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
"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
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
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
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.