Owen Marchildon is a pervert. At least that’s what he proclaims on multiple tracks from his second solo record for Purple Hill Records as Marchildon! (Yes, he uses excessive punctuation in his moniker to differentiate projects.) That statement goes far beyond self-deprecating if perversion is taken as a negative or conflated with sexual deviance here, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for the Ontario, Canada folk-punk weirdo.
Night Screamer is more a perversion of the tropes and genre conventions of folk music than a declaration of sexual appetite. Stylistically Marchildon hits the major identifiers of the genre—acoustic guitars, sunny melodies, raw and honest lyrics, a Dylan/Springsteen-esque breathy rasp, and songs that sound like they have a narrative structure. However, upon closer inspection, Marchildon subverts, or rather perverts, those markers on nearly every song from the album.
The balance between old and new, normative and perverse, expected and unexpected, is what allows Marchildon to move beyond the “folk-artist” label and earn his punk cred. Folk-punk is typically thought of as three- or four-chord progressions played loud and fast on an acoustic guitar. But punk is so much more than fast and loud, and so is Owen Marchildon. If we strip the term punk of all aesthetic identifiers, all the way down to its core, what’s left is rebellion—another form of perversion.
In general, the songs on Night Screamer are closer to personal ruminations than story-driven folk songs (in the traditional sense). “Romantic G.I. Joe” gets the closest to classic folk narrative, and it’s welcome. What the audience receives is a character-driven tale of how “Romantic G.I. Joe” acquired his nickname: “Well there he goes a walking he blows a French horn as he walks down the street / he's a little insecure about his notes but in the end he don't care cause he knows what he needs.” Marchildon goes on to describe the titular character as wearing “vintage camo” and carrying a “sketch pad.” He’s “armed with art”—a perversion of the “real American hero.”
“The Sunshine Makes Me Feel (Perverted Inside)” is a lust letter to the sunnier months. There is a real sense of longing for the sun’s warmth when Marchildon sings “how long has it been since I've seen skin.” His perversion is the sexual awakening aroused by the sun’s rays. It’s a rather hippie-ish affair filled with sun-drenched, jangling guitars and oo-woo-oo-oo crooning. It sounds like the perfect song to conjure spring after the long Ontario winter.
The balance between old and new, normative and perverse, expected and unexpected, is what allows Marchildon to move beyond the “folk-artist” label and earn his punk cred.
Marchildon’s perversion includes sexuality if taken strictly at the surface level of his lyrics. The audience is never truly given specifics as to the extent of his perversion, only declarations, suggestions, and double entendres. On “I Wanna Ride Awhile (and Forget Who I Am)” he sings, “so give me your hand I'll be your perverted friend,”“Oh do you know if you use your left hand it feels / oh baby your left hand it feels / your left hand it feels just like someone else,” and “she says give me a taste of your perverted mind.”
Even the track list exists as a perversion of expectations. The first track contains two full songs (“Hangover Helper/You’ll Get It Baby”), listed with separate titles. Their lyrical contents and themes don’t align. The tempo of each is wildly different. The two tracks are even separated by a thick slice of droning white noise, cleaving the songs apart from one another. As far as can be ascertained there is no reason for these two distinct songs to occupy the same track.
Overall, Night Screamer is an unexpected delight that asks listeners to not only accept its weirdness, or perversion rather, but to revel in it and even normalize it. While the lyrics could certainly be improved (show me that perversion!), this is a strong outing from a young but experienced troubadour.
89,070 out of 10,000 Rawckus Kung Fu Throwing Stars