Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why Don't You Take It Off?

Here's a song from Jambox Tape A, a Maxell tape about thirty years old, maybe more, that we used to record ourselves back when I live in Homer Townsley's P-Funk Playpen on Victor.

In our neighborhood in the summertime we would all sit in front of our turn-of-the-century red brick building as the shadow crept across the tiny hill of weeds with our shirts off, drinking beers. The stoop steps were nice and cool to the touch; I think they may have been marble under the dried-blood-red and cape cod green paint that flecked off to reveal flecks of white beneath. All the other hoosiers up and down the block would do the same thing as us - there was no air conditioning for miles around us. We always had our afternoons free because we worked the lunch shifts at restuarants in the Central West End: cooking, bussing tables, washing dishes. The smell of rotting bus pans would waft up from our caked and faded blue jeans.

This was the way we sounded when we were practising. This song is interesting to the two or three fans of Jambox - mainly me and maybe Rico De Bool only - because it shows we tried to arrange our songs a little bit and it certainly showcases Joe's bass playing, raw but ambitious, like our singing. Another nice thing is you can hear De Bool singin with Patrick and I. This is a song I'd almost forgotten for many years.

The lyrics were my idea of silly seduction lines. I had a bunch of them, all offensive, never used.
Say, isn't that a tear there?
Bare flesh showing through everywhere.
Shame, a tear in that skirt there.

Why don't you take it off? It's only proper, dear.
No need to show fear.

Whaddaya mean you can't see it?
That don't mean that it's not there.

It's right over here where you can't see it, right here.

Download "Why Don't You Take It Off?"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

You! Me! Dancing! to Los Campesinos! last night

Actually the yous that were dancing with me to Los Campesinos! weren't you, probably, since no one I knew was anywhere near the place last night. But I couldn't help it, Los Campesinos! are just so intoxicating, and far better live than on record, like all true dance bands.

It's so easy to make a bunch of interesting noises on record these days that I hardly notice anymore. But when you have two guitars, a bass, a violin, a kid's xylophone, an ocarina, and some keyboards and drums all going at once right in front of you it's a rich and dense sound. Their strength is their strangulated-sounding front man, who bangs a single drum or the xylophone with the beat you can only get from a frantic youth's flailing natural rhythm. The beats were swinging, dancing, crazy beats, unconfined by computerized counts or mechanical tempo.

They're from Cardiff, Wales, as they remarked last night at one point, and are quite young and beautiful, though not hollywood beautiful. Gareth, the singer who does the least else, sings in a gasping, strangulated yelp that sounds like a drowning boy fighting for his last breath of air to punch out just a few more arch verses. I was fascinated to see he looked very little like I suspected he would, being a strong, fit looking kid with red hair and a pleasant face. He acted like you might think, though, rather shy and maybe even uncomfortable, preferring to sing to the band or the floor at times. He was still a dynamo, wanging on his drums and stuff, flailing around, caught up in the frenzy.

The other singer, Aleksandra, was shockingly thin - I hope not sick, though she did have plenty of energy. Her voice is a little soft for a live show but she sang well otherwise, and played keys and an ocarina.

It was ridiculously easy for them to whip up the rather jaded-looking collegiate crowd, despite the evident inhibitions preventing the cooler sort from succumbing to the bounce. Los Campesinos are very good at dynamics, since they seem to be almost consciously against any mechanical beat. Maybe you can program Pro Tools to build to a crescendo, but a real crescendo has the uncertain pulse of life in it, the barriers of machine being more rigid than the permeable osmosis of a room of people being swept away.

I knew I would find myself dancing, but the kind of wild up and down bouncing and twisting they inspire is something I don't feel hardly ever. It was almost like the old New Wave beats, a little faster than normal, a little more out of control and intoxicating. Plus what they were all playing was dense and so full of ping-ponging counterpoint and swing that it was a frenzy. Dionysius was in the house.

Not every song was killer, but they were all at least novel and interesting. Listen to their live favorite and you'll get a tiny taste of the greatness I saw last night: