In The Doors of Perception Aldous Huxley stated his belief that “(t)he urge to transcend self-conscious selfhood is… a principal appetite of the soul”. Sadly Huxley died in 1963, and was hence limited to speculating on the future synthesis of some mescaline-like substance to act as humanity’s most effective vehicle to self-transcendence. Were Huxley alive today he may instead have considered as a viable candidate Lisa McHugh’s A Life That’s Good. Listening to all 16 songs in a single sitting so effectively impedes the regular conscious functioning of the brain that one rapidly tumbles into the unexplored antipodes of the mind, liberated from the shackles of life’s tiresome concerns and the cerebral limitations necessitated by day-to-day existence. Somehow in the space of a mere 12 months a Glaswegian living in Ireland has written and recorded a country album that through some as-yet-unknown mechanism converts sound waves into ligands that bind to the serotonin 5-HT 2A receptor with a higher affinity than either mescaline or lysergic acid.
McHugh’s online bio gives no indication of any formal background or extensive knowledge of biochemistry, neuropsychopharmacology, psychiatry or medicinal philosophy, so why she undertook this endeavour is a mystery worthy of a cohort of tinfoil truth crusaders, not to mention government intelligence agencies. Further, one can only speculate as to how the songs produce this biological consciousness-numbing effect. Perhaps it’s because the word “apple” occurs once every 7 seconds in ‘Apple Jack’. Perhaps it’s a result of almost impossibly clichéd lyrics such as “I’ve been thinking while you’ve been drinking”. Perhaps it’s because the messages of some of the songs are Emperor-Norton-level weird; in ‘Hillbilly Girl’ McHugh sings “I don’t care if I lose my hair ‘cos I’m living happily”. Perhaps it’s because each and every song would, devoid of its mysterious mind-altering properties, make Steve Earle vomit blood. Perhaps it’s a product of the incipient existential crisis of a Glaswegian who believes she was born in Nashville to Irish immigrant parents.
Epistemologically, we can say very little of A Life That’s Good. One could, however, say that in accordance with contemporary notions of musical aesthetics, this album is atrocious.