April Fool’s Day Music Review

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.