Video: "Bigga Bagga" - Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke

Transient

I do so love "Bigga Bagga" from the latest Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke album, Pleased To Meet You.  I haven't the foggiest idea what the song is about, though.

Here to clear up the matter (or not) is the latest video from the band, illustrated by Wilde himself, of course.  A video that encourages close pictoral analysis.

Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke - "Bigga Bagga" [YouTube

Weekly Summary (6/3/13 - 6/9/13)

How I Got Here: Key Wilde (Brian Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets)

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As half of the country-punk (punk-country?) duo Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke, the Texas-bred Wilde has produced a couple great albums of often raucous music for families.  So Brian Eno -- whom I'm most familiar with through his work with the Talking Heads and his album Music for Airports  -- was not the first artist I expected Wilde to mention in my series featuring kindie musicians talking about albums that have influenced them as a musician.

But here he is, praising Eno for his 1974 album Here Come the Warm Jets , and he explains how that helped set him off on his musical path, and even draws a link between that nearly-40-year-old album and a track off his latest album, the excellent Pleased To Meet You .

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There have been many favorite records over the years I could list as influences but one in particular stands out and seems worth mentioning here: Here Come The Warm Jets – the first solo album by Brian Eno. I must have first discovered the record while working at a record store in Houston – my summer job following my sophomore year in college. Needless to say, the majority of my wages that summer went right back to the company store. My appreciation for diverse genres of music (and my record collection) expanded quite a bit in those two months.

The record had been out for a few years and was certainly not Eno’s latest release at the time. Of course, being an obsessive music aficionado, I knew who Eno was. He had been a founding member of Roxy Music – one of my favorite bands – but had left after the second album. And there were the collaborations with Bowie and Talking Heads. And he had produced the first Devo album – was talked about as the “go-to” producer who brought elements of chance and “Oblique Strategies” into the recording studio. So I thought of him as an eccentric, yet somewhat ascetic, technical wizard who tinkered with synthesizers and created ambient records like Music For Films and Music For Airports.

So to discover this quirky singer-songwriter with compelling, absurdist lyrics and catchy melodies mining the history of rock and roll completely knocked me out. The backing band, featuring everyone in Roxy Music except Bryan Ferry, sounded to me like the Velvet Underground – probably my favorite band at the time. And I immediately fell in love with Eno’s voice. There was something so English – the accent, the colloquialisms – that really appealed to me in contrast to all the British singers who tried to sound American. (This appreciation probably later led to my collaboration with Mr. Clarke.)

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I listened to the record endlessly. I had been writing and recording odd little songs for a while but now felt like I might actually make a record of my own someday. And I imagined it would be a record like Here Come The Warm Jets. The conflation of several different styles and genres seemed completely natural to me. I overlooked the various components and influences – here was an original sound that I would thereafter label simply “Eno”.

Why not pull out all the hooks and cadences and gorgeous vocal harmonies? Why not write a song like “Baby’s On Fire” that begins with the following lines delivered with snarling sincerity:

Baby’s on fire
Better throw her in the water
Look at her laughing
Like a heifer to the slaughter.

And the song gets even more bizarre as we are introduced to a couple who collect discarded cigarette butts from ashtrays and successfully market them:

Juanita and Juan
Very clever with maracas
Making their fortunes 
Selling second hand tobaccos.

Add to the mix a searing guitar solo by Robert Fripp and you’ve got a number one hit that will probably never be played on commercial radio.

“Cindy Tells Me” (which seemed to me a wink to Lou Reed’s songs that transcribed a personal confession from a female confidante – “Candy Says”, “Stephanie Says”, Lisa Says”) is a 50’s progression with bouncy piano and falsetto harmonies.

But it was the second side of the album that really knocked me out. Side two opens with “On Some Faraway Beach” – a lovely song that instantly crept into my head and has never left. The piece begins with a simple melodic piano part repeated over and over throughout the song as more pianos (22 in all) are added along with other instruments  and lilting vocal harmonies. The song gradually builds for over 4 minutes and culminates in a haunting lyric about being swept away into eternity.

I acquired a four-track cassette recorder around that time and spent endless hours layering simple instrumental bits and multi-tracked vocal harmonies. (I now have boxes of cassette tapes gradually deteriorating in my parent’s attic)  For the final track on our album Rise and Shine – a song called “Pekepoo” – we deliberately tried to channel the spirit and structure of “On Some Faraway Beach”. The resulting track was originally nearly 8 minutes in length and cutting it down to 4:58 was painful and not entirely successful.

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“Dead Finks Don’t Talk”, with its shifting tempo and background vocal chants, was unlike anything I had ever heard before and remains one of my favorite Eno creations. Though not intentional, I see a direct connection between that song and “Conversation” - one of my favorite songs on our most recent record Pleased To Meet You.

Here Come The Warm Jets ends with a predominately instrumental title track (Eno repeated this strategy on his follow up record Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy) but the penultimate tune, “Some Of Them Are Old”, is the loveliest of all. A melodic hymn with Eno multi-tracking all the vocal harmonies:

People come and go and forget to close the door,
And leave their stains and cigarette butts trampled on the floor,
And when they do, remember me, remember me.

I will always remember this record and the joy it has brought me over the years. And I hope to someday create a song that will impart a similar joy to some listener – young or old.

Video: "The Rattling Can" - Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke

Yes, I know that Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke have just released their newest album, Pleased To Meet You (and that I'd recommend it highly to you).

But there may be no KWMC song I hold in higher esteem than "The Rattling Can," off their debut album Rise and Shine (which I'd also recommend highly to you).  From the first time I heard it, I loved its energy and the way it took the traditional and reinvigorated it.

So, yay, new video for the song!  Simply animated by Wilde himself, but lots of fun.  Make sure you stick around for the rare quark, rattling quark.

Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke - "The Rattling Can" [YouTube]

Review: Pleased to Meet You - Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke

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My appreciation for Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke is long-standing and deep.  My review of Rise and Shine, their first album from early 2010, felt to me less like a review than a summary of everything the duo had done in the couple years or so leading up to the album.

And to some extent I feel a bit the same way about their brand-new second album, Pleased To Meet You.  It's been more than 3 years in the making, obviously, but beyond that, some of this music ("Animal Alphabet", for example, or "Raised By Trolls" and "Chuckers") has made its way into the world during that time.  So when I say that this album feels familiar, I can't always tell if that's because it actually is familiar or because KWMC have tapped into some timeless country-punk attitude.

In that review of their debut, I called the band (they're a quartet now, with a handful of guest artists, including producer Dean Jones, joining in) a "mix of Johnny Cash, Johnny Rotten, and Johnny Appleseed."  Sometimes, as on the opening title track (whose structure as a counting song is disguised by the propulsive shuffling beat and the British born-Clarke's slight sneer of a voice), they mix them up on the same song.  "Raised By Trolls" has a killer surf-rock guitar line, but the next track, "Wander Round the World" is a sweet and earnest bluegrass ode to travel.

If anything, Wilde and Clarke's songwriting has become even weirder.  "Lazy Raisins" is a ska tune about some raisins doing nothing but lying in the sun (which makes sense, when you think about it).  "King of the Town" is a rocker about a kid who bemoans his inexplicable election as head of the city until he makes some very sensible rules.  That's followed by "Conversation," a mini-operatic rocker in the vein of the Who about a kid confused by the adult chatter at a party which features the line, "Please excuse me / I have to step outside / My bike is double-parked."  And as mystifying that song is, I have no idea what "Bigga Bagga" is about other than silly wordplay and shouting "Oi!" a lot (as a result, I think it'll be a big hit with Little Boy Blue).

Which isn't to say that they can't be tender and linear -- "Take Ten" is a roots-rocker with layered harmonies that happens to be about frustration and taking a break.  But kids will relate because it's willing to sound how kids (and, occasionally, adults) honestly feel -- "This is the stupidest planet in the entire universe / It's so dumb / It's not fair / I've had enough / And I just don't care / Count to ten / Start all over again."

The 45-minute album will be most appreciated by kids ages 3 through 8.  You can listen to the entire album here.  And of course the physical product includes illustrator Wilde's character-filled illustrations of assorted animals and people.  (Visit the KWMC website for stories behind some of the surprising appearances on the album cover.)

If you've read this far, it shouldn't be any great surprise that I think Pleased To Meet You is fabulous, an energetic blend of Americana and punk, of empathy and third-grade snark.  Fans of Rise and Shine should snap this up immediately, and the rest of you shouldn't delay much, either.  Highly recommended.

Share: "Railroad Medley" - Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke

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Yay for new music from Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke!  That's right, their new album Pleased to Meet You is set for release next Tuesday and to help promote the release [edit: and to promote National Train Day on May 11th] they're offering "Railroad Medley" off the new album as a free download.

Folks, new AND FREE music from KWMC is cause for celebration, no matter the time of year.  Go here to grab your download (and listen to the rest of the album).  Pretty sure you can guess at least one of the songs in the medley given the illustration below.

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