deconstructing the tape, part two.

Eventually, I had to flip the tape over and see what the hell was on Side Two.

The first band on the side was The Mommyheads. The Mommyheads were a band from San Francisco by way of New York, who were once regulars at CBGB, and eventually relocated out west. I was aware of them from their work with the great Simple Machines label; they released a 7″ and a full-length CD called Coming Into Beauty on that label. They had also released a cassette called Acorn on Fang Records.

I was surprised to see them on this tape; I knew Ron had lots of friends in indie rock all over the place, but The Mommyheads were truly one of those breakout bands; one of those bands that you thought would be signed to a major label or explode as an indie band and become the 1990s’ Modest Mouse or Band Of Horses or The Shins.

I had wanted to catch The Mommyheads at their showcase during the CMJ Music Marathon in 1993, but their show was, unfortunately, the same night as the Melting Hopefuls show.

Ron had included a handful of demo tracks that the band had recorded, and I immediately fell in love with their pop sensibilities. Lyrically, they were super-clever, and their vocal harmonies complimented mirrored the interplay between the band’s lead instruments – Adam Cohen’s voice was soulful and sweet, as was his guitar, while Michael Holt’s voice was smooth and melodic, like his electric piano. The extensive use of electric piano in their music reminded me of The Sneetches, but the Mommyheads’ music was far more complex than the Sneetches’ simple pop.

The first song on the tape was called “The World Is Round,” and it knocked me out with its pure pop sensibilities. It had a propulsive rhythm and great vocal melody, and it was so clean in terms of its instrumentation – like The Sneetches, The Mommyheads were one of those indie pop bands that never made sense to me. They were such an adult band, but their appeal was so strong among the indie rock crowd. Here’s “The World Is Round.”

The next song on the tape was called “Day Job,” and the lyric “You wanna quit your day job, you wanna just hang around” immediately resonated with me. The song’s shuffling rhythm and complex song structure made it an excellent listen, and I was glued to the band right away. It had similarities with “The World Is Round” (which, by the way, had lots of similarities with their Simple Machines Working Holiday 7″ track “At The Mall”), but this track had more of the boogie elements that would exhibit themselves in their live performances, but somehow only be hinted at until much later in their existence.

By the middle of “Day Job” I was beginning to realize that Ron had sent me a tape with four bands on it, and the first three appealed so greatly to me that I didn’t know which I wanted to release more. Here’s “Day Job:”

 

What really knocked me out was the song “Remedy.” It was based on a guitar scale that I couldn’t understand; it was so rambling and yet worked so well within the construct of the song that it boggled my mind that they could have written it. It was one of the most complex pop songs I’d ever heard, yet somehow it still worked – the song walked all over, and then settled down and actually mellowed in the chorus, and again at the climax of a song. Essentially, it had this racing, frenetic verse, and then at the points of the song where you expect a song to get loud, or pick up steam, this one actually did the opposite. It was one of the weirdest pop songs I’d ever heard.

This was a smart band that wrote infectious, clever pop songs. They had a great reputation and a lot of fans, along with an association with one of my favorite labels.

I could not decide which of these three bands I wanted to contact first. I wanted to release them all, and not just seven-inches: I thought the music was so good, and there was so much of it, that I wanted to put it all out. In just a day or two of listening to this tape, I had tabled the Indie Rock Travel Guide in favor of getting some of this music out.

What’s a shame is that I was so enamored of Carrie Bradley, Toast and The Mommyheads that I never spent enough time with the fourth band – a SoCal band called Little My that had a much more aggressive song than the rest of the bands on the tape. Their song “Lusikoita” got as much play on my stereo as any other band on The Tape, but the ensuing phone call to Ron was only going to be so productive, and with four bands to get to know better I didn’t want to push too far. I knew that Ron had a label of his own, and also had better friends at other labels than me, so I couldn’t rightly ask him to hook me up with four bands.

“This tape is incredible,” I told him, or some other such drivel.

“Do you like it? I don’t know if I like it.” Ron said. He sort of had a way of doing that – of sounding noncommittal about his bands. I think it was his way of eliciting a more honest response, as if maybe if you thought he didn’t like it, you’d be more comfortable telling him that you didn’t, either.

“I need to know how to get in touch with these bands,” I told him.

“Which one?” he asked.

All of them,” I told him.

He responded with something along the lines of “slow down, big boy,” and then gave me a mailing address for The Mommyheads. He also told me he was in regular contact with Toast, and he would have them call me the next time he spoke with him. He told me that Carrie Bradley was very tough to get in touch with, and was on the verge of breaking out as an artist, and for some reason wasn’t able to give me contact information.

And when it came to Little My, either I never asked him for a name and number, or he never gave me one – I can’t remember which.

But this is still a great song, and a great way to close two posts about a cassette tape that helped redefine what we were all about, at a time that we were about to need to be redefined.

~ by Al on March 23, 2009.

One Response to “deconstructing the tape, part two.”

  1. […] My, the last of the four bands on “The Tape,” broke up at some point.  One of the members of that band, however, was Adam McCauley, who also […]

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