Paranoid Cocoon (Suicide Squeeze Records) is the first full length release from Page France front man Michael Nau under his new moniker, Cotton Jones. While it would be easy to compare this record to Nau's previous releases with Page France, it seems pointless to do so because they are, according to Nau, two completely different projects. Joining Nau in Cotton Jones is Whitney McGraw who was also a member of Page France. Her soft voice is laced throughout the album, making every song she sings in sound just a little bit sweeter and a little more innocent. Her voice is the perfect counter-balance to Nau's raspy drawl. And if the Page France influence wasn't quite strong enough, Clinton Jones, Page France drummer, designed the albums quirky layout and artwork.
The album itself is, above all things, a successful transition from Page France to Cotton Jones. The songs, for the most part are slow and contemplative. But they are far from boring. It is simply music that's better off listened to at the end of the day with your feet up and your favorite beverage in hand. Nau's lyrics throughout the album have this bittersweet quality to them. On "Gone the Bells" Nau and McGraw harmonize sweetly, "I was looking for your heart, through the flowers in the park, oh the flowers in the park, oh the flowers in the park. I was looking for your heart, through the flowers in the park, for hours in the park, for hours in the park." This is song-craft at its best. It's as if the words and the music were created exactly at the same instant and there's no other way things could be. In "Photo Summerlove" Nau lets the music speak for itself. Words aren't needed to feel the emotion displayed by this instrumental piece. The intro to "Some Strange Rain" is ethereal in it's beauty. Gentle guitar, keyboard, bass, drums all blending effortlessly into one another. This is the sort of song you want to listen to on a bad day to make yourself feel better.
One song I could do without is "Little Ashtray in the Sun". The song just doesn't flow with same sentimentality as the rest of the album does. Fortunately, the album picks itself right back up with "Blood Red Sentimental Blues", which is, as the title suggests, a sentimental country song, with a soulful, bluesy feel to it. The final song on the album, "I Am The Changer", is a perfect way to end the album. "You know I'm the changer" Michael Nau sings throughout. Perhaps this is an inference to the transition from Page France to Cotton Jones. What is for sure is that the song is pure beauty from start to finish. The hazy guitar intro evokes feelings of intense calm, even if the bittersweet lyrics don't echo that calmness. "Everything has turned around, now I'm sleepin' in a garden bed, tryin' to clear my head, sittin' waitin' to be fed." Nevertheless the song provides the perfect ending to an incredible album.
While many Page France fans might be upset by this new project, hammering home the fact that Page France is gone for good, my advice to them is that they need not worry. As long as Michael Nau is putting out music of this quality it doesn't matter whether his name is Page France, Cotton Jones or Tiny Tim. We must not look at Cotton Jones as an ending but more as the beginning of something great. Paranoid Cocoon is that beginning. - Greg Lozoff