April Fool’s Day Music Review

Tuesday, 1 April 2003

I saw Queens of the Stone Age and ZWAN last night in Normal, IL. It was a pretty good show, with two very different but capable bands. QOTSA rocked out hard, ZWAN was more of a musical odyssey than anything else. Billy didn’t talk to much, but it was obvious he enjoyed the crowd. Paz Lenchantin, the bassist, has one hot body on her. and she knows how to move it too.

For April Fool’s Day I reproduce a musical review written by a friend of mine about a guy that lives in my section who doesn’t have a band. It actually infiltrated its way into our daily student rag The Observer.

Bulbous debut from Blouse Puppies

By BJ STREW Scene Music Critic

Lester Bangs said rock is dead. Dick Rorty said philosophy is dead. Harvard’s Walt Gilbert said molecular biology is dead. Others have sounded the death knell of neoclassical economics, of tragedy and soon, maybe, relativity. And that’s all well and good because, thanks to the white knights of pop, mediocrity is here to stay its fate is sealed.

But Chris Yanek cares little for fate and, God bless him, less for mediocrity. It was out of the ashes of his A-​ha cover band from whence this matchless artist cobbled together perhaps the most brilliant assemblage of former K-​mart employees/​musicians the world has ever seen. It was allegedly on a peyote-​driven “spirit quest” that Yanek and ex-​member Jay Mohr decided on the name “The Blouse Puppies,” an allusion to a campy, John Tesh B-​side.

From their refreshingly post-​feminist moniker to their curious, esoteric instrumentation to their bulbous Thin Lizzy-​meets-​Phil Collins sound, it is clear the Blouse Puppies have staked their claim as rock’s newest standard-​bearers. Some have described the Blouse Puppies sound as the Beatles, Jesus and Dolly Parton all rolled into one, so skilled they are in the nuances of music theory, in technique, in Celtic folklore, in groundwater hydrology and so on. Clearly, few have yet successfully described the band’s unique sound.

The band’s official debut album, Derelicte My What, Capit n?, with its release delayed by Apple Corps Records until March 31 after Internet bootlegging, features most of the Blouse Puppies’ founding members: ex-​Merry Prankster Bones Walker on the stand-​up bass, Ben Ferguson blowing a mean sqinn flute, Nick Martin on electric piano and the imperturbably cool contralto of lead guitarist and vocalist Yanek. Veteran percussionist Lund Driftwood pounds sweet thunder with the meticulous authority of Art Blakey.

Taking a page from techno group Prodigy’s playbook, the Blouse Puppies feature the solo salsa dancer, Jason Cardella, tumbling and frolicking in front of the group like some Chihuahua on PCP.

And the world ought to thank producer Mike Panzica. Because then, after everyone thought the band had peaked, the bigwig Sicilian producer, in due course, had the whole band rocking dirty-​blonde perms. Maybe a little over-​the-​top, perhaps a bit too retro, but believe it the gleaming, coiled ‘dos are heartrending in concert, as those 23 high-​schoolers lucky enough to witness the Blouse Puppies last week in the basement of a Motel 6 in Minster, Ohio can confirm.

The title track opens with Yanek ululating like a Moroccan widower, accompanied by Bones’ novel harmonics and Driftwood’s sonorous rumble, questioning the existence not of God, but of bad easy-​listening. Many of the songs, such as “Prince Albert’ s Revenge” and “But It Ain’t Grey Poupon,” have a bouncy bass line firmly undergirding the minor-​chord melodies. The album ends with “The Rack,” a tribute to Janet Reno and her contributions not only to the country, but to country music.

An avant-​garde confluence of country (Appalachian, not Nashville), free jazz, Brazilian tropicalia, klezmer and of course, classic rock, their influences range from Ornette Coleman to Bob Dylan to John Tesh. Vicious parody? Maybe. Genius? Undoubtedly.

The lyrics’ content span a variety of topics, including Yanek’s Icelandic boyhood, the pitfalls of sobriety, Dadaism and whale liberation. It is difficult to say where the irony ends and the earnestness begins, so cagily Byzantine is Yanek’s verse. What is easy to say, on the other hand, is that no one would have predicted it would take a mixture of sqinn flutes and golden perms to upend the Lester Bangs Weltanschauung and finally have a shot at redeeming a music world in decline.