Oil spouts from a lush forest floor, Canadian geese sing in harmony and George Washington gazes at a smart phone in the subversive new music video for Dan Mangan’s latest single “Vessel” from his album Club Meds — which also features a fictional cereal called Coloni-Os and a golden calf melting as children shout happily on a rollercoaster.
“I’ve always been a fairly politically opinionated person but I never wanted to write about it and I didn’t know how to put in into my songs without it seeming like a soapbox,” Mangan, who will perform at the Civic Theatre on Nov. 30, told the Star. “But with this record there’s a lot more of the political cynic coming out, just unabashed social criticism.”
“Stop,” Mangan sings during the chorus of “Vessel,” a shouting mob backing him up. “It takes a village to raise a fool.”
“Obviously it’s a play on ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Basically we’re all fools to some degree, and we’re all at fault for the other fools in the world. With a lot of my lyrics I like to take entrenched assumptions from the world that come through standard linguistic phrases like this and alter their meaning.”
The music video, created by Ben Clarkson, is layered with visual puns and complex images. Mangan said watching Clarkson work was amazing.
“About once a week he would call me and say ‘Dan, this is getting really weird. Tell me if you want me to reel it in.’ And I would say don’t reel in a thing, do what’s in your gut. He’s a very subversive artist, politically minded, and with this video it’s cool because if you just want to see eye candy it’s crazy and funny and awesome but then once you read into it, it’s also funny and angry and dark. That’s why it’s so magical.”
In “Vessel,” Mangan was trying to express his frustration at society’s blindness.
“It’s the inherent nature of human beings to look at the past and think ‘isn’t that horrible, and isn’t it good we don’t do that now?’ but while the right hand is doing that the left hand is doing something horrible in the here and now. We separate ourselves from things like the Second World War and the Holocaust, and then we ignore what’s going on around us, like right now on this planet someone’s being turned into a sex slave.”
He hopes to draw listeners’ attention to that fact.
“It’s easy to be numb and apathetic. But being united in apathy and willful blindness is not being united at all — it just means there’s scads of lonely, alone people.”
Because he will be touring without his back-up band Blacksmith, many of the songs will be stripped down to their most basic, giving Mangan a chance to showcase his vocals more prominently.
“It’s always been my opinion that if a song can’t be brought down to its simplest guitar and vocal, then it’s probably not a very good song.”
Mangan was most recently in the Kootenays when he performed at the Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival this past summer.
“I always love coming back to Nelson. It’s an unusual small town in that it’s got a big-city mentality but it’s nestled in this beautiful spot in the Kootenays.”
The concert is for all ages. Doors open at 7 p.m., with showtime at approximately 7:30 p.m. Astral Swans will open the show.