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Music / The Big Problem

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“All words and music point to THE BIG PROBLEM. The solution lay within the title; LET IT BE. Crispin Hellion Glover wants to know what you think these nine things have in common. Call (213) 464-5053.”
Inscription at the top of the album's back cover

The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Benote  is a very, very strange album from 1988 by lovable weirdo Crispin Glover, to date the only one he's ever released. Barnes and Barnes (yes, the guys who did "Fish Heads") produced, recorded and played most of the instruments on the album.

Less a venture into pop superstardom and more a tangent of a larger multimedia project, half of the tracks are readings from Glover's two poetry books, Rat Catching and Oak Mot, while one ("Clowny Clown Clown," which, inexplicably, got a music video) gives the earliest reference to the character of Rubin Farr, whom he'd appear as, Andy Kaufman-style, on The Late Show with David Letterman while promoting the album and, two years later, in the movie Rubin and Ed. The album's booklet contained a phone number for listeners who'd wish to call Glover and share their own theories about the titular "big problem." The line remained open for 19 years before being disconnected in 2007.

Track listing

  1. "Overture"
  2. "Selected Readings from Rat Catching"
  3. "The New Clean Song"
  4. "Auto-Manipulator"
  5. "Clowny Clown Clown"
  6. "Getting Out of Bed"
  7. "These Boots Are Made for Walking"
  8. "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze"
  9. "Never Say 'Never' to Always"
  10. "Selected Readings from Oak Mot Part I"
  11. "Selected Readings from Oak Mot Part II"
  12. "Selected Readings from Oak Mot Part III"
  13. "Selected Readings from Oak Mot Part IV"
  14. "Untitled 1"
  15. "Untitled 2"
  16. "Untitled 3"

"I was walking on the ground, and / I didn't make a sound, and / I turned around and / I saw some tropes"

  • A Cappella: "Never Say Never To Always."
  • Careful with That Axe: The second half of "These Boots Are Made For Walking," which also become increasingly off-tempo and indecipherable at it goes on.
  • Concept Album: As stated on the album's back cover, all of the tracks are meant to point to an alleged "big problem," though it's never explained exactly what said problem is, only that the solution is "LET IT BE."
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: Glover's snarling performance of "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze" changes it from a relatively innocent song about a Love Triangle between circus performers to one about a man using his popularity to take advantage of a teenage girl. Notably, the cover is also sort of a Perspective Flip - usually the lyrics are about a man lamenting that the title character stole his girlfriend away from him; Crispin rewrote them so that the narrator is the man on the flying trapeze, who seems to be boasting about breaking the man's heart and manipulating the girl.
  • Cover Version: Of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking", of Charles Manson's "Never Say Never To Always", and of the old standard "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze."
  • Creepy Circus Music: "Clowny Clown Clown," as well as an unnerving arrangement of "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze."
  • Genre Roulette: The album has everything from ambient folk to Rap Rock to Creepy Circus Music to Spoken Word in Music to stuff that defies genre altogether.
  • Harsh Vocals
    • His cover of "These Boots Are Made For Walking" is less sung as much as it is shrieked.
    • The deep, tough voice he puts on for "Auto Manipulator."
  • In the Style of: "Auto Manipulator" parodies Run–D.M.C.'s then-popular brand of Rap Rock, specifically songs like "King of Rock."
  • Left Hanging: The album never states what it's titular "big problem" is.
  • Mind Screw: The bizarre poetry, the never-explained Central Theme, the music that ranges from creepy to inexplicable, the very fact that this album even exists...
  • Miniscule Rocking: "Never Say Never To Always" is the shortest song on the album, clocking it at three seconds short of a minute.
  • Mood Whiplash: The bridge from "Auto Manipulator" abruptly shifts from aggressive Rap Rock to soft cocktail lounge jazz, then back for the last chorus.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: The titular clown in "Clowny Clown Clown." There's no indication that he's anything but a normal clown and the narrator even befriends him, taking care of the clown when it's dying, though at the end, the narrator inexplicably states that he hates the clown for no reason than he finds it ugly.
  • No Title: The last three tracks have no titles.
  • Outsider Music: Arguably the most accessible album of the genre since God Bless Tiny Tim, which is saying something.
  • Piss-Take Rap: "Auto Manipulator."
  • Rap Rock: Parodied with "Auto Manipulator."
  • Soprano and Gravel: Glover does a one-person version of this, alternating between his normal, waifish voice and snarling growls on some tracks.
  • Stylistic Suck
    • Glover exchanges Nancy Sinatra's svelte, sexy singing on the original version of "These Boots Are Made For Walking" for half-whined, half-shrieked, off-tempo talk-singing.
    • "Auto Manipulator" also proves that Glover, while he's got tempo, is no a rapper.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Half of the albums sixteen tracks are Glover reading passages from two of his books of poetry, while many of the songs have him talk-singing (or, in the case of his cover of "These Boots Are Made For Walking," incomprehensibly screeching). There's also the spoken-word intro to "Auto Manipulator."
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: "Clowny Clown Clown" ends with the narrator smoking a cigar, then coughing slightly, adding "See what a cigar'll do?"
  • Special Guest: "Weird Al" Yankovic himself plays accordion on "Untitled Bonus Track 1."
  • "Untitled" Title: The last three tracks are given these.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "New Clean Song," "Getting Out Of Bed," and most of his poetry readings, the last of which is justified in that the poems themselves are made up of phrases reappropriated from old public domain books.