BartCop Entertainment Archives - Monday, 14 July, 2008
7/15/08 8:20 AM
Fresh Squoze Music
Shockwave Radio Theater podcasts
Squeezing The Rock
For the most part, throughout the history of recorded music, musicians were serious artists and/or
shameless panderers to popular taste except for the comedy acts. Orchestras had "unusual instrumentation" (eg Haydn's Farewell). Dance bands had "novelty numbers" such as Glenn Miller's Pennsylvania 6-5000.
I've written a lot about comedy and comedy music, often called "Demented Music", as in "the kind of
music you'd hear on the Dr. Demento Show". Demented Music artists develop a comedy persona, and
never get serious. Well, hardly ever. Dance bands, in particular polka bands, often struck a happy medium. The music was interactive with the dancers, and the musicians were likely rather tipsy. Musicians who were clearly enjoying themselves are more fun to dance to than a regimented band.
Those Darn Accordions come from a long tradition of people making serious music while having fun.
They do rock and roll, among other things. They slip in rap and yodeling and tv theme songs and novelty
numbers. They are musically tight with some fine vocal harmonies. The accordions are the lead
instruments and usually sound like electric organs. Most everybody sings and the two female vocalists add a layer of sound not usually heard from straight polka bands. But let's get down to it, shall we? I don't have all their CDs, but I can recommend these four.
No Strings Attached
Those Darn Accordions first CD is No Strings Attached, from 1996 which skirts close to a true Dementia
Music CD (or cassette, showing how quickly technology has changed music). They owe a lot to Weird Al
Yankovic, who made accordions hip in the 80s as long as you loved your material.
The first cut is a nearly-Weird Al rock pean to Mothra; not the movie, watching the movie. Heavy on the
drums, accordion and backing vocals, the song is about looking for the singing pixies from the film.
Accordion players are Behind the Bellows; danceable driving rock. A former "straight arrow" confesses
that Them Hippies Was Right. (And about time, too.) Almost rap.
The Hotsy Totsy Girl is a straightforward rock and roll polka, except for the yodeling. Less successful is
their cover of the Baba O'Riley. Accordion instead of keyboard/fiddle almost works, and the vocal
stylings prevent it from being a mere recapitulation, but it just made me appreciate The Who more. The
version probably works really well in concert. They get funk with Citizen Contraire, and admit they faked
the Loch Ness Monster on their Deathbed Confession. They get annoyed at their billing on the vaudeville circuit and won't be Following the Puppets anymore.
Weird Al makes an appearance on the answering machine in the bouncy novelty song The Happy House, which is a bar. For some reason, everyone wants to cover Do Ya Think I'm Sexy, correctly figuring that the song is a parody of itself and incorrectly figuring that they cane squeeze even more parody from their version. After the original and the Chantmania version, everyone else should stick to doing it in concert.
Weird Al completists will need this CD, Dementia Musicians will want to flesh out their collection, polka
djs will slip in a few tracks. Not quite as danceable as Jimmy Sturr, not quite as conceptually odd as Brave Combo, Those Darn Accordions have made a fine CD with No Strings Attached. They demonstrate a wide range of style and subject matter. Recommended and iPod worthy (iPw).
Clownhead is darker, with more rap influence. They Came For Accordions; the aliens that is. Cool jazz
rock, almost techno rap, it'll get all six of your toes tapping. My favorite cut on the CD is the bouncy pop
Hippy With A Banjo:
Oh have mercy on me
I gotta run it's a hippy with a banjo
It's like torture to me
Kinda like a skeeter in your ear when you camp-o
He's so simple and free
He's gonna play the damn thing anywhere he can so
Please have mercy on me
I gotta run it's a hippy with a banjo
They do a nice cover of Low Rider, where the accordions add to the samba beat. They return to accordion roots with the mariachi Tex-Mex Mucho De Nada about a lost love followed by the instrumental tango Lapis Lazuli. Switching accordion cultures back to Wisconsin Poles is the hearty wish for the First
Bratwurst of Summer, accompanies by beer.
I still haven't made up my mind about Clownhead, a dark art rock song about a clown reeling under
insults. "Nobody's laughing now." I expect this from Renaldo and the Loaf or maybe Barnes and Barnes. I dunno. Maybe they had too many brats and beer.
I also like Dude, another rap-influenced driving rock dance number with very nice harmonies. A lovable loser is urged to come home and cheer up.
Clownhead stretches the boundaries of accordion music without straying too far from tight danceable
music. Another recommended CD with lots of iPw cuts.
Amped is a 6-cut EP that isn't listed on their web site and even the CD Universe page only lists four songs, so I'll zip through it quickly.
They return to their clown obsession with Serious World, a blues rocker:
But where do you go for kicks in a serious world?
What do you do for laughs in a serious world?
I try to be a sensible guy
But I'm coming off a beautiful high
And I feel like a clown going down
In A serious World
As a student, he didn't pay attention in shop class, but now he's a working in construction the teacher gets Mr. Slagle's Revenge. The accordions are okay in a faithful 60s rock cover of Magic Carpet Ride. Few bands would even try to cover Making Our Dreams Come True (Theme from Laverne and Shirley) but the two women evoke the proper Milwaukee stubbornness and the instrumentation is faithful to the
original while different enough to justify the update.
Still, my favorite cut (of the six) is Meaning of Life, a polka that ponders the imponderable:
What is the meaning of life?
Did you ever stop to ponder that question in your head?
What is the meaning of life?
Just gettin' up and doin' stuff and goin' back to bed
Amped is available for $8.95 but all six songs are available through their store for $0.99. Meaning of Life
is a good introduction to Those Darn Accordions. If you like that one, get more.
Their latest release, 2007's Squeeze Machine, is their most ambitious and most successful CD. Steam Punk is a genre that goes back to Jules Verne -- science fiction/fantasy in a world where the steam engine is common -- and is getting a resurgence now as writers don't want to be bothered with quantum physics.
The CD is in a cardboard case with a lyric booklet insert: A long way from a cassette.
This Song is a bouncy Beatles-inspired pop tune about a bouncy Beatles-inspired pop hit:
This song's got money written all over it
C'mon and sing along, little children
this song's got money written all over it
Ain't gonna quite 'till it rolls in
Roll on, roll on, c'mon, c'mon
Please please me oh yeah and buy this song
Grabbing another culture that uses them, they use zydeco to Blame It On Those Darn Accordions. Ever
think about buying a bicycle built for two? Better listen to the country Tandem Bike. Getting back to
important subjects, Glass of Beer Polka is a fun dance number.
They show their blues rock roots with Bob and the Office People. Not as angry as Worm Quartet's Strap On Brain or as sick as The Smothers Brothers Mediocre Fred, Bob isn't quite fit for the corporate world, so embezzles money and leaves for warmer climes. It's Now Or Never is a fine Italian tango and they do a fine version with the Elvis lyrics and an Italian operatic chorus. The singer gets jealous of Larry's Wonderful Life, a sweetly sick song about a stalker.
Squeeze Machine is another strong album by a group with many strengths. Those Darn Accordions
deserve a few bytes on your iPod, if not the full CDs in your collection. All the songs are available as
single cuts from the Those Darn Accordions store. Recommended for those who like good, danceable
rock from a variety of musical traditions with a sense of humor in song selection and lyrics. They have a
nice mix of covers and originals. Spend a few bucks on some of the individual cuts, then order the CDs
for the higher quality audio and lyric sheets.
Baron Dave Romm is a conceptual artist and a noble of Ladonia who produces Shockwave Radio
Theater, writes in a Live Journal demi-blog, plays with a very weird CD collection and an ever growing list of political links. Dave Romm reviews things at random for obscure web sites. You can read all his music recommendations from Bartcop-E. Podcasts of Shockwave Radio Theater. Permanent archive. More radio programs, interviews and science fiction humor plays can be accessed on the Shockwave Radio audio page.
Thanks to everyone who has sent me music to play on the air.
"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."
-- George Bernard Shaw
Thanks (again), Baron Dave!