NO ONE EVER said Prince was the only Minnesota rock icon who could change his name and come out on an indie label. So now we have the artist currently known as Grandpa Boy--who according to online gossip is actually an ex-member of The Replacements. But which one? Grandpa Boy's tiny Boston label, Soundproof/Monolyth Records, won't tell a soul, and GB himself is apparently not available for comment.
"That's the mystique of the whole thing," says Monolyth's Jeff Marshall. "Grandpa Boy is a completely mysterious entity that we're very happy to be a part of." The Soundproof imprint was started by Darren Hill, who played bass on Paul Westerberg's 14 Songs tour, and the project was made possible during a point when Grandpa Boy's alter ego was between major-label deals. Hmmm...
The name Grandpa Boy--as in crotchety old curmudgeon crossed with hormone-addled teen--nicely describes his debut single. It was recorded solo in his basement and is available on 7-inch vinyl only because, according to Marshall, "Grandpa Boy's whole thing was he wanted to get back to his roots." And that he does. Side A, "I Want My Money Back" (a letter to the industry?), is a one-two-fuck-you punkout, if a bit of a throwaway. (Then again, what would Tim have been without "Dose of Thunder"?) The B-side, "Undone," is a lusty Westerberg-esque romp that's at least as good as anything any ex-'Mats have done of late. Soundproof plans to release Grandpa Boy's second single, "Psychopharmacology" with "The Homeless Sexual," in late June, with a CD-EP of both singles in August.
Grandpa Boy's Web page (at www.monolyth.com) doesn't shed much light on who he really is. His bio notes tell us that "Grandpa Boy was born somewhere. He plays the guitar. Do not try to be his friend--he will not like you." They also note that "He shaves with a potato peeler. He was born in a burning house. All we really know for sure is he wants his money back." The single sleeve and the website feature semiobscene crayon/fingerpaints by Grandpa Boy himself. All in all, it's the strangest thing this mystery 'Mat (if we're guessing correctly) has done in years, and it's nice to see he's still got the sense of humor. The single has been found in limited quantities in the local indie stores, and is available for a mere $4 postage paid from Soundproof Records, P.O. Box 990980, Boston, MA 02199. And if anyone can supply us with Grandpa Boy's true identity, drop us a line...
In related news, Paul Westerberg has reportedly left Sire Records and inked with Capitol, in an impressive deal that has Capitol president Gary Gersh doubling as his A&R rep. Meanwhile, Reprise is planning a 2-CD "Best of the Replacements" retrospective, with one disc of the classics and one set of odds and rarities. And a hearty congratulations to 'Mats mentor/Medium Cool Records head Peter Jesperson, who was wed to his longtime girlfriend Jennifer Menard on May 25. How's that for synchronicity?
SPEAKING OF ICONS, a significant portion of the Twin Cities underground of fans reveres Radio Birdman, the group that revolutionized Australian punk in the mid-'70s. So it's big news that, more than two decades later, Birdman guitarist Deniz Tek is coming to town for a show at the 400 Bar on Friday. Born in Michigan, Tek has one of the more extraordinary rock bios. He grew up with Detroit's MC5 and The Stooges and is credited with exporting Motor City musical impulses to Australia when he moved there in the early '70s. After Birdman and his other band, The Visitors, he retired from music for about a decade, and became a flyer in the U.S. Navy. And now? He's working as an ER surgeon in Billings, Montana! But his history is not lost on many Minneapolitans. For example, ex-Spectors vocalist Chris Knott lived his dream when he sang on Tek's 1995 solo tour. And Prospective Records poobah and retro-addict John Kass calls Birdman's 1978 release Radios Appear his favorite album of all time--and this from a man who owns about 40,000 records.
Appropriately enough, Prospective is set to release Tek's solo album Le Bon Route on June 10. The album is more proof suggesting the original punks can still do it best--but it also finds Tek, for the first time, off on some bizarre rhythmic and textural departures. (The parallel to revived ex-MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer is unmistakable; in fact Tek and Kramer have collaborated for Dodge Main, an album out now.) The Deniz Tek Group, at the 400 on Friday, features ex-members of Australia luminaries The Celibate Rifles and The New Christs. Headlining is The Mighty Mofos; opening is The Conquerors, sort of friendly rivals on the obsessive local retro scene ($5; music at 9 p.m.; call 332-2903).
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