By Mike White
The best thing about my short-lived job at General Physics Corporation was my CD ROM drive. It was a pretty typical disc player, the best thing about it, though, was that I could put on my head phones and block out the voices of my obnoxious co-workers. From 8AM to 3:30PM ("I got here at 7," I'd lie as I hit the road an hour and a half early since no one was in before me and we didn't have any time cards) I'd sit with my head phones on, sometimes listening to music, other times just keeping them on in the hopes that people would leave me the fuck alone. The less I had to interact with them, the less likely it was for me to come in and shoot all of them. Another added bonus was that I got a chance to sit down and listen to a few discs that had come in for review and write about a few of them as well as a couple that have been getting heavy airplay on my home stereo.
Komeda The Genius of Komeda (Minty Fresh, PO Box 577400, Chicago, IL 60657)
It seems that anything that one would listen to while sipping on a Martini or hitting on a big ole stogie could be classified as Lounge Music. It's one huge musical genre. Some bands strive to be known as Lounge Music while others get pigeonholed because they may reflect some of the trappings of Lounge because of their ability to transcend the typical pop/rock/alternative sound.
Please don't call Komeda a Lounge Band. Sure, some of their tunes may sound a bit similar to other acts such as Combustible Edison ("Light O' My Life"), however some others cross over into ethereal realms reminiscent of Stereolab ("Fire") or even travel to distances that remind me quite a bit of The Velvet Underground ("Boogie Woogie/Rock'N'Roll"). If you needed a blurb you could call Komeda "Lounge Music with a Wocca-Wocca guitar!"
I bought this disc totally on a whim, I happened to read something about them in a sidebar about The Cardigans in Entertainment Weekly and thought the Kraftwork-y cover art was pretty cool. It was just one of those impulse buys that worked out incredibly well. Be sure to check out their other records: Pop Pa Svenska and What Makes It Go?
Superdot Here Comes the Neighborhood (Icon Records, PO Box 1746, Royal Oak, MI 48068)
It's been a few years since I've been in college but I can see Ska being pretty popular on campus: there's nothing better to drink beer and get rowdy to than the syncopated rhythms of Ska music. You just can't help from being happy when you listen to it.
However, for me, it gets pretty old pretty fast. A friend of mine told me a joke about Ska: what's black and white and boring? With the few Ska albums I've heard, I get terribly bored by the fourth song because it's just the same thing song after song. You can only change up that rhythm so many times.
Superdot tries to keep it interesting with a few non-purist-Ska songs such as "Polka Dot" (yes, a polka), "Chewy" (a cross-genre tribute to Chewbacca), "Redneck Interlude" (a lil' Country ditty), "In The Rude" (playing around with Glenn Miller), and a cover of Devo's "Wiggly World." Individually, all of these songs are pretty darned good, but as a whole I couldn't take the album for long periods of time.
So if you like Ska, I'd recommend Superdot.
The Aquabats The Return of The Aquabats (Fearless Records, 13772 Goldenwest St #545, Westminster, CA 92683)
Okay, so the day after I wrote the above about Superdot I got this disc in the mail. I sighed as I heard the first strains of a horn section ten measures into the first song, "Oh great, another goddam Ska album." However, before I knew it I had listened to the entire thing!
Yes, the Aquabats managed to entertain me with Ska for an entire album length. How did they do it? I think it might be the sparing use of the horn section with a reliance more on guitar and a strong Latin influence. The melodramatic vocals and goofy sci-fi-themed songs didn't hurt either! Very recommended.
Garage Sale Shark Sandwich (Beef Platter Records, PO Box 36401, Baltimore, MD 21286)
With a name like Garage Sale you'd think this would be a full-out Garage Band; loud, raucous, and rhythmically beautiful. Garage Sale is all that but they're music crosses over from straight three-chord Garage music into the wonderful, fluid world of Surf more often than not.
Garage Sale really offers the best of both worlds; infectuously catchy pop songs ("Change The Styles You Wear") and moody, melodic surf tunes ("Stingray") but the best thing is that there's no pretense. Shark Sandwich plays like a Greatest Hits collection - every song's a winner and each time I listen to this tape I like it more and more.
Tracy & The Hindenberg Ground Crew Margaret Dumont (Action Box Records, PO Box 10423, Burbank, CA 91510)
As we continue to explore musical genres, I'd like to say that I really like albums where you never know what the next song is going to sound like. Some groups like They Might Be Giants excel at this concept while others just grind out the same thing song after song (gosh, taken in the wrong context that could sound like my Mom!). Margaret Dumont is so varied that it sounds more like a compilation album than something by one group.
The only bad thing is that I'm not really too fond of the gist of most of the songs - very "college rock"-ish. I can imagine turning on WCBN or WDET and hearing any number of these songs. I wouldn't turn them off but I sure wouldn't run out and buy this album, either. Hopefully their cool cover of "Convoy" will get picked up to be on a compilation of Truck Drivin' Music covered by current bands; you know an album like that is probably in the works somewhere!
If this is your first year in college or just have a soft spot for quirky music, then this is for you.