A few weeks ago, I got to sit and chat with Claude Coleman, Jr., the longtime drummer for Ween, along with Eagles of Death Metal, Amandla, and about a million other bands you should really look up and listen to. It was a long, meandering, often hilarious and sometimes moving conversation, and the result–after carefully plucking out a few instances of the word “fuck” and some decidedly NSFW references–is this interview, published on SongFacts.com. I hope you enjoy it.
Someone on one of those local neighborhood Facebook groups posted a Sunsetter awning for sale today, and of course, what else would that make you think of, but the Dead Milkmen and their spectacular song about the same? Remember the infomercials for those? Happy Suburban Neighbor Guy spends all his time retracting and yanking out his awning, to ensure maximum comfort for his friends, family, and shiny green lawn… Actually, maybe they weren’t infomercials, maybe they were regular commercials that just seemed really long. There was some kind of weird cult vibe to them, mixed with a creepy wholesome Saved By the Bell/Afterschool Special kind of thing. I kept waiting for Stereotypical Angsty Teen to appear through the sliding glass door, awning-retractor stick in hand, defiant in his denim jacket and floppy hair cut, and announce (in appropriately angsty fashion): “I learned it from watching you, Dad!” Fade to black, and the concrete patio sits uncovered while Dad and Teen bond, and the sun soaks in, waiting to burn the feet of Returning Grocery Shopping Mom, through the paper-thin soles of her stylish sandals.
Anyway-there’s a song about that, and it went largely unnoticed, I think, the Dead Milkmen having long outlived their Punk Rock Girl notoriety. I’ve owned every album they’ve ever made, listened to them on repeat for weeks on end through a series of crappy speakers in crappier cars, cranked them up to motivate me to move my lazy ass and clean the house, and this track is without a doubt one of their best. Take a look. It’s beautiful.
I was out playing around with my camera earlier, and I came across this tiny caterpillar hanging in mid-air, trying his best to make his way up toward the sky. I took about a hundred photos of him, most of them hazy and unfocused but that’s okay, he seemed to feel that way too. He looked like he was dancing, dangling from his little silver thread, and then he was struggling, I thought, and I wanted to help but I didn’t know how. I finally turned away and left him to figure it out, and it reminded me of an old Soul Asylum song, “Closer to the Stars.”
I came upstairs and watched a video of the song, Dave Pirner with his shredded voice and lackadaisical half-dreads, Karl Mueller very much alive back then, all of them dressed in the sloppy closet-bottom fashion of the early ’90s, and it took me somewhere for a minute, caught between the caterpillar and the past. There was my escape, 20 years ago. There was my salvation, the speakers screaming grunge and punk at me while I wiped noses and floors and I was there and I wasn’t. I was going somewhere, but I didn’t know where yet, and I didn’t know how. I gathered up the tiny hands beside me and I danced and struggled and I climbed, up and up and up.
I made it. Sitting in the upstairs of my house out in the middle of nowhere, windows opened wide to the night, I am surrounded by the stars.
This one isn’t about a band or anything like that; it’s just a little something I wrote a few years ago, and a photo that I liked. It seems like it might be appropriate to share here.
A couple years ago, an Asheville space rock band called Silver Machine gave new life to the classic film, Night of the Living Dead. They left the film in black and white, left the dialogue intact so that the integrity of the film was preserved, but they took out all of the old music–which wasn’t written for the film, by the way–and wrote and recorded a brand new psychedelic soundtrack for the film. Silver Machine’s Night of the Living Dead played on the big screen to sold out audiences at Asheville’s Fine Arts Theatre and the Palace Theater in Syracuse, NY. Here’s a little more about it, if you’re interested. You can learn more about the film and Silver Machine’s other projects at Silver-machine.net.
You know those silly quizzes everyone takes and then shares on Facebook? The ones that are supposed to tell you which cheese you were in a past life, or what arachnid you’re most like, or whatever? This isn’t one of those. This is just a simple pop quiz to see if you can figure out where these lyrics came from. There’s no ten-second psychoanalysis going on here, just a little test of your psychedelic music knowledge. Check it out and see how well you do.
A few years ago, I wrote this piece for an awesome site called SongFacts (and I’m happy to be writing for them again; look for more from me there soon, including an interview with Ween’s Claude Coleman Jr). This piece remains one of my favorites that I’ve written. I’ve loved the Dead Milkmen for years, and it was fun to get to write about them. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.