Wednesday 28 July @ 16:52:50
by Tom Hallett
Yep, the summer of 2004 has to go down as one of the weirdest, most off-kilter slices of time most of us under the age of 50 can remember living through. I hear it from friends, acquaintances, and even total strangers every day: “What the fuck is going on?” “Why do I feel so weird?” “Why am I arguing with friends/family members whom I’ve agreed with my whole life on most things about shit neither of us really understand?” “Is it just me?” Well, no, it’s not just you.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "The god of victory is said to be one-handed, but Peace gives victory to both sides."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
SONG OF THE WEEK: "Bright Eyes Darkened"
The world—and this country in general—is in the midst of a gigantic upheaval of political, social, cultural, and economic change the likes of which we haven’t seen since Wavy Gravy was a major pop culture figure. And it doesn’t take a genius to suss that we’re heading, balls-to-the-wall, pedal-to-the-metal, right straight towards a monstrous, corrupt, corporate-run one-world behemoth of a government.
You think I’m crazy? Well, you may be right (ouch, sorry, don’t know how Billy Joel got in the mix—oh yeah, it’s cuz he didn’t start the fire...), but that doesn’t change the fact that you can’t find a major sports arena or large music venue in the ENTIRE country that isn’t named after some soul-sucking corporation. I remember when those places used to be named after founding city fathers, or some fantastic local natural attraction, or even just the area they were built in. And now it’s XCEL this and GE that and COCA-COLA here and ANHEUSER BUSCH there—it’s enough to make ya gag. I mean, I don’t even like sports, and it pisses me off that Wrigley Field no longer exists. Of course, when I do think of baseball, it always brings to mind electrical appliances, new cars, or computer components. Yeah, right. Ugh.
Mark my words, boogie chillun—the time’s not far away when your children’s schools, your parks, your playgrounds, yes, even your churches, will carry the monikers of those huge corporations. There’ll be The Microsoft Junior High School, The Kraft National Forest Preserve (but not for long, since the forests are disappearing as quickly as originality in the good ol’ Us of A), the Playskool Kiddie Playworld, and The Holy Shroud Of Tommy Hilfiger Worship Center. Is there anything we can do about it, short of total anarchy? Naw. It’s too late for that, kids. We blew it. We were too busy buying all the products those vultures manufacture and advertise to death to notice that they were taking over the planet. Your best bet nowadays is to get in on the action while it’s still in this growth stage. After all, you’ll need at least a little capital to run screaming from the city and build your very own hippie/rebel compound deep in what’s left of the woods.
That’s why I’m throwing my hat in the ring and coining a fresh corporate tag for this column now—before somebody beats me to the punch. And since none of those large corporations have approached me (can you imagine that?!) for sponsorship, I’ve decided to make up a business that will surely exist at some point in time. Then I can give ‘em a hard time and make ‘em pay me for the name—ain’t that smart, Cletus? I think I’ll throw out a new possible corporate backer for this column once every couple of months until somebody bites. And of course I’ll stick with appropriate products.
This time out, I’m gonna go with one that’s near and dear to me, and one I’m sure will exist at some point in the not-too-distant future. Ready? Here goes ... THE BEE CEE DRO COFFEE HOUSE & SMOKE SHOP PRESENTS ... ROUND THE DIAL!! I just know there’s some enterprising young Canuck up there in British Columbia dreaming up this java and bong-friendly shop, and little does he/she know that I’ve already got the name!! Ha! Ha! Haaaa!! Well, don’t worry, eh ... my attorneys will be in touch the minute you’re bought out by Philip Morris, and then we’ll all be rollin’ in the ‘dro—er—dough. For now, though, I guess I best go back to reviewing CDs and looking for spare change in payphones...
Bees Will Bumble
Jam Recordings (2004)
Local guitar hero Terry Eason (he’s played as a sideman for just about everybody in town, but you may remember him specifically from his work with Dylan Hicks, Rhea Valentine, and his own outfits, The Ultrasonics and Eason) files part two of his elephant-bee-fly trilogy (can’t wait to hear the flies, man) with Bees Will Bumble, a shimmering, electrifying batch of psychedelic-laced mod pop. Once again backed by the excellent Eason line-up of bassist Taras Ostroushko, drummer Matt Novachis, and guitarist Jeff Waryan (with guest appearances by fab one-time Dylan collaborator Peter Ostroushko and percussionist Wes Morden), the wily axe-man has managed to top even the grand, soul-edifying grooves of his previous release, 2003’s Elephant Garden.
Bees Will Bumble finds Eason expanding on his patented Sonic Youth-meets-Guided By Voices sound (yet retaining his subtle, keen sense of humor), though those monster riffs and razor-sharp pop hooks are still in plentiful abundance. There’s an urgency to this album—perhaps because of, or in spite of, the times we live in, and the subject matter is timely, to say the least. But where others in the indie rock world are tackling the grand, ugly picture of how these Lost Days are affecting the world as a whole, Eason, for the most part, snuggles in to the smaller, more intimate universe around him, and how that larger picture is affecting it, himself, and the ones he loves.
In “Agony Of The Thrill (Cheated),” one of a few cuts on Bees Will Bumble that specifically comments on the generally crumbling state of the Empire Of America, he laments the negative effect that our modern entertainment culture has had on both the youth population and the artistic community: “All spaced out and oversexed/The agony of the thrill defeated/The feeling like you’ve been cheated...” then lays out his concerns over lush pop-rock chords with an aural “what-the-fuck” vibe that brings to mind that shot of Jim Morrison right after he got busted by Miami cops for pretending to fornicate with a farm animal onstage—face screwed up in mock-surprise, hands held up in studied confusion.
“Entangled” is a chunky rocker that deals with the loss of friendship and respect for a fellow artist who’s let their talent go to their head—and is probably the most bitter, Lennon-esque musical jab I’ve heard since, well, since Lennon’s poke at McCartney, “How Do You Sleep?” I don’t know who Terry’s writing about here, but whoever it is, they must’ve really pulled a shitty one to deserve lyrics like: “Your cheap stage drama/Turned into a Frankenstein/We got entangled/I scratch your back and you stab mine...” and “You got your cronies/Always at your beck and call/Just like you, phony/And so “professional”/I hope you’re happy...” Typically, though, Eason throws an infectiously upbeat hook and line right into the mix for the chorus: “I don’t feel bad at all/Better than I did before/I hope you’re happy now/Better than you were before...”
The title track, “Bees Will Bumble,” kicks off on a gorgeous keyboard riff, then eases in with Peter Ostroushko’s hypnotic violin strokes, and deals with a couple’s worries and concerns as the world around them “starts to fall and crumble,” but once again, Terry finds a nugget of hope, even in that dark corner: “When everyone’s proud we’ll still be humble/We may step on stones/But we’ll never stumble...” “Hurricane Hill” finds the author lamenting those good/crazy ole days gone by(e), and crooning over Jeff Waryan’s soul-weary lap steel cry: “I used to be an optimist/I used to try to make a list/Of all the reasons to exist/But then I lost it...”
Eason doesn’t make any shallow, rock-star attempts to offer solid solutions to the subjects he tackles—the denigration of civilization as we know it, love in the 21st Century, phoniness, fake friends, loneliness, and boredom—but he does make it all a little easier to take by simply acknowledging that we’re all merely human, and that maybe this bullshit really is all part of a grander plan that we can’t possibly hope to understand or change. Staving it off, loving who you love with all you’ve got, tolerating the rest of the monkeys out there to the best of your ability, and not being afraid to speak up or out against things that you know in your heart and soul are wrong—that’s the best you can do. And maybe that’s the best advice of all.
In Bees Will Bumble’s final cut, “Church Of Offended Ministries (Cheated Again),” he lays it all out on the line over wistful guitars and keys: “...Santa Claus has virtue by the condescending nuns/What you don’t know will never hurt you hurry past the frozen guns/Redneck mister white trash saying that his balls are blue/His favorite pain is car crash singing stars and stripes for you/Listerine and serpent tongues calling all the souls to be free/The leader of the church of the offended ministries/And if it were all up to me, we’d be wearing brand new clothes/we’d defy the status quo/we’d be having laugh tracks too/Just like the funny channels do/And if it were all up to me/We would probably just make do...”
Like I said, it’s not a pretty picture, but it helps to have it framed in crying guitars, smooth-as-silk vocals, thromming drums, stomping bass, and soothing violins. Like all the best soul-conscious uber-pop out there (from Big Star to My Morning Jacket), Eason simply gets shit off of his own chest and throws it out there for you to do the same. Bees Will Bumble is a perfect title for this album—if you’re smarter than the average bear, and you listen carefully, you’ll walk away with a tasty, sticky pot of pop-rock honey. Highly recommended. The album is available Tuesday, 7/27 at Cheapos around the Twin Cities, and the band will play their CD release party on Friday, 7/30 at 7th Street Entry. The Minders and Grickle-Grass (love that band!) are also on the bill. Terry & Band head off for the International Pop Overthrow festival in L.A. August 1st, so catch this great outfit playing their new album here in town now!
Other recommended upcoming local gigs: We’re Not Ween, the country’s coolest cover band, will play Dean & Gene tunes ‘til you’re pushin’ little daisies Wednesday night, 7/28, at 7th Street Entry. Even if you’re not a Ween fanatic (and I can’t imagine who would deprive themselves of such great music and fun), ya should head down and say HIGH to my ol’ buddy Dave Campbell—he loves you, even if you don’t know it. The Shades and The Mickey Mutts share the stage. 8 p.m., $5, 21+. And if ya just can’t wait to check out Eason on Friday night at the Entry, head down to The Terminal Bar in Minneapolis on Thursday, 7/29, and give a listen to Eason bassist Taras Ostroushko’s killer, Zappa-meets-punk-and-spills-hot-coffee-all-over-its-shoes outfit, Henry. They’ll play a bill with Dear Sweet Villain and Radio On Again, $3, 9 p.m., 21+. Last, but by no means least, St. Paul’s Turf Club hosts three—count ’em—THREE kickass bands on Saturday, 7/30, when powerhouse rawkers The Rank Strangers and killer kruisers Kruddler kick off the club’s monthly Slim Dunlap music-and-story fest. Be there or be ... well, you know. That’s it for me this week, folks. Tune in again next week to THE BEE CEE DRO COFFEEHOUSE AND SMOKE SHOP PRESENTS ... ROUND THE DIAL. Until then, make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events/CD’s you’d like to see mentioned in this column, or you’d just like to complain that you already thought of BEE CEE DRO as a name for your Canadian coffeehouse/weed emporium, send replies to: (temporary e-mail) email@example.com.