The daring escapades of one man and his exploration of the musical world. Packed with whimsy, wonder and the occasional gif, Guitar Pornography is the blog for those who know that music is more than just an arbitrary standard to be judged by, but instead is a mix of emotions, skill and content. Lists will be ongoing and reviews will be by demand, so please, fill the inbox and give this poor wanderer something to ponder.

 

Reviews on Demand #32: The Bundles’ “The Bundles” (Requested in the mad scribblings of Ross)
Jeepers, we are getting into the deep cuts. Released in 2009, The Bundles self-titled release remains the only output from the band and it seems that most of the members are otherwise engaged in other projects. The album is filled with this kind of homebrewed magic, where the artists just came together briefly to get out all the ideas they could possibly see in orbit of each other and simply stopped once they had all flowed out. I am really not at all familiar with any of the members of the band, with only Kimya Dawson being one I’ve heard of for her work with the Moldy Peaches (who I only know about, but have yet to listen to), so how these works fitter into their larger back catalogs seems a mystery to me. Still, the one thing I noted when I loaded the album onto my iTunes was the presence of the genre title “anti-folk.” Maybe it’s just my background as a heavy metal fan, the most subdivided of all the musics, but I was trying to piece apart exactly how such a broad category could encompass different song styles under one banner. Anti-folk seems to refer to nearly anything that takes the trappings of the folk style and then uses it as a platform for meanderings into concerns outside the exclusivity of political activism and Americana. So if it inherently trying to subvert the the philosophical underpinnings that established folk music as a unique musical experience, what then is the result?
It seems almost like a moot point to talk about instrumentation on this album, as for the most part, all it seems to do is add credence to the emphasis of the vocals. For its part, none of the melodies they work with are boring, which has been an on-going problem I have with regular folk, always possessing this rollicking feel that grabs the attention and provides a nice pace to keep the vocals moving forward. The strange thing is just deliberate it all sounds in execution. While the vocals have a very lose feel, the instruments entrances and exits are just so well timed, telegraphing their movement from a mile away so you know what expectations will be played against. The guitar is especially jaunty throughout, rarely seeming to find a somber note or chord to strike, adding a lot of brightness to the overall mix, the smile to the vocals knowing wink. While its hardly earth sundering, there is a lot of richness when guitarist Jeffrey Lewis allows individual notes to flow out, showing off the immediacy of the tonality, which is further emphasized by the keyboards atmospheric drones. The drums are an especially nice touch since well… it would be hard to make sense of what was going on without a deliberate rhythm to keep time with. I’m kind of dancing around it so I may as well just say it: the musical arrangement seems like a structured part that allows the loose and sloppy nature to flow. We get this clear dichotomy of this melody that is going to keep moving forward and vocals that can just flow endlessly as the singers have words to fill them. While I don’t want to sell the vocal patterns short of not having any forethought, they just wouldn’t work without a melody driving the song towards something, giving them something to show what they are not.
The vocals are a more mixed bag and I think this will really just come down to taste. I personally, find their atonal nature to be grating by album’s end. Dawson seems to purposefully try not sing well, as you can here this beautiful timbre underneath that comes off as screechy on many of the songs. Lewis is much the same way, undercutting the richness of the notes he is using to simply sound more primal, making the pair seem like a pair of punk rock singers who have wandered into the wrong studio. Really, the effect of it makes it sound like the pair are drunk and just singing whatever the hell they want, however they want and the consequences be damned because they’re having so much fun with it. That might be the operative word here, fun, because I can see the appeal that this type of singing would lend itself to if you just wanted to get lost in the chaos and sing along as loud as you can while you drive down the road. It can be very cathartic to engage in this, but for me, there needs to be more peaks and valleys for this to take effect, since the movement from shallow whisper to full out scream lends itself more naturally going off key for the fun of it.
So that leaves us with the big thing, the lyrics. For your viewing pleasure, I have picked one song entirely at random from the album, “Over the Moon,” and will present its lyrics in their entirety:
"A little, red moon-man held a map and tapped my window, and he pointed with his pin-head to the moon, moon, moon. I never had a rocket, even car keys in my pocket, but I felt I’d follow him away soon, soon, soon. He painted me with henna, wrapped me up in his antenna  and minutes later, in a crater, introduced me to his home. But the moon-men all got nervous when they heard I needed oxygen  and put me in a box again, and sent me back alone. If rocket fuel should take this fool, over the moon. It wont be made of lucky clover, or, rabbit’s foot. But something stronger, used for fodder will have to do. Make an angel, from a stranger help his wings last. Should auld acquaintance be complacent, in the past? Drive to the stars, park your car  then, walk on back. Then walk on back. Up in the trees the squirrels run around like a pack of crazy honeybees. Their walnuts are sweet, but when things get weird they all grow a bunch of squirrel beards. I’m just trying to think of something that I thought before, but every time I come around I’m staring at the kitchen floor. I’m not going anywhere, I’m perfectly content right here, settled in in my own skin, breathing in this atmosphere, and maybe you have expectations of what my next step should be  as if my success depends on leaving this reality and everything that I am doing isn’t the means to an end, it’s the means of creating a meaningful existence,  and I just wanna sing with my friends. I just wanna sing with my friends. And I just wanna sing with my friends. I just wanna sing with my friends. And I just wanna sing with my friends. And I just wanna sing with my friends. And I just wanna sing with my friends.”
Yeah… they sure are. Funnily enough, this is one of the more standardly lyriced songs on the album, seeming to rarely veer off the cliff towards some crazy leaps in logic. The imagery is extremely striking, invoking that deep inward look coupled with that out the window view, making them come off as strikingly personal for how off-kilter they are. Most of the songs are filled with these very distinct moments, where they trace some sort of scene that seems so vivid and then slowly unwind it around themselves, offering commentary on just what it is doing to them. The thing of it is… these are crazy people lyrics. Seriously, they really come off most of the time as something you would hear shouted out at you from a street corner from a denizen of society that you wouldn’t want to associate with. They rarely seem to make a lot of sense or have some larger message that is being conveyed aside from the simple pleasure the sound of the words provides. This is especially true of the sheer number of puns on this record, as many lyrics decide to take an immediate turn in order to make some little subversion of your expectation by providing a loaded term that is at once funny and contextually strange. The whole mess is so immediately engrossing, but it doesn’t feel like it offers anything beyond the ephemeral glow once the lyrics are over.
So it would seem the Bundles intend to use the term “Anti-folk” to use folk instrumentation to allow them to create bizarre fragments of a reality we can’t begin to understand. I said earlier I can see why people do like this, but the whole time I’m listening to it, I feel uncomfortable and hope that it’s going to build towards something more meaningful, but really, this doesn’t seem like the point. This is an album of immediacy, laying itself out fully and demanding only your attention to show off its tricks. Perhaps you’ll like it, perhaps you won’t. They don’t seem to care really, since they’re having a good time throughout.
Is It Guitar Pornography?: It was better than I expected it? I dunno, it really takes something special on an acoustic to shake me off my electric rails and this album just didn’t give it to me.
Who I’d Recommend It To: Fans of puns, you guys are just gonna love it. People who are spontaneous and enjoy a little chaos now and again. People who enjoy The Flaming Lips, Andrew Jackson Jihad or Man Man. Those with an eye towards differentiation and dichotomy. Readers of David Foster Wallace and Robert Anton Wilson. Those who just need to say something. Those who need an uninhibited sing a long.
An Arbitrary Rating: 4.5/10
Favorite Track: Metal Mouth

Reviews on Demand #32: The Bundles’ “The Bundles” (Requested in the mad scribblings of Ross)

Jeepers, we are getting into the deep cuts. Released in 2009, The Bundles self-titled release remains the only output from the band and it seems that most of the members are otherwise engaged in other projects. The album is filled with this kind of homebrewed magic, where the artists just came together briefly to get out all the ideas they could possibly see in orbit of each other and simply stopped once they had all flowed out. I am really not at all familiar with any of the members of the band, with only Kimya Dawson being one I’ve heard of for her work with the Moldy Peaches (who I only know about, but have yet to listen to), so how these works fitter into their larger back catalogs seems a mystery to me. Still, the one thing I noted when I loaded the album onto my iTunes was the presence of the genre title “anti-folk.” Maybe it’s just my background as a heavy metal fan, the most subdivided of all the musics, but I was trying to piece apart exactly how such a broad category could encompass different song styles under one banner. Anti-folk seems to refer to nearly anything that takes the trappings of the folk style and then uses it as a platform for meanderings into concerns outside the exclusivity of political activism and Americana. So if it inherently trying to subvert the the philosophical underpinnings that established folk music as a unique musical experience, what then is the result?

It seems almost like a moot point to talk about instrumentation on this album, as for the most part, all it seems to do is add credence to the emphasis of the vocals. For its part, none of the melodies they work with are boring, which has been an on-going problem I have with regular folk, always possessing this rollicking feel that grabs the attention and provides a nice pace to keep the vocals moving forward. The strange thing is just deliberate it all sounds in execution. While the vocals have a very lose feel, the instruments entrances and exits are just so well timed, telegraphing their movement from a mile away so you know what expectations will be played against. The guitar is especially jaunty throughout, rarely seeming to find a somber note or chord to strike, adding a lot of brightness to the overall mix, the smile to the vocals knowing wink. While its hardly earth sundering, there is a lot of richness when guitarist Jeffrey Lewis allows individual notes to flow out, showing off the immediacy of the tonality, which is further emphasized by the keyboards atmospheric drones. The drums are an especially nice touch since well… it would be hard to make sense of what was going on without a deliberate rhythm to keep time with. I’m kind of dancing around it so I may as well just say it: the musical arrangement seems like a structured part that allows the loose and sloppy nature to flow. We get this clear dichotomy of this melody that is going to keep moving forward and vocals that can just flow endlessly as the singers have words to fill them. While I don’t want to sell the vocal patterns short of not having any forethought, they just wouldn’t work without a melody driving the song towards something, giving them something to show what they are not.

The vocals are a more mixed bag and I think this will really just come down to taste. I personally, find their atonal nature to be grating by album’s end. Dawson seems to purposefully try not sing well, as you can here this beautiful timbre underneath that comes off as screechy on many of the songs. Lewis is much the same way, undercutting the richness of the notes he is using to simply sound more primal, making the pair seem like a pair of punk rock singers who have wandered into the wrong studio. Really, the effect of it makes it sound like the pair are drunk and just singing whatever the hell they want, however they want and the consequences be damned because they’re having so much fun with it. That might be the operative word here, fun, because I can see the appeal that this type of singing would lend itself to if you just wanted to get lost in the chaos and sing along as loud as you can while you drive down the road. It can be very cathartic to engage in this, but for me, there needs to be more peaks and valleys for this to take effect, since the movement from shallow whisper to full out scream lends itself more naturally going off key for the fun of it.

So that leaves us with the big thing, the lyrics. For your viewing pleasure, I have picked one song entirely at random from the album, “Over the Moon,” and will present its lyrics in their entirety:

"A little, red moon-man held a map and tapped my window,
and he pointed with his pin-head to the moon, moon, moon.
I never had a rocket, even car keys in my pocket,
but I felt I’d follow him away soon, soon, soon.
He painted me with henna, wrapped me up in his antenna
and minutes later, in a crater, introduced me to his home.
But the moon-men all got nervous when they heard I needed oxygen
and put me in a box again, and sent me back alone.

If rocket fuel should take this fool,
over the moon.
It wont be made of lucky clover,
or, rabbit’s foot.
But something stronger, used for fodder
will have to do.
Make an angel, from a stranger
help his wings last.
Should auld acquaintance
be complacent,
in the past?
Drive to the stars, park your car
then, walk on back.
Then walk on back.

Up in the trees
the squirrels run around like a pack of crazy honeybees.
Their walnuts are sweet,
but when things get weird they all grow a bunch of squirrel beards.

I’m just trying to think of something that I thought before, but every time I come around I’m staring at the kitchen floor.
I’m not going anywhere, I’m perfectly content right here,
settled in in my own skin,
breathing in this atmosphere,
and maybe you have expectations of what my next step should be
as if my success depends on leaving this reality
and everything that I am doing isn’t the means to an end,
it’s the means of creating a meaningful existence,
and I just wanna sing with my friends.
I just wanna sing with my friends.
And I just wanna sing with my friends.
I just wanna sing with my friends.
And I just wanna sing with my friends.
And I just wanna sing with my friends.
And I just wanna sing with my friends.”

Yeah… they sure are. Funnily enough, this is one of the more standardly lyriced songs on the album, seeming to rarely veer off the cliff towards some crazy leaps in logic. The imagery is extremely striking, invoking that deep inward look coupled with that out the window view, making them come off as strikingly personal for how off-kilter they are. Most of the songs are filled with these very distinct moments, where they trace some sort of scene that seems so vivid and then slowly unwind it around themselves, offering commentary on just what it is doing to them. The thing of it is… these are crazy people lyrics. Seriously, they really come off most of the time as something you would hear shouted out at you from a street corner from a denizen of society that you wouldn’t want to associate with. They rarely seem to make a lot of sense or have some larger message that is being conveyed aside from the simple pleasure the sound of the words provides. This is especially true of the sheer number of puns on this record, as many lyrics decide to take an immediate turn in order to make some little subversion of your expectation by providing a loaded term that is at once funny and contextually strange. The whole mess is so immediately engrossing, but it doesn’t feel like it offers anything beyond the ephemeral glow once the lyrics are over.

So it would seem the Bundles intend to use the term “Anti-folk” to use folk instrumentation to allow them to create bizarre fragments of a reality we can’t begin to understand. I said earlier I can see why people do like this, but the whole time I’m listening to it, I feel uncomfortable and hope that it’s going to build towards something more meaningful, but really, this doesn’t seem like the point. This is an album of immediacy, laying itself out fully and demanding only your attention to show off its tricks. Perhaps you’ll like it, perhaps you won’t. They don’t seem to care really, since they’re having a good time throughout.

Is It Guitar Pornography?: It was better than I expected it? I dunno, it really takes something special on an acoustic to shake me off my electric rails and this album just didn’t give it to me.

Who I’d Recommend It To: Fans of puns, you guys are just gonna love it. People who are spontaneous and enjoy a little chaos now and again. People who enjoy The Flaming Lips, Andrew Jackson Jihad or Man Man. Those with an eye towards differentiation and dichotomy. Readers of David Foster Wallace and Robert Anton Wilson. Those who just need to say something. Those who need an uninhibited sing a long.

An Arbitrary Rating: 4.5/10

Favorite Track: Metal Mouth







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