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Bishop Allen: Beyond Youthful Ennui

The eerie, cinematic xylophone at the beginning of Bishop Allen's "The Lion & The Teacup" serves as foreshadowing — almost like tiny alarm bells — suggesting that something isn't exactly right. The problem soon becomes clear: Our heroine, the song's "tragic little teacup," has been betrayed by her lover. But rather than feeling self-pity, she begins tossing out his possessions, burning his pictures and getting drunk, transforming herself into a "lion, who licks her wounds before she seeks revenge." The song finishes with a flurry of soft, satisfied guitar riffs, leaving no doubt that she's fulfilled her desire for carnage.

Jungle metaphors, tales of international intrigue and philosophical ruminations inform Grrr..., Bishop Allen's third full-length album. Though often rooted in tales of relationships, the songs quickly veer off into abstraction, as on the second verse of "The Lion & The Teacup," wherein the title character is encouraged to "wrap all your thoughts in ribbons and bows / Give them away at a party you throw." It marks a clear evolution from the ennui-ridden, youthful indie-heartache that colored much of the band's first two albums, Charm School and The Broken String (which are compellingly angsty in their own right). This time, rather than simply feeling sorry for themselves, Bishop Allen's characters are fighting back.

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Ben Westhoff