Sunday, December 17, 2006

Smack Dab - Right Smack Dab

No, this isn't a novelty song. All of Smack Dab's songs sound like this. Short, catchy, and a little bit silly. Ahh, but I love it! Smack Dab's charm can surely be pinned on the inimitable voice of the eternally childlike Linda Hagood, who sounds like a primitive, purer version of Joanna Newsom. (Guess Hagood should have learned to play the harp.)

Trouser Press has an informative write-up on the trio here, but I have a story of my own. I first heard the band when their second album, Majestic Root, was originally released in 1994 (containing the above song), but forgot about them a few years later. Fast forward to 2001; I'm living in San Francisco and one night I go to a bar in the mission with a friend. I sit down at the bar and the female bartender says--in a squeaky, cute voice-- "What can I get for you?" I nearly fell off the stool. "You used to be in Smack Dab, didn't you?!" I asked. Strangely, she didn't even seem that surprised. She was more surprised that I didn't recognize her from the Double U, a San Francisco based-band she was in at the time.

The above photo is a recent image of Hagood. I couldn't find any cool vintage photos. See, Google Images doesn't have everything.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Palm Fabric Orchestra - The Garden


In 1988, Poi Dog Pondering quickly built a reputation as a lovable troupe of scruffy kids from Texas who often had trouble fitting on the stage, literally and figuratively. Orbiting around lead singer Frank Orral was a constellation of eight or ten folk journeymen and musical stragglers who played exotic instruments like the ukelele and accordion (what, you thought Beirut invented that?). And with their debut single and college radio hit "Living with the Dreamy Body," Poi Dog had the perfect song to launch a legend. Introduced with a tin whistle and Scottish drum rolls, "Dreamy Body" sounded like nothing else on college radio, and yet, with its nasal vocals and silly lyrics, was not so far removed from other alternative bands of the time.

And then everything went to shit. The band signed to Columbia and released a really embarrassing album of crunchy granola folk that was too bland even for the '89 Earth Day festival. After that, Poi Dog went electric and tried rap and Smiths soundalikes. With one chord from Kurt Cobain, Poi Dog was rendered both obsolete and uncool. In 1992, Orral dissolved the band temporarily to record a new, one-off album under the name of Palm Fabric Orchestra.

Thankfully, Orral didn't attempt to stay current by going grunge. Instead, he retreated into that strange boomer netherworld, New Age, and believe it or not, the album he recorded (with a bunch of other Poi Doggers) is actually a classic of the genre. Released on Carrot Top in 1994, Palm Fabric Orchestra's sole album Vague Gropings in the Slip Stream has held up better than anything in the Poi Dog catalog (except that first EP). Of course, it is New Age, so an open mind is most definitely required.

After releasing the Palm Fabric Orchestra album, Orral kicked Poi Dog Pondering back into gear and continued to release albums. They are still recording and playing as of 2006.