Series: Fairypunk (#2)
Runtime: 1hr 12mins
Cast: Liel Bar-Z, Psyche Corporation, Vivian Moonic, Paul Shapera, Lauren Osborn, Adrienne Byrne
There are two ways to listen to a Paul Shapera album. One is to just sit back and enjoy the music, the other is to work your way through the increasingly tangled storyline of New Albion and its inhabitants. The Broken Cyborg is the 8th in the main storyline, though at least Janissary and Fairy Tales for Homeless Fairies occur in the same universe, and takes us deeper into the twisted technomancy of New Albion. Though as technology progresses, society falls back into the same loops, and there are plenty of callbacks to previous albums.
In all honesty, I wasn’t wholly keen on volume one of the fairytale series,The Forgotten Meme. Too much narration and not enough music. Although even when she’s not singing, I could listen to Psyche Chimera all day long. That balance has been redressed here, with enough musical variety for half a dozen albums, and pitch-perfect vocals from the whole cast. Liel Bar-Z in particular pulls an amazing turn as Jane, the titular Cyborg.
In terms of lore, there’s a lot to unpick. Rebecca and the Meme are back, though are largely in a background role. It’s their daughter, Jane the Cyborg, who takes up the reins here. In what was once New Albion’s park, a shanty town has sprung up, home to outcasts of all stripes. Meanwhile, below the city, ancient beings are stirring. There’s so much going on, even after a dozen listens I haven’t figured out much of it.
But each of those listens has been worth it for the music alone. ‘Jane the Cyborg’ and ‘The Mayor’ are the big solo pieces here, on a par with ‘Han Mi’s Plot’ or ‘Green Room Pale’, both showing the sheer vocal talent of their performers. On the other end of the scale we have ‘Song of the Fairies’ – which is as brilliant as it is bonkers. If you gave Alvin and the Chipmunks a cocaine overdose, I imagine the sound would be similar. But by far my favourite track is ‘The Assault’, in no small part due the fact that it’s an update of the Blood Red Dogs mantra from way back in the Dieselpunk days. Lock and load, indeed.
As with all his other works, Shapera proves himself to be the pioneer of the punk suffix. Whether you’re a shaperaverse veteran or a newcomer, The Broken Cyborg is a phenomenal piece of musical drama.