Epigene: A Wall Street Odyssey (The City, The Country and Back Again)


RIYL: The Who, Rush, Yes

On paper, I should like this album.  It has many of the elements I like in rock music:  big themes, a narrative, and prog-rock flourishes.  But this is quite possibly the worst album I have heard in this genre for a long time – and yet I admire the moxie of Epigene, the husband and wife duo of Sean Bigler and Bonnie Lykes. I mean, who has the balls to produce a two-CD concept album – especially in 2010?  Well, I think we know the answer to that question, but simply producing such an opus of this scale isn’t enough; one has to have substance.  And while the story of A Wall Street Odyssey (The, City, The Country and Back Again) isn’t short on earnestness, it lacks an important ingredient in rock operas: a certain amount of subtly, and a generous helping of hooks and thunderous power chords.

The story follows Yossarian (in a nod to Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22”) from his career as a Wall Street stockbroker, to drug-addicted homeless victim of corporate downsizing, to being saved by his brother and brought to an agrarian commune of left-libertarians where he learns to toil on the land, commune with nature, and find love. After some time has elapsed,  Yossarian finds he’s compelled “go back” to the belly of the beast and tell anyone who will listen about the virtue of land and living simply. Naturally, the sight of a bearded country bumpkin spouting the evils of corporate capitalism, dense urbanism, and the culture it breeds is met with disdain. And even though Yossarian is ostracized for his beliefs, the financial and political apocalypse he warns the city-dwellers comes to pass, and, predictably, a one-world fascist government arises and oppresses the people.  Yossarian (with the help of a bicycle that flies) is able to leave the city and get back to the freedom of the country – believing, in the end, that he has to let each find their own way in the world.

Like I said at the outset, the story isn’t subtle. But it’s not just the story that lacks subtlety. The songs themselves are more mini-sermons than fully formed tunes.  Lacking sufficient hooks, a variation in style, and even some much-needed ambiguity, song after song on A Wall Street Odyssey are exercises in tedium. Alas, it’s a tedium that’s borne out of the best of intentions and ambitions, but falls under the weight of its own bathetic excesses. (Amammi Music 2011)

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