Thursday, April 01, 2004

I spent yesterday trying to come up with a suitable early John Kongos track to illustrate what his stuff on the Lavender Popcorn compilation sounds like, but I ran into the problem that the songs from his first solo album don't sound much like the rest of the collection, so I really have to post two tracks. Here's Confusions About A Goldfish, from the solo album of the same name, which has some of the worst lyrics that I've ever heard. The fact that he delivers the lines totally straight (some might say passionately) makes it even better. Man, I'm tellin' ya, we're all just goldfish in god's cosmic bowl! That is when we're not sugar packets (line from another song that I'm not posting).

Clearly John Kongos was trying on various popular styles during his early days with occasionally embarrassing results, not unlike a lot of other people (early David Bowie springs to mind). As Scrugg (what a lovely name) there are a bunch of...I guess 60's-esque is the best description...songs that will sound instantly familiar in a reasonably pleasant way. Lurking in the background of his early songs there's an interesting similarity to Neil Diamond which is probably most obvious on I Love Mary, and whoever failed to put this on the soundtrack to There's Something About Mary ought to be in big trouble. (It actually does sound like it would work well as a movie soundtrack. Can't you just hear it playing in the background as someone who loves Mary walks around town on a fall day, thinking about how he shouldn't have let Mary get away? Send me a check if you turn this into a screenplay.) My other thought is that Urge Overkill might want to take a stab at turning this into another Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon. The lines about Mary not being so pretty or bright are kind of an odd thing to put into a love song...maybe there's a reason she treats him like a brother. And now that I think of it, Mary is mooning over someone who's away, but the singer of the song is mooning over Mary when she's away. Just where exactly is everyone? Lyrics just weren't John's strong suit in the early days, unless I'm missing something and the song is actualy about a school of goldfish.

Ultimately it's a little sad that John Kongos eventually did develop his own sound (on his two most popular songs, posted yesterday) but then didn't really follow up on them.

Speaking of the issue of sounding like other people, I recently got ahold of Bipolaroid's (I really hate that name -- can we declare a moratorium on three-part names where A+B go together and B+C go together, but A+C don't) recent Pink Floyd-to-the-max album called Tranparent Makebelieve. The album gets points for a pretty impressive channeling of Syd Barrett era Floyd, though it doesn't really sound ever gets the reverb right on these fake 60's recordings. I kind of don't know what to make of it. They do a pretty impressive job of duplicating the Pink Floyd sound, and the singer should definitely get the job of doing Syd's voice if there's ever a movie (he totally nails the tendency to wander off-key), but I can't really hear this as anything other than a tribute: I keep imagining that I'm on Bleeker Street watching the Lemonade Babies or something like that. I wonder how this would sound to someone who's never heard the original. Here's the first song Farewell and Godspeed. For the first minute I was pretty impressed, but they don't really build on their mimicry. You can hear another track on the band's website if you're interested.

My other problem with the record concerns the tracks that try to duplicate the precious "treacle and cranberry sunbeams" lyrical style of 60's English psych. My general feeling is that it's sometimes charming in songs that were actually recorded back then, but comes off a little creepy from a band of Americans from New Orleans. Is it really impossible to sound like Syd Barrett while singing about, oh I don't know, girls and cars?

Nonetheless, the production and the execution of Transparent Makebelieve are impressive enough that I'll be interested to see what the band comes up with next. I guess it's sort of authentically 60's of them to copy another band so exactly, so maybe they'll continue the tribute by actually developing their own sound.

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