_What is this CD you sent me? It’s
completely unmarked, no label, except for the words "Gloryland
Ponycat - Clown Lounge". How can I write about this when I
don’t know whether this is the Gloryland Ponycat CD by a table
of ex-Ringling men (are you one of this bewigged gang?) or the Clown
Lounge CD by some winged horse with a small furry head (are you
that mystic creature, George?). >From what I’ve heard,
it could go either way! Y’know, I’m just another guy
in a cubicle here down at Lucky’s Liner Note Factory (and
granted, in the quiet parts, which are many, there is some bleed
from my neighbor playing The Stooges’ Funhouse at top volume,
and I’m not always able to tell which music is which—great
guitar solo there—whichever of you it was—so granted,
the listening environment is less than ideal, but ) WHAT THE HECK
IS GOING ON OUT THERE IN MINNESOTA? I don’t know how you thought
this was gonna stand up to Funhouse, one of loudest, bloodiest documents
of self-destruction ever made. No, I don’t see this making
it as a rock record. It rocks in places, and swings and crashes
and does a little curtsy-pirouette now and again, but it just doesn’t
have the all-out unilateral attack of Funhouse. I don’t see
Iggy Pop losing any sleep over this, George. No, you know what?
I hear this more as a jazz record.
_All the elements are there: the freeform
style, the cerebral explorations that never quite leave melody behind,
the inventive, highly-skilled, highly-sensitive musicians—it’s
got saxophones, George. Yes, I know, Funhouse has saxophones, but
_Okay. Just for the moment let’s
lay aside your vision of this as the most violent, frantic heavy
rock record ever made. Can you do that? Just as a hypothetical?
_It’s got all the earmarks of
a really fine jazz record. It starts out with one of your by-now
trademarked end-of-the-year laments, which frankly have always sounded
more jazz than proto-punk to me. It’s alive, it’s always
happening right now. The music is made of the listening of its players,
that’s what you hear in between the notes. It has that keen
sense of mood, the weight of atmosphere—
_Speaking of which, how do you expect
me to write "happy" liner notes about this music? Was
that the word? You said you wanted something "a little upbeat,"
for a change. Did you send me the wrong CD? Evocative, yes. The
music has a memory. It gives you memories you didn’t know
you had, from before your time, from other points of view. Sad?
At times, sure! Playful? Okay! Plangent. Poised, stalking. Fleet
and full of reverie and recriminations—all of these things.
But I think your plan for this as a let-the-good-times-roll, rent-party,
pass-the-eightball, kick-out-the-jams, burn-down-the-landlord, beer-ball
anthem is wide of the mark. I just don’t hear this as a party
_Not to put too fine a point on it,
but this is a different music altogether. This music listens to
itself, and finally listens through itself. It reminds me of the
void surrounding each note, and yet taken together those notes do
warm the void, a little.
_Not, I’m afraid, a realistic
answer to the most titanic expression of ill-will ever committed
_The bass and
drums are as melodic as the sax. They comment on the sax, they sympathize,
they harmonize with it, they mock and reject it, they create landscapes
around it, and sometimes, for moments, they all dissolve into the
cool night—Oh—now I see, a slip of paper falls out of
the CD sleeve...
_Song titles, okay, and I see we’ve
got Adam Linz on bass and Alden Akida on drums, and you, George
Cartwright, on saxes. That’s a start!
By the way, I like the crowd noise and that confusion-on-the-bandstand
business you edited in. I don’t know if it’ll fool anyone,
but it really adds to the thing. As I said, the record definitely
has a live "feel".
_There’s nothing else in your
note, but reading between the lines of your heated scrawl, I don’t
see this as "the most brutal act of unwarranted rage ever conceived."
_Biker meth party instant classic?
_Taken on its own terms, I love it.
A third listening (now that my neighbor’s out) makes me want
to hear each note again at the same time I’m hearing it. I’ve
been staring at the notes in the air for a while when I realize
they’re not in the air, they’re in the rough finish
of the wall, which now, along with everything else, is made of them.