words and expressions

There are two kinds of people in this world: them what cares about the words in the songs, and them what don't. Me, I care. A particularly incisive couplet can compensate for five minutes of rehashed G-C-D-twiddly part-C-D-Ging, and one unfortunate "oh baby please be mine/until the end of time" can turn me off for good. So, for my next few posts on this here fine piece of internet, I will be calling your attention to songwriters whose lyrics are particularly worthy of attention.

I thought I'd start someplace fairly obvious, and when it comes to "wordsmithing," "music," and "obvious," my brain comes up with one name: John Darnielle. However, every time I try to talk about the Mountain Goats I either get looks of pity or the sound of crickets, so fine, I'll go geek out to All Hail West Texas by my lonesome. Stephin Merritt we all know about, Bob Dylan I already wrote about, and maybe I don't want to be too obvious, okay, so let me tell you about Franklin Bruno.

Franklin has a Ph.D in philosophy (no, keep reading) and for most of the nineties was a principal player in the Inland Empire scene that centered on Upland, CA-based Shrimper Records. A Shrimper compilation fell into my greedy paws one day, thus introducing me to bands like Refrigerator, Diskothi-Q, Nothing Painted Blue, and, well, the Mountain Goats. As far as I could tell it was an incestuous little Empire, with Shrimper head Dennis Callaci, his brother Allan, John Darnielle, Kyle Brodie, a Peter guy whose last name I forget, and Franklin Bruno playing in semi-related bands and side projects of side projects. I was immediately smitten with Nothing Painted Blue, which featured Franklin singing and guitaring and Kyle on drums. Their semi-mathy guitar-rock meshed nicely with the Superchunk cravings I'd developed, but the best and most unusual part was Franklin's semi-snarky uber-nerd lyrics, all delivered crisply and clearly so you can make out everything he says. Someone who will think to put the word 'antihistamine' in the verse, someone who will title a song "Can't f(x)," that someone is all right by me.

Eventually NPB released some full-lengths, first on Kokopop and then on Scat, they're probably out there somewhere. Franklin has done a lot of solo work, and has played with John Darnielle (I must mention him! I cannot resist!) as the Extra Glenns. Recently he composed an entire album of songs for the amazing Jenny Toomey to sing; click that link to visit her website for more information - Jenny probably deserves a post all to herself, but this will do for now.

Franklin's blog is here.
Epitonic page (with two solo mp3s) is here.
Trouser Press article on Nothing Painted Blue is here.

My favorite NPB songs: "Big Pink Heart," "Drinking Game"
Favorite Franklin solo effort: The Irony Engine 7", featuring "Sleeping Through the Jane Pratt Show" and "Medium of Exchange." It was on Walt Records and is probably very out of print now, but those of you who know how to find things on the internet might be able to dig it up (let me know if you do).

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Blogger d said...

actually in order to alleviate the cricket noise. I downloaded a few mountain goat songs. I haven't given them the deep listen but I like what I heard. any recommendations for which mountain goat song to be on the official soft communication march sampler?

jenny toomey's name-checked in some song...I'm tryin to remember which...mary lou lord maybe?

10:41 AM, March 18, 2005  
Blogger d said...

PS (I meant there to be a comma somewhere in the above comment but clearly I need more than my chai soy latte to get my brain going) have you heard merritt's writing a musical!?! how perfect is that? I'm no magnetic fields fan but I LOVED "i".

11:04 AM, March 18, 2005  
Blogger mary said...

"He says my songs are too deep and gloomy/He wishes that I could be more like Jenny Toomey." MLL's "His Indie World," which basically reads like a playlist from my high school radio show.

Picking a favorite Mtn Goats song is harrrd. But "Palmcorder Yajna" off the new album ("We Shall All be Healed") is the approachable song that even people who don't like the Mtn Goats seem to like.

I DID NOT KNOW HE WAS WRITING A MUSICAL. it's aboud damn time.

2:15 PM, March 18, 2005  
Blogger liz o. said...


You totally took me back to college, when KXLU was all about Nothing Painted Blue and the other Shrimper bands. FYI, the IE or 909, preferred terms for the Inland Empire out here, is still a pretty incestuous scene, although now it's more on the We Love Throbbing Gristle and Foetus kick. If you want something that is a little more Shrimper than Some Bizarre and from the IE, may I suggest checking out Winston and the Telescreen? It sounds like something you would like.

2:03 PM, March 19, 2005  
Blogger mary said...

LIZ O. I was wondering if you'd click your way over here.

Thanks for the hot tip - you continue to be one of the music-savviest people I know. Ahh, to plunder Amoeba with you again!

5:35 PM, March 19, 2005  
Blogger liz o. said...

Oh, I've been lurking around here since you posted the link on Millwhistle. Lurking is fun. Anyhow, I realized today that since I actually have a blogger account for a school project on radical media, I can post a comment. Also, Diaryland has been down for the past day and I have posts that I cannot put online and it's bugging me. Now, just come to California again and we will make a date for Amoeba.

8:49 PM, March 19, 2005  

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