Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I'm postponing writing about the 80's band I've been mentioning for the last few days, as I finally managed to get in touch with someone who used to be a member and I'm waiting to get more details. I decided this about fifteen minutes ago, so I'm kind of scrambling for material for today.

First, a link. I've been hesitant to discuss the band Hefner here. I vastly prefer their atypical Dead Media album to anything else they've done, but I get the impression that that's not a popular point of view among longtime Hefner fans. Luckily, I can refer you here, where someone else expresses my feelings (April 27th post) and posts some mp3s.

This is kind of early notice, so mark your calendar: Karen Mantler is going to be doing a live show on WFMU on May 26th (details on this page). I wrote about Karen a long time ago, but I think it's been long enough that I can safely repeat it.

Quickly, she's Carla Bley's daughter (Carla Bley = extremely famous, quirky, jazz person), and looks just about exactly like her mom, right down to the hairstyle. She's release four solo albums, all revolving (more or less) around the life and death of her beloved cat Arnold. In order, the titles are My Cat Arnold, Karen Mantler and Her Cat Arnold Get The Flu, Farewell [poor Arnold!], and Karen Mantler's Pet Project [the search for an Arnold replacement].

She kind of walks a line with her material: her persona on the albums is very much that of the hapless child, but at the same time she does very much know how to play her instrument, as do the other people (Including Eric Mingus) who play with her. Her songwriting is aptly described in Allmusic as too pop for jazz people and too weird for pop people. A lot of her melodies sound like the sorts of ambling things that little kids sing when they're making up songs for themselves, but the final arrangements are polished and clearly the work of an adult who knows what she's doing. The risk when performing that kind of an act is that it can get a little too cutesy, and to various degrees her 1st, 2nd and 4th albums succumb to this. The one album where she really nails it is her third, Farewell.

I posted Arnold's Dead the last time I talked about Karen, but it really is her quintessential song (she reprises it on Pet Project) so I'm posting it again. I can pretty much guarantee that you'll want to put it on a mix at some point, if you're a mix-CD maker. And here are two other tracks, Con Edison and I'm His Boss, both also from Farewell. I managed to catch Karen at her last show in New York, and she's pretty funny (again, in a hapless child way) live, so I'm betting that the WFMU appearance should be a good one. Anyone know if she really works as a waitress at Olive's? That would be worth a trip.

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