Wednesday, May 11, 2005


FORKSCLOVETOFU SEZ: The Red Headed Stranger is the nom de plume of the Hut's country music scholar.
I had plans over the weekend to meet with the R.H.S. for a friendly game of horseshoes thrown over a few High Lifes. After waiting over an hour for his no-showing ass, I presumed the fellow had hit the booze early and chose to pack up my steel and hit the road. No sooner was I about to head home when here comes the Stranger, yowling like a half-skinned cat and beshitted from head to toe.
"What", I dryly intoned, "happened to YOUR redneck ass?"
"Space monkeys?"
"Y'HEARD ME, SMALL FRY! They flew on down in some sorta secret gubmint you eff oh right alongside next to my pickup! Soon as I saw em, they stuck they heads outta some kinda porthole and started yammerin' on about some sorta 'We-come-in-peace' nonsense. I seen plenty a sci-fi movies so I knows a loada alien hooey when I hears it; them space monkeys was here to take over the planet but I'll be damned if I'll see it happen on my watch! I reached back to m'gunrack and let off a quarter pound of rocksalt just about point blank into they damned chimpanzee hides! Soon's I pull that neat trick tho', they shows their true colors and commences to flinging primate waste till it just about fills my cab! I had to leave the car behind and take off running!"
I remained skeptical. "Have you been drinking again?"
"I been knockin' em back as quick as I can! Can you blame me? Iffin you was covered in space monkey shit, wouldn't YOU have a go at the bottle?"
"Where are these flying apes now, Oh Currently-Brown-Headed Stranger?"
"They done buzzed off, yeeping and ooking a terrible mess and trailin' doo-doo behind 'em. I must say that in retrospect, I shore do wish I hadn't been so hasty to use firearms. Coulda maybe learned somethin' from those space monkeys."
"Indeed," I replied; "If not for your hotheadedness, the human race might've been privy (no pun intended) to the key to interstellar travel, surpassing lightspeed and mayhaps the very secrets of the universe."
The Stranger commenced to blow a raspberry. "To hell with all that high-falutin' gibbertygee; I just wants to know how theys been treatin' Elvis."
With that, the Stranger tossed me a stained CD and some godforsaken shitsmeared notes, then hightailed it off to drop a dime to the Weekly World News, leaving yours truly to pass along the music and tell the tale.
Here's the Stranger.

Pinmonkey - Sweet Blossom

Pinmonkey - Fly

Rock and roll began with solo artists -- Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis -- but came of age with bands. The Beatles, the Stones, the Who, Zeppelin, on and on and on. Kids grow up dreaming of being in a rock and roll band. But while the country music business has come to look more and more like the rock music business over the years -- the shows have gotten bigger and more showbizzy, the production has gotten glossier and the fashions are even a little more up-to-date (well, not for everyone) -- country has never quite adapted to the idea of bands.

When Alabama found success in the early 1980s, the door opened a crack, and a series of groups like Diamond Rio, Shenandoah and Sawyer Brown slipped in -- and then the Garth Brooks cult-of-personality era shut the door tightly again. Duos do fine, trios are good to go, but real bands have an uphill climb. Currently, only Lonestar could be considered a major mainstream country group, and they follow the time-honored tradition of allowing Nashville session guys to play on their records; they also lack a permanent bass player, detracting from that intangible sense of bandhood.

Why the resistance? Country music's core appeal is the mainline emotional connection between singer and listener, and the presence of multiple personalities in one artistic entity tends to dilute that impact. It's easier to believe a solo artist is singing just for you. It all starts with a song, they say around here, and anything that distracts from that tends to fall away.

Perhaps all this explains why country radio took a pass on Pinmonkey. The foursome formed in 1998, debuted with an indie album (Speak No Evil) in 2002, and caught the attention of a Nashville major, which released their self-titled second album later that same year. Both albums showcase a sharp blend of radio-ready '70s-style country-rock, bluegrass, gospel, folk and R&B. (Defying all logic, their major-label album is superior to the indie.) Lead singer Michael Reynolds is possessed of one of the finest voices in the city, a sweet tenor that wouldn't have gotten him kicked out of the Gram Parsons-era Byrds, while multi-instrumentalist Chad Jeffers, his bass-playing brother Michael and drummer (and superb harmony singer) Rick Schell offered ample support.

But it just didn't happen. Their thumping single "Barbed Wire and Roses" rose to #25, but follow-ups floundered. Last May, the band lost its record deal and Schell walked out within weeks. The remaining trio have stuck together, although Chad Jeffers is now doing double duty as a member of Keith Urban's backing band. Nonetheless, Pinmonkey are currently putting the finishing touches on a new album and securing a new record deal. Maybe the mainstream will come around eventually, but it's likely that "Pinmonkey Junkies" (as their fans are known) will have the band to themselves for a while longer.

Speak No Evil's "Sweet Blossom" shows off Reynolds' voice and songwriting skills, while on Pinmonkey the group dips into its bag of bluegrass tricks to turn Sugar Ray's "Fly" inside out. (That one's for you, Miccio.)

Be a Pinmonkey Junkie! Find out how you can help Pinmonkey. (First suggestion: buy some merch.) Pinmonkey and Speak No Evil are also available at Amazon.
Check out former Pinmonkey drummer Rick Schell's solo album.
Pre-order your copy of the sixth season of The Simpsons on DVD, featuring "And Maggie Makes Three" -- the episode in which Homer fulfills his lifelong dream of becoming a "pinmonkey" at the Bowl-o-Rama. You'll have to wait 'til the seventh season comes around for "A Fish Called Selma," featuring that other simian-themed masterpiece, "Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off." Rest in peace, Troy McClure.
Learn about famous monkeys through history, including the "first non-human punk rocker," a rhesus monkey named "Crap."


It's called travelling music, bustin'-ya-ass-style: Oliver Wang and Junichi Semitsu's 'Poplicks' blog offers some on-the-road mixtape tracklistings for you would-be Kerouacs.
Ephemera Now's enviable collection of pop-art advertising is a mouth-watering delight that should keep you busy switching your wallpaper for hours. This fine fellow has been adorning my screen for the past two weeks; ain't he purty?
The inevitable Darth Vader blog.
"He enjoys fixing things, listening to music, and crushing people's tracheas with his mind."
Ska for the Skeptical follows the same path as the equally admirable Bollywood for the Skeptical: both sites provide an MP3 mixtape of the genre in question along with copious annotation.
Get it while it's hot; who knows how long these excellent repositories will stay live?
Found on EBay: this unbelievably beautiful silk bat-fan, circa 1900 (sold for over $3,200!) and this shocking paper fan that shows a trio of naked, crying toddlers with the subtitle ALLIGATOR BAIT. YIKES!
There's a UGK album cover, eh?
Rosie O'Donnell Needs Toilet Seat Assistance, Finds Will Smith Attractive, Loves Marshmallows Too
Shadow Murder Force Androids
Purpology reviews music videos and, better yet, shows you where you can find them yourself.

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