East River Pipe
By: Ginny Yang
F.M. Cornog, a.k.a. East River Pipe, is at once self-medicating and self-reflecting on his latest album, What Are You On? With his Lou Reed-inspired musings, Cornog is a jaded troubadour wandering through a land of vices. “Hey, where’s my pills? / They were sitting on the windowsill,” begins the downtrodden “Druglife.” “Should have known something was wrong / When last week you tossed my favorite bong.” In between his ruminations on drugs, East River Pipe also dwells on the drudgery and emotional disconnect caused by chemical dependence. The squealing guitar solo of “I’ll Walk My Robot Home” is matched with lovelorn and dejected lyrics that sound as if they are being read through a phone. But the record isn’t a total downer: The artist also displays his trademark wit on album opener “What Does T.S. Eliot Know About You,” which chastises overly literate indie rock fans.
As East River Pipe, Cornog’s got five previous releases — as well as bouts with alcoholism, depression, and homelessness — on his list of credits. Yet the songwriter’s plucky chamber-pop melodies and thoughtful character studies give a world of androids and drug-addled protagonists some humanity. The gentle twang of “You Got Played, Little Girl” and the dreamy textures of “Life Is a Landfill” indicate a soul that is not completely overrun by morbid cynicism. However, “Some Dreams Can Kill You” slaps the listener back to reality. “Everybody’s got a dream / Some dreams can kill you,” he laments. “Some just dry up and blow away / Some booze and pill you.” Cornog’s matter-of-fact delivery and poetic descriptions of the seedier elements of life make What Are You On? a lush requiem for a broken dream.