easy favourite. Referencing the character Bruno Bucciarati from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, who is able to create a zip anywhere, Mike just wants the ability to pull his life back together:
"Fallin' apart, I can't hold it together
All in the art 'cause I won't live forever
I had a direction and split from the thesis
Now I need more fingers to pick up the pieces"
Clever lyrics aside, this cut features a great beat and some of Mike's best flows on the record, especially the one in the second half. Kari Flaux's feature hook is beautiful and her verse is just as good as Mike's.
We also get some more obviously self-aware and humorous verses in songs like Headass where Mike pulls out a stupid reference and immediately begins questioning himself:
"I need that shield, it's getting chilly and there's shrinkage
A perfect time to rhyme with Peter Dinklage
Ass I'm a head, head (but I won't)
Ass I'm a head, head ('cause I think it might offend him)
Ass, ass I'm a head, head (and there's no way he's ever gonna hear this, ever)
Ass I'm a head, head (Why am I like this?)"
The Black Mirror Episode is similarly over the top as Mike blames a single episode of a show for his divorce and that if he had picked something else to watch, he might still be married:
"Had a good home and we had good trust
Saw a Black Mirror and it looked like us
Caught myself trying to avoid the dangerous
I ran out of episodes of Toys That Made Us
And now we gotta go and get some lawyer papers"
This is simultaneously hilarious, but also brilliant as it sees a hurt man trying to figure out what went wrong, pointing the finger at whatever he can.
I think the main thread of Mike's struggle and storytelling comes down to 3 tracks, Headass (Idiot Shinji), Asa'a Bop and I'm a Joestar (Black Power Fantasy). These 3 songs reflect Mike's image of himself as he compares himself to Shinji on Headass, to both Shinji and Jojos on Asa's Bop: "We belong, we pretend we legitimate/ Half Jostar, half Shinji The Idiot" and finally to just the Jojos on I'm a Joestar.
Shinji is the protagonist of Neon Genesis Evangelion, someone who is thrown into the role of soldier and possible saviour of the world as he has to pilot a giant mech to fight against creatures known as Angels. Shinji is regularly scared of these fights, partially because his nerves are literally connected to the mech to control it, leading to him feeling physical pain every time it gets damaged. This cowardice in turn leads his peers and fellow pilots to hate him and give him the nickname Idiot Shinji. Initially the audience is behind Shinji, however after several episodes of this even the most empathetic watcher is yelling "get in the fucking robot!".
Mike is comparing himself to Shinji as they've both suffered great trauma that they have to push through if they want to continue, even down to the last part where people wanted him to get over this so he'll do what they want, without any respect for what he's going through or how long it takes to recover.
The Joestar family by comparison take on Vampires, Demi-Gods, the Mafia and the President (not all at once), each member of the family having some sort of awakening to power that leads them to fight against enemies that would normally appear to be too powerful to touch. They don't back down in the face of trouble and despite overwhelming odds use their abilities and their intelligence to win.
Mike creates a fantasy world to give himself the confidence to continue moving forward. A fantasy that sees himself as the next member of the Joestar family:
"I don't give a fuck
If I'm a brother, I'm a Joestar
Either from my father or my mother, I'm a Joestar
I ain't British, I ain't Japanese, I'm a Joestar
Tap into my power when I breathe, I'm a Joestar"
Initially i thought this song was just a weird fan-fic that Mike had about his favourite show, but now that i hear in context with the rest of the record, i've realised how powerful the song is. The line "I'm a Joestar" is like a self-empowering chant for Mike, that pushes him to do and be better.
The final song Fifteen Twenty Feet Ocean features Little A$e who's also on Asa's Bop. It's a live performance of Mike performing a new track about his less-than-enjoyable experience snorkeling with his family. From what i can tell Little A$e is Mike's son, the person that Mike is likely trying to change and grow again for. It's a silly and fun song, while it was probably recorded before the divorce, it does see Mike enjoying himself with his son and it's placement at the end of the record is like Mike placing the goal for himself once he feels normal again.
Headass, despite its importance to the main theme of the album, is my least favourite song here and it mostly comes down to the underwhelming beat and the chorus, which is supposed to be self-aware, but just comes across as corny and even a little stupid.
This also leads into my main issue with the project: the beats. There are a good handful of amazing beats, my favs are Bucciarati and The Edge of New Clothes, but several are not nearly as interesting and it feels like the songs are relying a little too heavily on Mike's lyrics and vocal performance.
Despite this reservation, Anime, Trauma and Divorce is still a really enjoyable album, incredibly clever writing all across the record and i'm sure that there's probably a bunch of stuff even my over-analysing-ass is missing.
Favourites: Bucciarati, Asa's Bop, The Edge of New Clothes, Wtf is Self Care, I'm a Joestar
Least Favs: Headass (Idiot Shinji)