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18 September 2009

Bardo Pond - 'Lapsed' (Matador)

It was my freshman year of college and this merging of my two big interests -- Matador-label indie rock and minimalist drone -- seemed irresistable. I remember going to the record store after class and buying this for $8 or maybe $9, which is how much new LPs cost back in 1997. When I got home I discovered a strange, weird smear on side 2- and the shrinkwrap meant it was a factory defect, not the sign of a curious record store owner -- so I emailed Matador. At the time their website was a weird web address like www.matador.recs.com -- actually, that address still works which is pretty weird -- and their customer service rep apologised and offered me a new copy if I would send the old one back. I thought that was pretty nice of them but I never got around to mailing it back. The thing about Lapsed is that I never really got past the first track, so some aberrations on side two were forgivable. Sure, there's some other great jams on here - 'Pick My Brain' has a nice sunny strum-bake;;; 'Anandomiche' is Bardo's great take on 'Til the Morning Comes'. Not to mention the super long closing jam 'Aldrin' which is in some ways the perfect Bardo Pond song, as equally momentous as their big long 'Amen' track on Bufo Alvarius. But it's the opening track here, 'Tommy Gun Angel', that I've worn out on this LP. Not that you can really tell since everything is so murky and fuzzy anyway. Even though I gave this LP the usual once-over with the anti-static brush before playing (and it looked clean), after each side the stylus had scraped a big ball of dust out of the grooves. What a perfect metaphor. Is that a metaphor? But yeah, 'Tommy Gun Angel'. To say this is my favorite Bardo Pond song is an understatement. It actually is the only Bardo Pond song that matters. I used to have Amanita and Bufo Alvarious and some later stuff I think, but I ended up selling them all during some money-hungry purge, because when it came down to it I just wanted to listen to 'Tommy Gun Angel' over and over. This song is huge and thundering, yet concise. It's actually catchy, meaning you are caught in a net you can't escape from; the indistinct, moaning vocals are the perfect counterpart to the snaking guitar riff. It meanders along as probably the world's laziest hook. This is both a pop song and a testament to everything that can be illegible in the world. Maybe they have bettered or bested it, but I have little desire to hear anything else (and that is not a slight upon this band in any way). I saw them live a year or two after this came out and I fidgeted through the whole set waiting to hear 'Tommy Gun Angel'. The sound was terrible (being in some college auditorium) and everything was out of balance, almost like a dub reggae mix. They played it, but it was disappointing. Maybe that was when I sold the other stuff. I saw them a few years later and it was better but by that point I figured I should get over this song. So it's lingered for some years, unplayed until now, and I find that despite my technical appreciation of 'Aldrin's brilliance I'm still hung up on the side-1-track-1. It's nice to know that I can approach art-rock (or artistic rock music at least) with the same attitude of a spoiled Top-40 radio fan, just wanting to hear the hit song. But stop reading this and go hear it yourself.

1 comment:

  1. "lapsed" is a classic. you should still switch your copy out of a clean side 2! ha!