There is a chasm of disconnect between the real Chris Andrews and the Christopher Scum persona he’s created over the years. The Chris that many of us know dearly loves his partner and works steadfastly to rebuild his life through his music and writing in the aftermath of a decade-plus of suicidal substance abuse, mental illness, and occasional stints in jail. And then there’s the raging beast known as Christopher Scum, a violent, profusely bleeding maniac who screams his curses at the world on a one-way descent into eternal damnation.
Scum’s first solo opus, the all-acoustic Fifty Acres of Pain, might bridge the aforementioned chasm just a bit. While the punk-fueled chaos of his band, the Dirty Works, might deliver more immediate thrills, Scum unadorned offers an ultimately more harrowing and cathartic experience. And the supporting singing and playing of Knoxville luminaries like Leslie Woods, Carl Snow, and Andy Pirkle make Scum’s poison pills go down just a bit easier.
The album’s narrative of redemption through self-destruction is anything but comfortable. Scum has taken a huge risk by baring his vulnerabilities on this album. Tracks like “Been Gone” and “This is Not the First Time [I Let You Down]” provide a portrait of a man who is repentant but perhaps unable to overcome the myriad afflictions that torment him. It’s not a pretty picture, but there’s a certain nobility and savage beauty to the album’s unflinching honesty. Paradoxically, the slow-burning, introspective songs on Fifty Acres are infinitely more hardcore than anything he’s ever done before.