Monday, July 30, 2007

R.I.P. Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman died at the age of 89 today. Considering how popular his films were on the "art-house" circuit of the 1950s and 60s, and the iconic status of The Seventh Seal, Bergman's films are held in remarkably low regard among film academics today. During my eight years in graduate school for Cinema Studies, I never once saw a Bergman film screened in my department. If he was mentioned at all in my classes, it was either dismissively, or in order to praise the post-modern appropriation of The Seventh Seal in Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey (which was admittedly brilliant).

This was in part because the discipline was moving away from interpreting films as works of "art" and placing greater emphasis on moving images as cultural artifacts. Studying film as art had become something of an "old-fashioned" avocation within the academy by the 1990s. In my department it would have been much easier to get a dissertation thesis on Madonna's music videos approved than one on Bergman's trilogy of Through a Glass Darkly/Winter Light/The Silence. But other directors from the international art cinema movement reputations' faired better: I never heard anyone badmouth the work of Kurosawa, Ozu, or Kubrick. Put simply, Bergman just wasn't fashionable.

It is no doubt well past time for a critical reassessment.

Soul Asylum And The Horse They Rode In On

The other day my friend Adam and I were discussing why the indie backlash against Soul Asylum that followed in the wake of their 1992 breakthrough, Gravedancer's Union, was so intense. I think I can explain it pretty simply: Soul Asylum's mainstream breakthrough was the indie-rock equivalent of switching to the popular kids' lunch table. As a group, indie-rock fans are a proprietary lot and they don't always celebrate when one of "their" bands finds a larger audience. It is difficult to think of a single band that made the switch from indie to major label that did not face accusations of "selling-out." This impulse was perhaps strongest with bands like Soul Asylum that had roots in the (often doctrinal) hardcore punk movement.

However, the intensity of the backlash against Soul Asylum cannot be explained by indie-rock provincialism alone. When you consider that in the wake of their success the band unceremoniously sacked long-time drummer Grant Young and replaced him with studio wiz Sterling Campbell, and Dave Pirner dumped his wife for Winona Ryder, it did seem like the band was making an effort to cut itself off from its roots. For a band that had skillfully mocked the rock-star ethos for the better part of a decade (listen to their cover of "Juke Box Hero,") they seemed to be doing an awfully good imitation of rock stars once they had a double platinum album under their belt. This was not necessarily the best thing for a band whose stock-in-trade was sincerity.

Have you forgotten?
They'll spoil you rotten,
Have you forgotten?
Have you forgotten?
You're just another freak,
...a beautiful freak.

On some level it felt like the band was saying, "Thanks for the memories guys, but we don't need you anymore" to their old audience. That's probably not a totally fair assessment. After all, Grant Young himself had replaced Pat Morley after Say What You Will... for much the same reason Campbell replaced Young (Young was a better drummer than Morely, and the band felt he was more likely to help them take their music to the next level). The only difference is that back in 1984 there was a lot less at stake than there was in 1994. As for the whole Winona thing, who knows what was going on in Pirner's marriage before that? It's really nobody else's business.

Anyway, these tracks come from a slightly less complicated time in the band's career--their stint on A&M records. While the band was clearly attempting to take their music in a less ragged, more commercially acceptable direction than on their Twin/Tone albums, they still seemed like the same lovable losers they had been before. ...And the Horse They Rode In On did not end up being a commercial breakthrough for the band, and its relative commercial failure coupled with Pirner's hearing problems nearly ended the band before they got another shot at the big-time.

These three tracks (courtesy of Adam) come from a promo only CD for the album. I'm not sure why they weren't included on the album, as they are generally of pretty high quality. The promo package lists the songs as "Non-LP Bonus Tracks." I suspect these were originally intended to be included as CD-only bonus tracks, but that idea may have been scrapped.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chris Stamey - It's Alright

Chris Stamey was simultaneously both the more pop-oriented and the more experimental songwriter in the dBs. That much is made clear not only by listening to Stamey's contributions to the first two dBs' albums, but also by listening to how the band became a much simpler roots rock combo after he departed. (This is not a knock on Peter Holsapple, who I think is also a first-rate songwriter).

While Stamey's initial solo releases emphasized the knottier, more experimental side of his songwriting, It's Alright highlights Stamey the pop songwriter without totally abandoning his experimental tendencies. Artistically, it was a rousing success, commercially, not so much. After It's Alright's poor sales, A&M rejected a second album Stamey recorded for the label (later released by Rhino as Fireworks). Stamey mostly moved on to production work, and only recently resumed his solo career with a couple of albums for Yep Roc, including the outstanding Travels In The South.

Used copies of It's Alright are getting harder to find, but it is well worth tracking down. "Cara Lee" which leads off the album, is a simple, sweet pop song that should have gotten more radio airplay at the time. "From The Word Go" is a gorgeous ballad with a haunting minor-key melody, and can stand proudly alongside anything from Stamey's tenure with the dBs. The album is occasionally marred by typical late 80s over-production, but it never gets in the way of the songs, many of which ("When We're Alone," "It's Alright," "The Seduction," "Of Time And All She Brings To Mind," "Incredible Happiness," "27 Years In A Single Day") are terrific. For some reason It's Alright never grabbed the attention of the jangle pop/R.E.M. fans that were its natural audience, nor the larger market that it coulda/shoulda broken through to. It's an unjustly overlooked classic.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Julian Cope - World Shut Your Mouth EP

Uncut magazine wants to know if you have a question for Julian Cope. But hurry because submissions are due tomorrow, July 26th. I probably haven't kept up with Julian Cope's career as much as I should have, so I'm not sure what I'd ask him. But I noticed that while UMG has released a deluxe 2-Disc edition of 1992's Jehovahkill, Cope's initial Island solo releases, the World Shut Your Mouth EP and Saint Julian are out-of-print. Considering Saint Julian looks to be fetching good money on's marketplace, perhaps a deluxe edition of Saint Julian is in order as well.

I think this EP was my first exposure to Cope's music, although I may have heard one of the Teardrop Explodes' albums first. It's hard to be sure. When this came out in 1986, I was a junior in high school and discovering new music at a fast and furious pace; this was around the time I discovered both the Velvet Underground and Love, as well as many later day acts that were producing music under those band's influence. It seemed like every week I brought home a new record that blew my mind, whether it was by the Dream Syndicate, Robyn Hitchcock/The Soft Boys, any number of SST acts, Echo & the Bunnymen, or Julian Cope.

When I first heard "Umpteenth Unnatural Blues" I thought it sounded like a long-lost outtake from Love's Forever Changes. I still do. The guitar break distinctly recalls "A House Is Not A Motel" and Cope's lyrics wishing a violent death unto himself ("I want to die in solitude, I want to die in pain, I want to see my rotting body swept out in the rain") recall Arthur Lee's dark vision. "Levitation" is a rocking cover of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators' classic, and is probably what led me to discover that band.

Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Julian Cope has a robust web presence.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gary McFarland - Soft Samba

Gary McFarland sold a ton of records with the mix of bossa nova, Beatles songs and easy listening found on his 1964 album Soft Samba. Jazz purists have yet to forgive him for it. At the risk of being forever banished from the fraternity of music snobs, I have to say I absolutely love this album. It would be a shame for Soft Samba to be remembered as nothing more than "bachelor pad" kitsch (although it will serve quite nicely in that capacity if that is what you are looking for).

In addition to having a notable influence on Jobim himself (who plays guitar on several tracks), I strongly suspect the album had an impact on Arthur Lee and Brian MacLean of Love as they sought to expanded their sonic palette on Da Capo and Forever Changes. Listen to the last thirty seconds of "Orange Skies," and see if you can convince yourself that MacLean and Lee had never heard McFarland's distinctive vocalese and were unfamiliar with his inventive arrangements of popular songs.

Additionally, McFarland deserves much credit for recognizing the melodic sophistication that lay at the heart of the Beatles appeal while many of his contemporaries were dismissing the Fab Four as teenie-bopper garbage.

And how many albums have had a cocktail named after them?

Soft Samba Cocktail

Pour two ounces of dry (fino) Spanish Sherry over two ice cubes in an old fashioned glass. Add half and ounce of tropical fruit juice or pineapple juice. Add a dash of Angostura Bitters.
(Courtesy Spanish Sherry Institute)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bob Brookmeyer - Trombone Jazz Samba

After Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd had a big hit in 1962 with "Desafinado" off their Jazz Samba LP, the market literally flooded with "Bossa Nova" releases, many of which had little to do with the idiom pioneered by Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto in Brazil, most notoriously Edie Gorme's "Blame It On The Bossa Nova" and Elvis' "Bossa Nova Baby." (both of which I love).

As a result, many otherwise fine releases fell through the cracks at the time. Many of these have been rediscovered over the years, but here is one that has not. Considering how thoroughly the Verve vaults have been plundered over the years, it is a little surprising that Bob Brookmeyer's Trombone Jazz Samba has never been reissued on CD or LP (not even in Japan!).

Yes, this is a "me too" effort--Brookmeyer recorded this just a few months after Getz and Byrd recorded Jazz Samba--but it is a very good "me too" effort. Guitarist Jim Hall slides into the Brazilian style perhaps even more effortlessly than Byrd, Gary McFarland provides some excellent vibraphone, and a three Latin percussionists (including Willie Bobo) keep things brisk. Brookmeyer's own playing is highly melodic and engaging, if not as brilliant as Getz's.

There is probably not much chance of UMG reissuing this album in the U.S., but we can always hope that Verve Japan will release it in one of their beautiful LP-style slipcase reissues, as they did with Brookmeyer and Lalo Schifrin's Samba Para Dos. While they tend to be pricey, I always enjoy seeing the way Japanese record companies are able to exactly and authentically duplicate vintage LP packaging at 1/4 the original size. It is as if someone took a shrink ray to a mint condition LP and put a CD inside (not to mention the fact the the Japanese CDs almost inevitably sound better than their American counterparts).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Meat Puppets - Rare Meat

The Meat Puppets were, in my opinion, one of the best bands of the 80s. I have sometimes seen them referred to as the originators of "cowpunk," which I think is a pretty silly term, and does not adequately describe their music. Yes, both country and punk music feature prominently in the Meat Puppets' sonic hybrid, but the 'Pups were a band that treated the various dividing lines between musical genres that the rest of us rely on to organize our record collections as if they simply didn't exist. I'm not sure if Duke Ellington would have dug the Meat Puppets or not, but his term "beyond category" certainly applies to their music.

The Meat Puppets have never gotten the respect they deserve. I recently found myself screaming at my television due to a slight against the band. I was channel surfing and stopped at an ABC special report on Satan or Hell or Satanism, or something. It looked pretty stupid. They interviewed Marylin Manson. Anyway, they briefly cut away to Kurt Cobain singing "Lake Of Fire" then in voice-over said something along the lines of, "Tortured soul and important artist Kurt Cobain wondered where bad folks go when they die, then he committed suicide." Despite the fact that my son was within earshot, I couldn't help but utter a string of obscenities: "You stupid %$$**!! Kurt Cobain didn't write that song! He was covering the Meat Puppets! Curt Kirkwood wrote that song!!!" With such sloppy and/or dishonest reporting from our network news organizations, is it any wonder so many Americans believe Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11? I turned off the TV and put on Meat Puppets II.

Like many bands from this period, the Meat Puppets recently reunited for a new album. Well, sort of; brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood are working together following Cris's release from prison, but drummer Derrick Bostrom is not involved. Bostrom does run the Meat Puppets excellent website, where he has made a compilation of rare Meat Puppets material available for download. The songs were compiled from various singles and promotional releases mostly during the band's tenure at London Records, but also featuring a few cuts from their SST years not represented on the Rykodisc album reissues, along with some material from Curt Kirkwood's brief faux-Meat Puppets tenure on Atlantic.

Bostrom's own blog, Bostworld, is very much worth checking out. As you might expect from someone who spent so much time in such a heterodox musical outfit, Bostrom's taste in music is all over the map. He currently has up all three albums by the Doodletown Pipers. He also has a post on The Klowns, a short-lived Jeff Barry soft-pop/bubblegum project involving musicians in Harlequin makeup. I planned to post on The Klowns at some point as well (and probably still will since it appears the music link in Derrick's post is no longer active). Derrick's writing is witty, intelligent and engaging.

Here are a couple tracks from the Rare Meat compilation, although I suspect you will want to just download the whole thing. "Up On The Sun" is one of my all-time Meat Puppet favorites, this version was a b-side on the "Backwater" CD-single. The acoustic version of "Lake Of Fire" (written by Curt Kirkwood not Kurt Cobain) was taken from a promotional CD.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Soundgarden: Sub-Pop Singles Club Bonus

Back in 1990 Sub-Pop released a "bonus" Singles Club 7" by Soundgarden in advance of the group's second A&M album, Badmotorfinger. It was a nice gesture considering that some of the recent club offerings had been either hideously late arriving and/or not worth listening to once they finally arrived.

I was a singles club subscriber and for some reason I got double shipped the Soundgarden single (one on colored vinyl and one on black vinyl). I figured someone at Sub-Pop really liked me, but a friend who worked there later informed me that shipping room [ahem] anomalies were not exactly unheard of at Sub-Pop. (And here I had assumed Sub-Pop had a bunch of MBAs working their way up from the mail room).

Listening to this brings back a lot of memories; some good, some bad, one amusing. I'll just focus on the amusing one:

At the time this came out I was a college student in Carlisle, PA, and a frequent customer at It's Only Rock And Roll, an independent record store in Lemoyne, PA. When I mentioned I had gotten two copies of the single to store owner and Stump Wizards' guitarist Jack Chiara, he told me he had a customer who had recently let his singles club subscription lapse because he was out-of-work, but was desperate to get a copy of the Soundgarden single. He gave me the guy's contact info and suggested I call him.

I was a little surprised Jack didn't want to act as a middleman in the transaction because after all, selling records was what he did. He was sort of vague about why he didn't want to just buy the single from me and sell it to the guy at a reasonable mark up. Jack was a super-nice guy, but I didn't know if his motivations were 100% altruistic or not. Up to that point, I had only sold my used records to record stores and had no experience selling directly to other collectors (this was way before eBay obviously). This was new territory for me, and it felt kind of weird--like I was crossing some sort of forbidden threshold.

Anyway, I gave the guy a call and agreed to sell him my black vinyl copy for $50. He asked that I bring it out to his house because he was on disability from his job as a security guard at the local prison. No problem; $50 was a lot of money to me then (still is, truth be told). I thought it was a little weird that someone who was out-of-work was willing to spend $50 on a single, but $50 would buy me a nice haul at It's Only Rock And Roll, so I didn't ask any questions.

I drove up to a small ranch in Carlisle where the guy lived with his mother. As soon as I met him, I got a bit of an uneasy feeling. I'm not one to rush to snap judgments about people, but when you meet a man in his late 30s who still lives with his Mom, works in a prison, and is wearing a t-shirt with a picture of an electric chair and a caption that reads "Regular or Extra-Crispy?" it's difficult not to jump to certain conclusions. It didn't help that the guy had a nervous, jittery, overly-talkative disposition.

He asked me inside, and I was tempted to tell him I was in a big hurry, had no time, and could we just get the deal done here and now. But my curiosity outweighed my slight concern that he might be looking to prepare me for dinner, so I said okay. What I witnessed inside that house was a complete freak scene. The guy had thousands and thousands of records stacked in boxes in a tiny bedroom. There was a modest stereo system, a single bed, and a narrow path through the room. Other than that it was records: LPs, and singles stored in meticulously labeled box after box, after box. "My Mom won't let me store my records anywhere else in the house," he explained sheepishly.

For what felt like an eternity he proceeded to show off his record collection to me. He had every record by every 70s rock act I had ever heard of, and many I hadn't. And if he had one record by a band, he had to have them all. He pointed to a box of about 100 sealed records, "those are the ones I haven't gotten a chance to listen to yet." Then he said, "I sure am glad this isn't a split single, 'cuz then I'd need two copies." He showed me how he had two copies of the Mudhoney/Sonic Youth split 7" so he could file one copy under each artist.

At that moment I had a horrifying epiphany: This was me in 20 years. No social life. No wife. No kids. I was going to end up exiled to my parent's basement with nothing more than a bunch of records for company. I shook off a chill and my own obsessive record collecting snapped into perspective: I wasn't this bad off. I was a totally normal person with a relatively healthy hobby. Sure, maybe I occasionally spent more money than I should on records, but I wasn't going to let it ruin my life. Someday I was going to get married, have kids and all that good stuff. I wasn't going to end up like this guy, spending eternity listening to records on a crappy stereo in a tiny bedroom in my Mom's house because I had a hobby that had spun out-of-control.

I genuinely felt sorry for the guy because he clearly had a serious problem no different from drug or alcohol dependency. Here he was out-of-work and willing to spend $50 on a single. I think he even told me point blank something along the lines of "records are my heroin." Unexpectedly, one of those metaphorical little devils appeared over my shoulder: "This is like taking candy from a baby. This guy doesn't want this single, he needs it. Tell him you want $75 for it." I'd like to tell you that a little angel quickly appeared over my other shoulder to talk me out of it, but that's not what happened. Instead I let him have it for $45, not out of altruism, but because I was tired of hearing him talk, and wanted to get to the record store before it closed.

I took my $45 and drove straight to It's Only Rock And Roll (only half an hour away). I picked up a near mint copy of an original MGM pressing of the third Velvet Underground album that I had been lusting after along with a few singles. Having gotten my own fix, I drove home, temporarily satiated.

Anyway, that is just one of the memories that the positively evil riff from "Room A Thousand Years Wide" brings back for me. The version on this single is different than the one that showed up on Badmotorfinger. The b-side, "H.I.V. Baby," never showed up on a Soundgarden album, possibly because it's not very good.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Richard Davies with The Flaming Lips

Once again, I have to say I love YouTube. I get an extra kick out of finding a live clip from a gig that I attended. It's like a chance to re-live a little bit of your life in extremely low resolution. That's what watching this clip from a 1995 Richard Davies gig at Brownies in NYC feels like for me. Watching the clip I can remember how hot the club was that night, how the air stank of sweat, humidity and cigarette smoke, and how the music was awe inspiring. Even though I can only see a highly pixelated image and hear bad sound through my computer, somehow it's enough to open the floodgates of my memory. This was a pretty special show, both because of the high quality of the performance, and the fact that it was one of only two gigs in which the Flaming Lips served as Davies' backing band.

Some of you might be thinking at this point what the heck were the Flaming Lips doing backing up the guy from Supertramp? Different guy. This Richard Davies was leader of Australia's The Moles, and co-leader of Cardinal. For a shining moment I was certain Richard's music would conquer the world. I think pretty much everyone in attendance at this show felt the same way. I remember talking to a guy who was fairly prominent in the music industry after the gig and we both agreed the show made us feel like Richard's was the only music that actually mattered. I remember thinking to myself the Flaming Lips would be better off serving as Richard's backing band full time, which gives you a pretty good sense of my ability to predict the future.

Sometimes watching these YouTube videos I find myself wishing better audio of the song was available. In this case it is (sort of). These two live tracks were released as b-sides on a CD single for "Sign Up Maybe For Being." They were not recorded at the legendary Brownies gig, but several days before in the Lips hometown of Norman, Oklahoma. [Whoever put this video up also put up one of the Flaming Lips playing the Moles' "What's The New Mary Jane," which if memory serves was the encore performance that night.]

Meanwhile the world is still waiting for The Flaming Lips to back up that other Richard Davies on "Goodbye Stranger" and "The Logical Song."

Friday, July 06, 2007

Robyn Hitchcock - One Long Pair Of Eyes (live)

I haven't posted anything by Robyn Hitchcock in a while. This is a live, solo, acoustic version of "One Long Pair Of Eyes" taken from the b-side of a promotional 12" for "Madonna Of The Wasps." I always preferred this version (recorded at McCabe's Guitar Shop) to the studio version that appeared on Queen Elvis.

Hitchcock's live intro to the song was included on the A&M Greatest Hits anthology, but A&M included the studio version of the actual song rather than the live version the intro initially ran into. Greatest Hits also included some nice b-sides like "Dark Green Energy" and a live versions of Roxy Music's "More Than This" and the Byrds' "Eight Miles High," along with some of Hitchcock's more familiar material. A fantastic version of The Psychedelic Furs' "The Ghost In You" was released as b-side on a 12" promo for "One Long Pair Of Eyes," and showed up on the Invisible History bootleg. Both albums are worth tracking down if you count yourself among the Hitchcock obsessed.

Honestly I've never had the foggiest idea what this song is about. But I don't think this is a case of Hitchcock being overly quirky or cute. While the ultimate meaning of the song is elusive, the lyrics remain evocative and even beautiful: "Just before the dawn appears, draining all the blue away, And just before all your perspectives change, Isn't it strange?"

So while I have little idea what the lyrics to the song are actually about I always find myself engaged and moved by them as Hitchcock sings them, especially in this version. Comprehension is overrated anyway. One of these days I'm going to post Hitchcock's cover of "Kung Fu Fighting" because I do know what that's about.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Rev. Fred Lane - Part II

[Continued from previous post]

Back at school the next day I stopped by my Spanish professor's office hours. I asked her if she knew anyone who could translate Esperanto. "Esperanto isn't exactly a major part of our language curriculum,” she told me. She explained that Esperanto was conceived as an auxiliary language to facilitate international communication, but that--like many 19th Century utopian ideas--it never took off the way it was envisioned. I told her I had a document written in Esperanto that I was curious to have translated. Surprisingly, she never acted as if this was something strange, and told me that the department had a copy of L. L. Zamenhof's Universala Vortaro, that I could borrow in order to translate the document myself.

I never had much facility with foreign languages; I had practically flunked out of Latin, and was only taking Spanish to fulfill a graduation requirement. So it was with some trepidation that I jumped into the process of translating a document from an unfamiliar language with little more than a dictionary for help. The process was not as difficult as I expected. The grammatical rules of Esperanto were very straightforward. I would sometimes come across words not featured in the dictionary, but it was usually extremely easy to figure out what they meant based on my knowledge of English, Spanish and Latin.

I was able to establish a few basic facts very quickly. As I had suspected, "The Rev. Fred Lane" was not a real name, it was a pseudonym for a visual artist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama named T.R. Reed. Ron 'Pate's Debonairs were a real band who also used pseudonyms, and had released a little noticed album back in 1975 called Raudelunas 'Pataphysical Revue with contributions from Fred Lane. Another album called From The One That Cut You had been recorded and self-released by Lane with Ron 'Pate's Debonairs in 1983 (this would be reissued by Shimmy Disc the next year). All of the other albums featured on the back cover of Car Radio Jerome were apparently fictional.

All of these facts were established in the first 10 pages of the manuscript, and they pretty much answered the basic questions I had about Fred Lane. I now knew who Lane really was, and what was what wasn't real (or so I thought). Of course there were still a few remaining questions: Why had Kramer been so secretive about what was in reality a fairly prosaic matter of a visual artist recording under an assumed identity? And why was the document written in Esperanto? Those questions would be answered in the remaining 190 pages of the manuscript, but I was hardly prepared for the answers.

Lane/Reed's father, Henry Nostril, had been a doctoral student in the lab of noted psychologist B.F. Skinner at Harvard in the early 1950s, but had been kicked out of the program because he used some rather questionable methods to carry out experiments designed to prove his unorthodox theories. In a nutshell, Nostril believed that human beings were by nature entirely rational entities, but that we had been corrupted by the irrational nature of our languages. Nostril theorized that what separated us from our true, rational nature was the irregularities in our language systems. He also believed that if children were reared with exclusive exposure to a created, rationalized language system such as Esperanto that they would develop into adults whose actions would be dictated solely by reason.

For his part Skinner considered Nostril's thesis to be rubbish and ordered him to work on a different project for his doctoral thesis. Nostril agreed, but progress on his thesis was extremely slow. Skinner later discovered the reason for Nostril's slow progress was that he had been secretly pursuing his original thesis using his own son, Fredrick Nostril, as a guinea pig. Nostril was raising the boy without any contact with the outside world and insisted that no language other than Esperanto be spoken in the home. Worse, Nostril had acquired several babies on the black market and was subjecting them to the same treatment. When this egregious breach of scientific protocol was discovered Nostril was immediately expelled from Harvard and the authorities were contacted.

The children who had been acquired on the black market were found safe in Nostril's home, but Nostril, his wife and young son disappeared before authorities could apprehend him. Nostril spent the next several years traveling from town to town, making sure all the while that his son was not exposed to any language other than Esperanto. He later formed his own micro-nation on an abandoned oil-drilling platform in the Atlantic. He named it the People's Republic of Fundus, declared himself King of Fundus, and named Esperanto as the nation's official language.

It was on this tiny man-made island that Fredrick Nostril (who you might have guessed is T.R. Reed/Fred Lane) spent most of his formative years. It was a dreary existence, the three residents of the People's Republic of Fundus survived on a diet heavy on fish and the occasional canned vegetables imported from the mainland. With few others to communicate with, Frederick spent much time during this period talking to his haircut. By the time Fredrick was 13 the elder Nostril had all but abandoned his original theories about the inherent rationality of humans and our corruption by language due to his son's increasingly erratic behavior.

It was around this time that Henry Nostril allowed his son and wife to accompany him back to the United States where he had been contracted to serve as a language consultant on the 1965 William Shatner film Incubus (which was to be filmed entirely in Esperanto in order to create an otherworldly effect). During the filming Shatner befriended the young Frederick Nostril. Shatner had learned enough Esperanto during the filming of Incubus to understand that Frederick was a troubled young man, and that his father was likely insane. Shatner took the boy under his wing, and in essence adopted him when he confronted the elder Nostril and threatened to contact the authorities if he did not leave the boy in his care.

For the next five years Shatner raised the boy, taught him English and introduced him to the pleasures of American popular culture. At the age of 18 Frederick moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama where, using funds given to him by Shatner, he established himself as a visual artist under the name T.R. Reed, and later as a recording artist under the name The Rev. Fred Lane. Nostril worked under these two pseudonyms because he still feared that his father would find him, kidnap him and bring him back to the People's Republic of Fundus.

Of course I am leaving out a number of details, but that is the essence of what was communicated in the manuscript. I spent so much time translating the manuscript that I nearly failed out of college. I never heard from Kramer again. The final two B.A.L.L. albums were a disappointment.

Love - Blue Thumb Recordings Review on Pitchfork

Pitchfork has a review of the Love Blue Thumb Recordings box set up today. It's a good review and worth a read.