The New Paranoia Album

Benson called me yesterday. "You see the new Paranoia album yet?"

I threw some corn to my goose, my phone tucked under my chin. "They got a new one? I thought they broke up a month ago. Hyacinth Atchison was working on a solo project, Ellwood Ruggels was drumming with Eric Clapton's new band, and Delphina Nunn was raising a family. And Chauncey Pest's dead."

"All I know is what I see, man. I don't hear any of that industry stuff, what the people do. I just hang at the record stores, and when a new album comes in, I buy it."

"You sure it's not an import? If you look at it closely, it's not some underground band from the UK or New Zealand or Japan or something? Or France. I heard there was a Paranoia in France."

"Just come see it, man."

"Shit, Benson, not today. I got stuff to do on the acreage. I got a song in my head just begging to be written down. And somebody from Frequency Button left a message for me yesterday about doing one of my songs, said they'd call back today."

"Okay. See you, then." And he hung up.

Damn Benson, anyway. He knows me. He knows that Paranoia was my favourite band. He knows that I'm gullible, and I can't pass up even an opportunity to find a new album of theirs, even if it's bogus. Him and Roxene probably came up with this last night, stoned to the gills, and they're sitting there giggling and wondering whether Dougal's gonna fall for it.

Well, he is. Damn Benson.

I drove into town in my rickety blue pickup and pondered. What record store would have it? Oracle Sounds? Something Hot? Needle Tracks? Probably Needle Tracks. But I might as well check Oracle first, since they were closer to the edge of town.

I hit town in time for lunch hour. Well, that settled that. No way I was getting close to Needle Tracks or Something Hot for another hour at least. Oracle was it.

I beat some guy in a Volvo to the last parking spot on the block, and he cursed at me as I walked into the store. And there it was. Big displays, and Oracle doesn't do big displays for anyone less than U2. Bitchen cover art. Looked like that stuff from old Journey records, but better. And it was out on vinyl. Shit, nobody released vinyl anymore. Yet there it was. Not even a CD in sight. It was one of those ones where the title isn't shown anywhere except on the spine, so after a fruitless search where I determined this, I gave up and looked on the spine. "Leather Watch Under The Stars". More coolness. I couldn't believe it. I flipped it over, looking at the song titles. Quintessential Paranoia stuff. "Marconi's Devil". "Middle of The Street." "Generals And Minors." No authors given, but it looked like there was pretty thick stuff inside, so I said to heck with it and bought it.

I drove all the way home with the album on the passenger seat, looking at it from time to time. It looked like a 3-D distorted version of that chaos thing, the Mandelbear set or whatever it was. I started having second thoughts. This could all be a big disappointment. Chauncey Pest was dead, after all. His songs were always the best. And if Delphina was serious about the family shit, then the other two would be hard-pressed to make up the difference without her. The big push might be overcompensation on the part of the record company. This could be like that Fleetwood Mac album after Lindsey Buckingham left. If this album's crap, I won't even listen to it twice. I don't need to lose my idols.

I got home and ran in the door just to catch someone hanging up in the answering machine. I listened to the message. It was Adolphus from Frequency Button, and he'd left a number, thank God. I called him back and he said that they wanted "Hell Toupee" for their album, and maybe even as a single. I gave them my agent's number and hung up.

Then I had to face the album. I couldn't put it off any longer. I pulled a letter opener off the rack on the wall, slit the plastic and peeled it off. I pulled out the sleeve, slipped the record out and onto my turntable. I turned it up high-volume and went to sit on the beanbag chair that was at the focal point for all the sound in the room. I almost forgot to get the sleeve to read it, but I remembered at the last minute, as the music started.

I didn't end up reading it until the end of the side. I surfaced then as the needle lifted off the record, tears streaming down my face. It was good. It was better than good, it was the best they'd ever done. How the fuck? I got up and flipped it over, and this time I had a chance to glance at the sleeve before the music started again. All the songs were written by C. Pest, Copyright 1992 Robie-Sapira Music. Every single one. Normally Hyacinth had one or two, and there was at least one where the whole band got credit. But Chauncey had written the whole album.

I listened to side two and it was, if possible, better. I glanced down at the sleeve again as the last song faded away. Then I saw the musician credits, and froze. Hyacinth and Delphina on vocals and guitars, Ellwood on drums. And Chauncey Pest was there. Lead guitar, synthesizers, programming.

He was dead. He'd died on the tour for their last album. I'd heard the interviews. "It wouldn't be the same without Chauncey," Hyacinth had said. "Paranoia is done." So what the fuck was this?

I sat, numb, for ten minutes. Then I got up and flipped the album over to listen to it again.

Based on the words: Goose Corn Paranoia Album

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com