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.

Concerts and Catchup

Monday, 20 May 2002

5.20.02 INT. SIEGFRIED HALL RM 450 9:44pm NIGHT

i’ve got a lot to talk about.

home was good, i stayed just long enough but didn’t see a whole lot of mom which i know she doesn’t like. bo and ker­ris place in chicago was pret­ty nice as well, the q101 jam­boree wasn’t very fun. the bands i saw were ZWAN, Tenacious D, The Strokes, Hoobastank, Thursday, and Our Lady Peace. There were oth­ers there as well but i didn’t go to the sec­ond stage to see them be­cause they aren’t any good. The on­ly bands i ac­tu­al­ly en­joyed were ZWAN and The Strokes. Billy’s New Band has a nice new sound, and lis­ten­ing to the Strokes live con­vinced me that they have avoid­ed the sim­u­lacrum the record­ing an al­bum so of­ten cre­ates, i’m go­ing to buy their mu­sic on­ce i have the chance. i want to go back to chicago some­time and see some bands and go to some of the stores near bo and ker­ris apart­ment. i’m def­i­nite­ly go­ing to vis­it phil and kyle down at Purdue this sum­mer as well. i have more fun hang­ing out with those guys than with any­one else. kyle point­ed out that this week­end the five of us (bo, ker­ri, phil, kyle, and my­self) are all artists of some type and get along well be­cause of it. com­ing back to ND was strange since i am liv­ing in a dif­fer­ent dorm in a room to my­self. the weath­er is the same and has been for all too long, over­cast and around 40 (with oc­ca­sion­al bouts of rain to liven things up). i have as­signed bo and phil to send me one new mu­si­cal in­flu­ence every week. i hope they fol­low through with it (HINT HINT).

i don’t know if i am made to live in the city or live in the coun­try. there are so many in­ter­est­ing things to see in the city that spark my cu­ri­ousi­ty, but at the same time the pas­toral sim­plic­i­ty of the coun­try suits my tem­pera­ment more i be­lieve. i still haven’t seen Star Wars but hope­ful­ly that will be reme­died on wednes­day. i’m go­ing to have to re­design this damn site again, or at least get a new back­ground and fig­ure out what the hell is wrong with the frames since i saw how crap­py it looks on an ibook. that is all for now. i have to be at work at 9 to­mor­rer.