I like to think of my forays into the dust and must of the thrift stores as cultural archaeology. I would also like to think, if I were sufficiently motivated and waved handfuls of cash around, that I could convince a credible university to let me design a master's degree program in American Thrift Store Studies. Other than taking on the crippling debt, it would almost be worth doing. But for today, here's some more old crap. Please to enjoy!
No, there's nothing creepy about this skull-bisected cookie jar clown. WAIT A MINUTE, YES THERE IS!! AIEEE!
It has been said that internal conflict is a classic spark for creative work, the psychic kerosene that fuels people to make things. If this is so, The Intelligence's songwriter/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lars Finberg reigns as the Duke of Dichotomies, the Prince of Polarity, and the King of Contrariety, even evidenced in the title of the band's new album, "Vintage Future." Finberg's crispy-fried, carbon-black-humored lyrics on "Vintage Future" wrestle stark dualities for breakfast, while you and I are still groggy and contemplating choices no more taxing than having sugar or Splenda in our morning coffee. But it's a battle that doesn't seem to produce a victor nor has particular hope in even attaining a draw. It's life presented as a mental Sisyphus vs. the mountain struggle, when as the boulder rolls down the steep, craggy hill yet another time all one can do is offer an exhausted, frantic laugh and begin to roll it back up once again, even if you'd really rather watch TV...and where it's furthermore and entirely possible you constructed the mountain all yourself.
Did I mention all these conflicts are set to incredibly appealing music? As we hurtle forward into the now, "Vintage Future" shines throughout with sharp performances by Dave Hernandez on guitar, keys, and vocals, Pete Capponi on drums, Drew Church on bass, and very able additional work by former Thee Oh Sees members Brigid Dawson and Petey Dammit, Sic Alps' Mike Donovan, The Mallard's K. Dylan Edrich, and co-producer/studio whiz Chris Woodhouse, altogether very fine people to work with. Let us place the needle on the outer rim of the orange vinyl 12" and begin.
SEX: Finberg decides to begin "Vintage Future" with a jackhammer beat and knife-slash guitar that tears open a brutally self-aware relationship confessional box, filled with indecision, entitlement, self-loathing, lust, love, and all kinds of blame, self- and otherwise. I can't even count all the Hail Marys and Our Fathers you'd need to resolve this, especially because I'm not Catholic.
NOCTURNAL ADMISSIONS: A spooky slap-back echo chug-chug down the road has Finberg giving what would not be considered a ringing endorsement of pursuing a musical career, a theme that goes throughout "Vintage Future" and most of Finberg's work, actually. Hey, you try starting out in music exactly when digital music comes into being and simultaneously makes your work more accessible and of no monetary value! Hop in the van, kids, it's fun!
CLEANING LADY: An airbrake-release double-beat keeps rigid time over creepy guitar and keyboards, lending a sinister air and harkening back to The Intelligence's earliest work, when it was just Lars, a fear of death, and a lot of instruments in a room.
WHIP MY VALET: I gasped with delight to hear the machine-gun rapid fire drum opening and crunchy clipped chords here, and am grateful it's under two minutes long because I anticipate uncontrollable pogo dancing to this in the future.
WE REFUSE TO PAY THE DUES: Relentlessly catchy, with soaring shiny guitars, a singalong chorus, and head-boppin' riff, you forget as you are singing along that the song seems to be the narrative of a fantastically-snobby-yet-failed band. Easily The Intelligence's most broadly-accessible and commercial song ever, the irony of all this is why we love The Intelligence.
PLATINUM JANITOR: The band narrative continues with a slow descending guitar string scrape, as our lyrical combo gets further jolted by musical realities in "a great big world with nothing but yous," tormented by "shitty guitars/touring in cars/wet-heaving/playing through Peaveys." But, in considering the life alternatives, at least "it's not a broken mop handle or handcuffed to a cop." This is close to the apex of optimism on "Vintage Future."
TOURISTS: An island-pace acoustic guitar is embellished by pebble-drop synths and the flat patter of cheap electro-drums, pretty and strange, with Finberg reminiscing over a past love with the realization that he is now is a "tourist" rather than a "native" in the relationship.
DIEU MERCI POUR LE FIXATION DE LA MACHINE A COUDRE: Wait...STRINGS? Lyrics that are straight-up in romantic swoon mode? WHO IS THIS GUY?? The actual aforementioned apex of lyrical optimism comes here, with "I think I almost feel right." Whoa. This song reminds me to tell you that the production values throughout "Vintage Future" are also swoon-worthy, with a warmth and clarity that gives the songs a sonic breadth that is welcomed. The vocals are clean and confident, even if the words can't quite say, "I feel fine."
BONUS! The title of this song is clearly in French, and I thought it was a straight translation of an earlier Intelligence song, "Thank God For Fixing The Tape Machine," found on the "Fake Surfers" album. Well, I ran it through three different online translation bots, and this is what I got:
Google Translate: THANK GOD FOR FIXING THE SEWING MACHINE
Yandex Translate: THANK GOD FOR THE ATTACHMENT OF THE MACHINE TO SEW
Translate.com: THANK GOD FOR THE MOUNTING OF THE MACHINE WAS SEWING
ROMANS: This is one of my favorite songs from The Intelligence's live set of the last couple of years, and I've been very eager to hear it recorded and HERE IT IS! It begins all stealthy and underground, and then explodes into a fury of noise that is breathtaking, eventually reeling back enough to allow us to sip some water and perhaps procure a fan. The lyrics are either too opaque or too straightforward for me to analyze, but I can mention that the band did get all their gear, clothes, and personal effects jacked while in Rome awhile back, and I bet this leaves an impression on a guy, yep.
VINTAGE FUTURE: The album closes with its beginning, the title of the record. A sweet duet from Lars and Brigid, where we are sent off metaphorically with a jetpack to visit the Jetsons, but actually end up driving a new Mustang to the mall to buy a machine-weathered "industrial loft style" coffee table for $3050.00, or something like that, or maybe nothing like that. The last thing you hear as the needle tracks to the playout groove is a robo-voice stiffly crying out, "But I was just learning how to love!" and all the regret and blame from "Sex" circles back, reminding us that a vintage future is one that keeps clawing us back to the past.
To be or not to be? To be in a band or not to be in a band? To be in a relationship or not be in a relationship, or be in a relationship and wish you weren't but still are, or not be in one and wish you were in the one you used to not want to be in when you were in it? Hell, don't ask me...ask the Sultan of the Scales, Lars Finberg. Actually, don't ask that guy, 'cause he's got songs to write. But do listen to "Vintage Future," available on CD, vinyl LP, FLAC, and MP3 from In The Red Records, Amazon, iTunes, Midheaven, and all other cool places to buy music, available September 25th, with immediate pre-order.
"Finberg, what would you do if you had two heads?"
There's nothing better than kid art. It's one of the main reasons I had kids, just to get the art. Anyway, in the constant battle that is cleaning and organizing in my house, I came across these pieces that I saved from my daughter's preschool days. I howled at the bleakness and reminded myself to NEVER throw SOME things away. Click to enlarge and please to enjoy!
In the Fall of 1973, I was newly into 6th Grade at Ashippun (WI.) Elementary School, although back in those groovy days "grade levels" there had sort of been set aside for "units" A, B, and C, grouped loosely by ascending age and ability. We were a mix of farm and town kids, with "town" being the small group of houses surrounding a five tiny saloons, a firehouse, and a post office, no more than 300 people in total. I can remember particularly that year one of the bars was open very early in the morning (Wisconsin, remember) and would sell CANDY to us schoolkids before we got on the schoolbus. Hot dog gum, Kit Kat bars, Boston Baked Beans, Bit O' Honey, Red Hots, Almond Joy and Mounds, candy bracelets...so many tiny joys that rotted our teeth and depleted our school milk money allotments. These were also the days when your parents could send you with a written note to buy cigarettes for them from the same bars, but that's another topic.
If there's anything elementary-age kids love, it's trading and collecting. It could be cool rocks, swizzle sticks (again, Wisconsin), or the above candies. But in 1973, the big kid collecting fad was the return of Wacky Packages. For a nickel a pack, you got some stiff, powdery bubble gum and three stickers, which hilariously spoofed common household products. With American super-consumer culture into its third decade and a heightened zeitgeist of "question authority," we kids weren't buying the hype we saw on TV commercials by now...we'd grown up with all the tricks of advertising. Wacky Packages brilliantly mixed that youthful cynics' eyeview with the zest to collect, as if MAD Magazine got into the trading card business. They made millions off us while making us laugh.
I was so proud of my collection that I peeled them off and made a mini-album out of a piece of cardboard and clear plastic, stapled together. I recently found it in a box of dusty school papers and art that had been stored for decades, and my smile, 42 years later, was wide. I did a little research and confirmed that they all belong to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6 series of Wacky Packages releases, going from the fall of '73 to the spring of '74. The glue is failing to hold, but they still look pretty good!
The next year I was off to junior high in the "city" (of about 7000 people), and the fad had faded. But good satire never dies, and I thought I'd share these with you. Click on the images to enlarge!
The crazy-ass windstorm that blasted through the Pacific Northwest this past weekend decided, FOR ONCE, not to knock out my electricity nor impede my mobility! Furthermore, said storm calmed its bad self down by Sunday, and I was off to see a fabulous sold-out triple-bill at The Crocodile in Belltown starring California post-punk rave-up get-down maniacs Thee Oh Sees and locals Steal Shit Do Drugs and Smiling. To be fair, even if the windstorm had been in full force I think I would've swam across Lake Washington with a ducky float to get there, 'cause you don't miss the Oh Sees when they come to town. You just don't.
I'm Marianne Spellman. I am in Seattle-ish. I like and make music and words and photos and coffee and have crappy eyesight, like every other blogger. I do freelance thingies for cool people and places every so often. I post here often.