Which I guess I understand, though it is annoying. See, thereís
something remarkably powerful about relationships within a band--
even the non-sexual ones. Itís the chance for us as an audience to watch
people doing something with their friendships thatís a little more complex
and meaningful than sitting around drinking beer and watching The Simpsons
on Sunday nights. Standing there watching two or three or four people
communicating seemingly telepathically for forty-five minutes or an hour,
we canít help but wish for the same level of communication, and artistic
productivity, from our own relationships.
When two members of a band are lovers, it becomes all that much easier
to idealize their relationship. Weíve all had lovers; and weíve all, at one
time or another, longed for the sort of effortless finish-your-sentence
connectedness that band-mates appear to possess. The fact that most of
us only see a lot of our band-member idols during those forty-five minutes
of peak togetherness just makes the job of projection even simpler.
Is it any wonder, then, that any shakeup within a favorite band results
in chatter and speculation far out of proportion to what the bandmembers
feel they deserve? And when the parties involved were lovers, it feels
that much more crucial to talk about, even as the details become less and
less appropriate for us to want to know.
So when Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance of Superchunk broke up,
years ago, the frenzy that ensued didnít really have all that much to do
with the specifics of who dumped whom, or how Laura felt about playing
on all those songs Mac wrote about the breakup. The frenzy was largely
just white noise generated by legions of fans trying desperately to figure
out how their own relationships were supposed to outlast what had long
been touted (by outside observers, of course) as the perfect indie-rock
So too Bicentennial Quarters. Shannon Morrow is a kickass drummer,
with an easy, rolling sense of rhythm, strong arms, and a good loud
floor tom. But Iím going to have to see her play again with her other
band, Pizza Hutch, before Iíll be able to picture her drumming without
also picturing the way she used to smile over at Walker while he pulled
insane noises out of the strings of his guitar.
Shannon was the Bi-Qsí second drummer, following local legend Ian
(who recently returned to NC from California). Their sound changed a bit
from Ian to Shannon (less jazz/more rock would be the shorthand, though
thatís not really descriptive enough), and is likely to change again if they
manage to find a third drummer crazy enough to follow in the footsteps of
the first two. Which just makes it all the more crucial for somebody to get
around to finishing and releasing the long-delayed Bi-Qs album which was
[mostly] recorded last year with Bob Weston.
There have been stories circulating that Shannon, at least, is still
and dedicated to getting the record finished and released, but since itís
not entirely up to her, Iím not holding my breath.
On the one hand, this is great news--their audience is a committed
but itís been stuck at about the same size for the past year or so. I suspect
thatís because certain local electronica/rave fans are skeptical enough
of the "live electronica" concept (and rightfully so) that theyíve been
waiting for some solid proof before venturing out to a dull, stinky, walls-
painted-black rock club, where the non-dancers are likely to outnumber
the dancers by a sizeable margin.
Towards that end, Those Pesky Bubbles is a rather persuasive
in favor of the Friend Side Monkey method--itís chock-full of Rich
Misenheimerís trademark percolating high-end bleeps and beats, Ian
Shannonís wah-heavy bass, and DJ Eddy Winsteadís scientific scratching.
By restricting their palette largely to what can be performed live
these songs were written and performed live for months before they ever
got around to recording them), Friend Side Monkey have managed to create
a sound thatís a hell of a lot more identifiable than most of the techno I hear
on the radio.
Still, after having lived with Those Pesky Bubbles for a few
weeks now, Iím
left feeling more bothered than satisfied. And while itís not Friend Side
Monkeyís fault, there is a connection between the two.
More than anything else, Those Pesky Bubbles serves as a reminder
that two of my other favorite Wifflefist-related bands--Silica-gel and
Polycarp--are now defunct. (Though there are rumors of an upcoming
Silica-gel CD collecting their far-flung, hard-to-find compilation cuts.)
Silica-gel were mixing found sounds and screwed-up beats locally,
before anybody coined the phrase "electronica." Their one and only CD,
50) Noisy Children Party, is still sitting someplace on my list of the 10
most crucial local CDs to own, and every time I play it Iím struck by
just how prescient they were.
And every time I see FSM, Iím struck by how well the two bands would
complement each other--FSM bringing the uninterrupted danceable
beats that Silica-gel were always a little too herky-jerky to provide.
But without Silica-gel around to provide my fix of old record and
scanner samples, Iím left with nothing but FSMís voiceless beats. I miss
that element of cultural mix-n-match that was Silica-gelís hallmark.
Massive recombination was a particular forte of Polycarp, as well.
Their 1996 CD, The Magnetic Moment, is filled with critiques of
American popular culture, laid back-to-back with plenty of semi-sincere
pop hooks of their own. Thanks to some good-natured genius on the part
of the band, the two worlds seem to support each other, rather than
undercutting each other.
A song like "Love, Love," with its grossly maudlin samples from the
Home Shopping Network, manages to skewer the marketing of cheap
sentiment, and jerk genuine tears from my ducts before itís through.
But these days Polycarp, like Silica-gel, have fallen by the all-too-
common local wayside of busy bandmembers without enough time
to do everything at once. What makes things so sticky for me is the fact
that two of those former Polycarp bandmembers (Rich Misenheimer
and Ian Shannon) are primarily busy these days with Friend Side Monkey.
(FSM, youíll recall, began as a remix project, and debuted with
a remix of Polycarpís "King Vitamin" at the end of The Magnetic Moment.)
So every time I see or hear Friend Side Monkey, I wind up missing
Polycarp that much more. Itís partly just the presence of those
shared members. But itís also the fact that, like Silica-gel, Polycarp
blended their music with hefty doses of the human voice, whether
sung or sampled. And as a human, Iím just more attracted to that
than I am to the instrumental-only Friend Side Monkey, regardless
of how organic their performed-live-in-your-face vibe actually is.
Because while Friend Side Monkey are currently without equal,
locally, in the field of booty-shaking, Iím ultimately looking for
stimulus for my other main body-centers (brain and heart, I guess)
at the same time. And their precision beats just donít have much
to say to the meat above my waist.
Bedroom-recorded to four-track, and chock full of funky bass loops,
sassy low-fi trumpet bleats, and rudimentary drum programs,
Timotheous Groove provides a surplus of the sloppy grit that Those
Pesky Bubbles lacks. And while that doesnít make the Timgroove CD
superior to the FSM, I would definitely recommend buying the two
as a set. Better yet, take a cue from the Flaming Lips and play Ďem
both at the same time, on 2 CD players.
Drug Yacht, consisting of Daves Heller and Cantwell from Analogue
on guitar and bass, and Dave Bjorkback (of Wilmingtonís Tricky the
Cosmonaut) on drums, play fast, relatively straightforward "rock"
songs with titles like "Princess of Power."
They have been reminding me a bit of the Minutemen, and even
moreso of the long-dead Greensboro band Bicycle Face. But while
Bike Face played fast and screamed primarily as a gag (well, they
did most things as a gag, I guess), Drug Yacht play fast and scream
because itís funny and because it rocks.
In any case, regardless of the motivation, Drug Yacht have made
me happier the two times Iíve seen them than Iíve been at most other
shows Iíve seen in the past 9 months. And Iíve seen a lot of shows lately.
Now that sheís just a plain-old Lawyer (which is apparently a piece
of cake, compared to being a Law Student), Anneís found the time
to play and sing in both The Biteys and the aforementioned Pizza Hutch.
Feet planted, wrists twisted into some fucking weird shapes, she plucks
the shit out of her bass and rants in a distinctive semi-monotone which,
next to Mac McCaughanís high warble, is probably the most instantly
recognizable voice in the Triangle.
And that was the only problem with The Biteysí first show the other
Anneís bass and voice are so damn distinctive, I found it hard to follow
what guitarist Mike Barker (Mind Sirens) and drummer Catlin Hettel
(ex-Glamourpuss) were doing with themselves.
However, if history is any indication, thatís a problem that will
itself out. Anneís previous bands have been some of the strongest around,
and the more I think about it, the more I think that might have something
to do with Anneís voice and songwriting pushing everyone else to build
a framework sturdy enough to support them.
In any case, compared to the Biteys, Bucks deLuxe made very little
impression on me at all. They were sloppy, but not in a way which
appealed to the ear at all. And nothing they did on stage held my attention
any better than their playing did. This is a little surprising primarily
because their bassist, ex-Picasso Trigger frontwoman Kathy Poindexter,
used to be somewhat obsessive about catching and holding the audienceís
attention. So to speak.
Briefly: Jenn Halter made a one-page zine about music and dancing
which kicks ass. Itís supposedly number 1 of a series of 5. Letís see
2-5 soon, okay?
I wasnít all that fond of their band Lafayette, but they seem to
better luck with their current project Comveh, at least judging from the tape
I heard, which consisted largely of tape noise, hum, and repeating scraping
sounds. They claim to be preparing multiple Comveh CD releases, which
seems kind of silly, since thereís a lot of rumble and hiss involved with the
music. Itíd be perfect for cassette, and I doubt their rate of sales will ever
climb high enough to justify mass-reproduction.
They also claim to be organizing a big avant-sound event for June
Check Ad Circuitum for details, or aim your words at PO Box 832,
Carrboro, NC 27510, or http://www.mindspring.com/~antistatic.
All I can say is that I hate the fact that our culture still canít
addiction in any coherent way. Too often we view it as such a "personal"
thing that weíre afraid to even say anything about it until itís much much
too late. So think: Is there anybody you need to talk to, now, today, before
itís too late?
Is the thought of pissing them off more frightening than the thought
of their funeral?