This Is for the Alkies!
"Heir of Franz Ferdinand Fights for a Castle," screamed the homepage of the New York Times this week. I thought for a second I had started reading the Onion by mistake, but no, it was the Times, and yes, there are still people outside production meetings for the History Channel who talk about Franz Ferdinand without intending to reference the superb post-punk outfit from Glasgow.
But maybe it was more than a coincidence: As a few music blogs noted, the Times ran the headline "Fed Chief Predicts Rates Will Hold Steady" a few days before. Right now I'm willing to concede that I have a music editor's version of that noted hallucinatory disorder where "Whatever it is I think I see/Becomes a Tootsie Roll to me." But I'd better not open the paper tomorrow and read "Descendants of Decemberists Shape Siberia's Future" or "Iran to America: We're Just a Minor Threat."
Even by Valentine's Day, former Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson was not yet recovered from the previous Sunday's Grammys, where he appeared in a flock of Dixie Chicks to accept the song of the year award for "Not Ready to Make Nice." While playing the anointed tune for a house of hometown fans at the Cedar Cultural Center, he was solemn, but when it was over he recalled the spectacle and pageantry of the experience with boyish giggles and self-deprecating sighs. "I was outclassed and out-vodka-ed by everyone at the Grammys," Wilson said.
Dan Wilson is a dousing rod for poignant lyrics and wistful melodies, pulling them out of collaborators and poorly secured consumer electronics alike. "I was left in a room with an open Mac, and this song was right there on the desktop," he said by way of introducing "Willie O' Winsbury," an old Scottish ballad about unplanned pregnancies and the golden-haired menservants who cause them. By the time Wilson finished singing, "And he's made her the lady of so much land as she'd ride in a long summer's day," I was moved near to tears and, incidentally, had a breakthrough moment when it comes to understanding what the Renaissance Fair has been shooting for all these years.
For the encore, Wilson played another track, "Breathless," from his upcoming album. It's a work of hopelessly romantic, impossibly well-written piano pop, Wilson's voice coloring in the words with mellow washes of anguish and heartache. "You were always pretty reckless with your love/Come with the sun and getting restless when it's gone." But he still couldn't commit to a release date for the work: "My brother told me the wind was at my back at this point...wait, that was my sister. My brother used another expression altogether."
"We are Trampled by Turtles. Thanks for coming out to our CD-release party!" said the singer on the Triple Rock's stage. A perfunctory and gracious statement, except there wasn't a fiddle string or blade of bluegrass to be found on the premises Friday night—this was the CD-release party for hip-hop jokesters MC/VL. With help from DJ Tylt (joined later that Friday night by original MC/VL turntablist Professor Bx), St. Paul natives Mighty Clyde and Vicious Lee break it down old school, and by break it down, you might say, rip it off.
MC/VL songs exist in a hip-hop Never-Neverland, a place where Scarface's Tony Montana never became every rapper's lifestyle guru, and where the menace and danger of the streets never superseded the camaraderie of the block party.
They heart 1986, and live merrily within its borders. But if you can get over your twisted need for artistic innovation, you'll find lots of carefully clever lyrics and smartly deployed samples on Stance, their debut album.
"We're rhyme super-sleuths like the homeboys Hardy/And we're here to solve the mystery of the unrocked party," they chanted during "Rock the Party Right," while a sample from Joan Jett's version of "Crimson and Clover" detonated in the background. As a woman I would never have pegged for a B-girl started breakdancing next to me, I had to admire MC/VL's willingness to get the party started by any means necessary.
The staff of the new Euclidean geometry nightclub Pi did some nervous calculations on Saturday night. "What's our capacity? 330?" No one wanted to take chances in a week that saw the fire marshal shut down Dinkytown's Varsity Theater for harboring an excessive number of Storyhill fans. As a line formed at Pi's door, Sarah Adorable and Cindy Wonderful of Scream Club bounded onto its stage like Laurel and Hardy in dyke Jazzercise heaven.
Looking into their shiny gold lamé leggings and mirrored, bedazzled tees, I could see the reflection of a fantastic alternate universe where walls dividing genres have crumbled and the aesthetics of Tron and Flashdance have merged into one.
Over an arcade firing squad of Nintendo zaps and Xbox claps, the women flowed fast rhymes and shouted out half-sung choruses with the energy of cheerleaders aiming for the highest row of bleachers.
Scream Club may be queercore, but their lyrics are hetero-inclusive: "This is for the alkies," Cindy said gruffly, before they began chanting, "Sorry for calling and waking you up when we were DRUNK! DRUNK! DRUNK! DRUNK!" Sarah, her hair in glam blond layers, her lips a flirty scarlet pout, tried to lead the crowd in a low-impact workout of coordinated moves. But while the mohawked Minnesotans in the audience may have been comfortable with their own homosexuality, they still seemed to have some hang-ups about being caught in public doing the Jane Fonda.
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