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by AjD

I got home from work and it wasn't five minutes after I cracked my first beer that Moon LaTroye came crashing through the front door with a CD in one hand and thermos of martinis in the other.

"DUUUDE!" he said, grabbing my bottle of Bell's Cream Stout away and filling the thermos's little cap with his mix.

I sniffed. Olives. Man, I hate olives. "Take this back, Moon. I want my beer."

"To hell with beer, man. Mixed drinks are it. So are silk jackets and evening wear. So are cigars and lounge singers."

"If I wanted to listen to cheezy music, I would've been borrowing my father's record collection instead of my brother's, Moon. You remember records? Vinyl? You sold 'em all off eight years ago and replaced 'em with CD reissues."

"That smarts, man. I'm trying to help you, and you're abusing me. I'd like you to give me some respect for what I'm trying to lay on ya."

"Give me my beer back."

"In a minute. I'm trying to set the atmosphere, okay?"

He pounded his martini straight from the thermos while i stood there, tiny cup in hand. Then he ran around turning all the lights off, and, with a flourish, whipped out the CD he'd been holding in his left hand since he entered the place.

"Your hand's shaking too much. I can't read the label. And will you give my beer back? Olives make me puke."

"Will you lay off that beer hangup, man?" he asked. Then he spun around, grabbed my precious bottle of Bell's Cream Stout, downed it in one draw, and exclaimed, "Now forget your damned beer and listen to the hippest thing since the smoking jacket, man!"

His knees buckled, he fell face down on a stack of books I hadn't gotten around to shelving, and was out like a light. A puppydog could drink Moon under the table, and he'd just had a pint and a half of gin. I picked the CD off the floor under his dangling, limp hand, and put it on to listen without distractions.

Pizzicato 5 is a Japanese band that's been making perky music in retrograde styles for over a decade. In the last couple years their reputation's been propagating in the States with the help of Matador Records, which have released two of their albums and a few EPs. I can't decide if they, like Stereolab, Combustible Edison, The Coctails, and so forth are mining the past for stylistic references and attempts to do something that can be both serious and pop music. Maybe they're just bottom-feeding.

After all, they're not copping licks from the Velvet Underground and MC5, they're cribbing notes from lounge jazz, old synthesizer and stereo demonstration albums, late sixties disco music, stock audio soundtracks from a zillion cheap movies and film shows from the sixties and seventies, and wackajawaka uptempo stuff used in the chase scenes of '70s cop shows. In short, everything that people used to point to as textbook definitions of banal. This might be the sort of cool your parents would be into, if your parents collected Andy Williams albums rather than The Rolling Stones', but it's nothing you'd have admitted to your buddies in high school that you liked listening to.

On the other hand, these musical referents are now twenty and thirty and forty years old. The stigma of greasy old bachelors trying to pick up dames in singles bars and discos, or of relentlessly wholesome cardigan-sweater-wearing crooners has pretty much faded. Both the nicey-nice pop music and punk music's first rebellions against it occured before today's average SPIN reader was out of diapers. Nostalgia for past music need not accomodate the circumstances which created the music.

Hell, I'm waiting for the first big New Wave revival. Should be in a year or two.

Anyway, Pizzicato Five play better than competently, and do have a glorious grip on catchy hooks. On their latest album, "The Sound of Music," they sing about being a groupie, being of the Jet Set (Oh, what a sixties thing to be!), being pretty, being stylish, being decadently wealthy, and being in dreamworlds out of romantic fantasies. I imagine that if you take this stuff literally, you'd be repulsed. Everything's done with the perky casualness you only get to see in documentaries made to promote famous film celebrities of the 1950s.

If you relax and go with the flow, Pizzicato 5 can be awfully fun. The whole point is FUN, with the capital U and N. Perky and fun. Perky little rhythm tracks on harpsichord behind a monologue presumably sung by Her Famous Self as she jets about from soundcheck to a phone home to a date that evening. Or another track pleading with a DJ to play a song again. The lyric sheet reads like a junkie's cry for another fix. Heh. There's more atmosphere than you might think. What had once taken 101 strings now needs a couple tracks laid down on a synthesizer.

When you get The Sound of Music (the P5 album, not that Julie Andrews flick), you get a cute little lyrics booklet and a cute little 'carte pizzicato'. How stylish! The snug plastic sleeve around it all is gonna eventually chew up the cardboard CD holder, and my lyrics book is already dogeared. But the whole package is elegantly stylish, in a kinda' 70s-filter-through-the-nineties way. The style of decadence is p5's forte. Stereolab is more interested in combining sixties and seventies sound with political rhetoric, not paeans to fashion. But I'll tell you about them next time.

Anyway, after a couple spins of The Sound of Music, Moon came 'round again. I put his thermos in his hand and showed him to the door. We stood on the porch while I waited for him to leave.

"You got anything to drink, man? My throat's burnin'..." he drawled.

I reached inside and gave him a little thermos-cap of fluid, and closed the door before I could hear him ralphing on the sidewalk. I'm keeping the CD, too -- he's got some payback coming for drinking my beer. Especially when it's a cream stout that fine.

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