Friday, March 28, 2014

Play Ball

Just in time for Opening Day, the Baseball Project is back. To say this thing is up my alley is a gross understatement: It's not only the old white-guys-from-the-80s musicians played in that power-pop-to-folk-rock style I like, but it's funny and baseball literate in the best way. I feel like they had to be thinking of me when they wrote:
I keep my eye on the sparrow
Keep my focus pretty narrow
I listen to the music and read books about its makers
I read books about baseball, the swingers and the takers
But what I love even more, is poring over box scores
Thirty seconds into this piece of power-pop homerism from R.E.M.'s great Mike Mills and I was already reconsidering my position:
Elsewhere the band writes about Pascual Perez, Lenny Dykstra, Dock Ellis, the Oakland A's, Henry Aaron...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Life is so Strange

A singer with multicolored hair and fishbowl bikini cups made quite the initial impression but I wouldn't have guessed back then that Missing Persons' SPRING SESSION M would hold up as well as it does 30+ years down the road.

The band consisted of squealing singer Dale Bozzio, a Playboy Bunny who stumbled into rock through husband Terry Bozzio, who was Frank Zappa's drummer. Dale became the delivery system for songs written by Terry Bozzio and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, another of Zappa's players. They recruited bass/synth player Patrick O'Hearn from Zappa, while keyboardist Chuck Wild arrived through a want ad. Originally known as "U.S. Drag" -- also a song title on the SPRING SESSION album -- the Missing Persons name referred to its members' commitments to other acts and might never have been a longterm project were it not for the fact this sexier Cyndi Lauper was fronting a creative, but very consciously new-wave band that could really play, and their shows around L.A. and a 4-song EP recorded at Zappa's studio became an early-80s phenomenon.

Debut album SPRING SESSION M (it's an anagram!) featured the spooky but exciting "Destination Unknown" -- a kind of fight song for my life and so many things in it (I'm reminded of its themes every spring when I take in the Mets' prospects). The guitar was clipped and new-wavy while the synths were complex, spacey and warm; Dale's vocals are appropriately quirky and the background singing and Terry's drumming are just outstanding. I posted a lip-synced performance above because I think it gives a better picture of what went into the song than the "official" video. They worked the same elements in different settings on songs like "Words," and "Walking in L.A.," crafting a record that was textbook new-wave without the shortcuts and cheap tricks (fake drums, labored detachment) that marked many of its contemporaries. It was really a kind of progressive pop that wasn't so disposable, only hidden behind sex and hairspray.

The band wouldn't hang on for long. Neither of their two follow-ups, RHYME & REASON (1984) or COLOR IN YOUR LIFE (1986) produced a hit and the band, built upon a marriage, didn't survive that breakup. Today those efforts live on only as parts of compilations dominated by SPRING SESSION cuts. Terry Bozzio went on to a lengthy jazz career; Wild and O'Hearn separately made marks in new-age; and Cuccurullo joined Duran Duran.

 You can't be sure of any situation. Something could change, and then you won't know.