'round the dial
Wednesday 08 October @ 10:34:59
by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “All my records are comedy records.”
SONG OF THE WEEK: “It’s Not Funny Anymore”
RTD continues our ongoing local and national CD reviews series this week with an offering from a Twin Cities outfit.
The Mubbla Buggs
Exoteric Tunes (2003)
Look, I can handle the occasional CD from a snuffled-up white boy blues interpreter, or the sporadic whiny folk singer chick who learned to play guitar so she could set her high school-era poems to music, and even the relentless, never-ending shit-flood of samey, overproduced modern rock crapola that lands in my mailbox like so much offal from the (un)friendly skies. In between, I usually find a gem or two that makes this whole underpaid, underappreciated, underrated task I've taken on worth the headache. I'm not complaining, I'm just setting the stage here for one of the most recent bizarre assaults on my musical beliefs, taste, and comprehension.
This—this abomination, this desecration, this cruel and wicked collection of sugary snot-rock—is called Colouramic. But wait! I'm only telling the truth here, and not very well, I'm afraid. See, the scary thing about The Mubbla Buggs is that they're so fucking GREAT at producing really, really, really bad music that I'm starting to wonder if they're even real at all. I mean, I know they're real people—they sent me a gift basket a couple of months ago hoping I'd write about an upcoming gig of theirs. It was a bizarre collection of toys (a white baby, a black baby, Mother Mary holding Baby Jesus, a plastic cop with his gun pointed at me), candy (not all stuff I liked, and frankly, I would've preferred 'ludes, but hey, it was a nice effort), and other assorted goofy items that fit right in with the oddball toy army perched on shelves around my office—Gumby and Pokey, Alvin & The Chipmunks, the Wolfman, Captain America, and scores of scale-model soldiers, cowboys, and Indians. Cool, but not enough to inspire a quick write-up after I played the obnoxious, wacky (God, I DETEST wacky!) album they included in the sack.
As a matter of fact, it was so bad that I immediately threw it in the discard pile, and thought I'd never see or hear it again. Somehow, it found its way back to the To Review pile, and when I threw it in a week or so ago, I realized that the whole thing had to be some cruel, juvenile joke. Or was it? Could it be that there's actually a committee of Rock Critic Scrutinizers out there somewhere? A hard-ass, no-bullshit, straight-from-the-hip league of Christ(gau)-like overseers of the trade, presiding secretly over the whole steaming pile with hawkish eyes hidden behind owlish spectacles, sporting starched collars and long, black robes? Their mission: To send random and occasional packages containing coded messages disguised as really, really, really bad CD's to struggling music writers in order to test their mettle. I mean, there has to be some explanation other than The Revenge Of Lester Bangs—that was just a late-night, drunken theory brought about by the continual regurgitation of Carburetor Dung, wasn't it? Brrrr! I'm praying that's the case.
Because, as much as it pains me to admit, this mélange of musical madness is absolute genius. Take one part Talking Heads, one part (overplayed) Cars, one part Dave Edmunds, one part Vapors, and one part Trip Shakespeare, and you've got the Mubbla Buggs. Wait, you say! That's FIVE parts! Tsk. Tsk. This band ain't about numbas, sucka, they're about COLORS! Besides, larger-than-life drummer Michael Bland counts for TWO influences all by hisself, mang. Rumor has it that these cats (Bland is joined in this flagrant assault on all good taste and good sense by guitarist/vocalist Pat Mavity—who, in his picture on the album's inner sleeve, eerily resembles shamed former Skynyrd drummer Artemis Pyle, guitarist/vocalist Nathan Anderson, and bassist Eric Hohn.) are all the rage at private parties and occasional gigs out for the local rock royalty, but I won't drop no names here, see. If it's true, I think I can begin to comprehend why.
How fun it must be for "serious" musicians/songwriters to watch this kinda creepy quartet of (musically) talented peers throw caution to the wind and create their own pop version of Spinal Tap, Rock Star, and A Mighty Wind all rolled up into one sticky, gooey, messy ball. The song titles alone are enough to set off alarm bells from The Village Voice to Crawdaddy: "Sad Pet Fish," "Crazy Reba," "Bunk House," and "Get Off My Bike!" could all grace the cover of a Weird Al CD without batting an eyelash. But batting their eyelashes are what The Mubbla Buggs are all about. Daring their fellow musicians to step outside of their uber-serious, cloudy-sky, heartbreak little worlds long enough to see the ridiculousness of it all, goading listeners into delving deeper and deeper into the album to find hidden blues licks, references to mummified ’70s prog-rockers YES, keen, razor-sharp lyrics ("Papa said better not play that music son/It'll get you in trouble/An' you're gettin' it done...I'm a real bad boy!/I'm livin' in a bunk house/It's a house of bunk!"), and even sharper musical awareness. Shades of Ween, The Meat Puppets, and Mojo Nixon sprawl over this album like the final night descending over The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
There's no pat answer here, no easy explanation, no simplification that'll unlock the mystery of just why I came to understand that The Mubbla Buggs weren't what they first appeared to be. No reason why a cranky old bastard like myself, who's gone on record many, many times as saying I HATE FUNNY MUSIC would somehow grasp that this silliest of the sillies isn't really funny, not one bit. Fun, maybe. Funky, definitely. Funny? No way, man. This is some serious shit. This is Grease meets Apocalypse Now. This is Marlon Brando SITTING ON Pocahontas. This is Meatballs meets The Meat Puppets. This is rockin' fuckin' roll, man. It all comes to a head when the 'Buggs slam out their own anthem, Colouramic. Over a raunchy, range-ridin' guitar hoo-ha, Mavity (or Anderson, who can tell?) pours his David Byrne-style vocals over a bouncy Western backbeat like 150-year-old rotgut whiskey as his fellow 'Buggs provide a solid bed of Blues Brothers-inspired backing chants: "Col-la-la-la-la-la-ram-mam-mam-mic..." Like I said, this stuff really is like a bag of that Halloween candy that gets stuck between your teeth every time you eat it, but is so good that you just can't stop yourself from stickin' yer head back into the feed bag again and again. Bad? Good! Good? Bad! Arrgh!
I'm left with a couple of pertinent questions, though: (1) Have these guys caught Dan Aykroyd at a Saints game and slipped him a copy of this album yet? And (2) Lester Bangs—if this package did come to me through your restless rock ’n' roll spirit or some hidden cabal of ancient, giant-headed rock critics as some kind of freakish test, how come it still makes me wanna dance? ROCK CRITICS DON'T DANCE! Everyone knows we just rub our chins thoughtfully and sip at a warm import beer when we like a band, right? Right. Well, watch out out there for The Mubbla Buggs, kids.
They'll sink their pretty little pop hooks right into your ass and force you to move it in ways most Minnesotans would find patently offensive. That's gotta count for somethin'. Until next week, make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you'd like to see listed in this column, or you'd just like to complain that you never get balloon-festooned bags fulla candy and toys delivered to your door, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.