Friday, July 17, 2009

Henrietta's Lovers - Monkey Barrs

Led by charismatic frontman and trumpet player Alexander Davidowski, Henrietta's Lovers was formed at the University of Florida in 1990. The band didn't fit into any particular scene, as their sound was an odd collision of Joy Division moodiness, jazz-funk, and Davidowski's warbling croon.

Guitarist Matt Herrero coined the band name after a short story he wrote based on a family member.  The band remained coy about the exact nature of the story, and apparently Herrero's family wasn't all too keen on the name. Herrero also came up with the title of the band's only release, The Pagoda Woman, which was recorded in August 1990 at Mirror Image studios in Gainesville. According to Davidowski, the cassette sold a hundred copies or so. The band didn't really tour outside of Florida and after recording one last song "Crystal Castles," the band broke up.

Although uneven and amateurish at times, The Pagoda Woman is an engaging and unique album that gets by on the band's enthusiasm and wealth of ideas. Side one leans towards atmospheric jazz-funk and quirky pop while side two features a live set that veers from carnival barker trippiness ("Cat's Eye") to goofy garage punk ("Itomni"). The album closes with a minor-key, new wave dirge.

"Monkey Barrs," named after the slap-pop-happy bass player Ceb Barrs, is the quintessential Henrietta's Lovers track, showcasing Davidowski's unhinged vocal antics and the band's eclectic range of ideas. It appeared on their lone cassette, as well as a compilation of local bands called Gainesville Can't Dance.

(Corrected 4/4/11)

Bonus link to an old article on the band: