In a world of this, that, and the other being regurgitated, repackaged, and redone until there's nothing new under the sun anymore, fewer things are as exciting as finding an authentically weird-ass record at a thrift intro text small:store. Other than the fact that they are cool to listen to, the other real pleasure in such finds are that they are super-rare. You can dig through piles and piles of Mantovani, Seals and Crofts, and Outfield records before something like Mooky the Singing Pipefitter pops up, or Sebastian Speaks, an entire record of a vicious dog barking that you play on repeat when you are out, to scare away the burglars.
Will Louviere is a thrift-store record junkie in the East Bay who has amassed an amazing amount of freaky, homely, funny, and bizarre records. He's placed them all up for display on his Web site (www.showandtellmusic.com). Fuck all that New Economy crap: This is what the Internet is great for. Louviere has amassed an amazing virtual museum that you can enjoy in the privacy of your own home, complete with sound snippets from some of the albums. If you loved the RE/Search Incredibly Strange Music books that spurred the mid-'90s lounge craze, then this site is a gas. The rooms on the site include stuff like Cool Covers, Homemade Music, Homemade Cover Art, and Christian Records. It's actually a mixture of a zine and a museum, because each artifact is explained in Louviere's "dude," "gnarly," and "pretty cool, huh?" script. But he's no dumbass: This guy is a true music expert with a keen ear and a love of irony. According to his site, Show and Tell is "a rough guide to some cool and endangered music." It is not "a neo-lounge experience; a refuge for anyone whose identity is based on any of this shit." In short, no rabid record geeks please. Wishful thinking, if not the pot calling the kettle black.
Witness, if you will, the album I Am Lucifer, billed on the cover as "An actual recording of a demon spirit that possesses a woman and speaks from within her, using her voice declaring 'I am Lucifer.' " Then there's the New York Special Olympics Band's rendition of "Proud Mary," whose version -- imperfect and belabored at times -- is spot-on fantastic, especially when the vocalist lets out a blood-curdling James Brown scream. "The idea of people hearing a particular song for the first time through a Macintosh speaker is about as unromantic a thing as I can dream up," says Louviere on the site. "I've been trying to limit the sound samples to recordings more fitting to the format." But man, dude, we really want to hear some of those gnarly records! Here's hoping Louviere puts snippets from all of them up at some point, not just select ones. Reading about Louie the Singing Cab Driver and then not being able to hear him, much less track down the real record, is kind of a bummer.
But Louviere has grand plans, and he's already released one compilation on his new label, Thrift Score Records. While wandering through a thrift store in Hayward a while back, he stumbled upon a pile of Chinese and Malaysian teen dance records from the '60s. Recently he's compiled the best cuts from the records onto a CD called, well, Teen Dance Music from China and Malaysia.
What does the music sound like? It's all over the place, but with a loungey instrumental feel backed by a dancey go-go beat. Occasionally the music will inexplicably speed up and slow down, or cut loose with a metallic Chinese sproing. The cuts by the Brothers Hawk provide a spaghetti Western feel, especially their version of "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" theme, which they call "The Go-Go from River Kwai." Then there are the weird, spaced-out numbers, like "Tabu" from the Sound of Silverstones. It's a genuinely good song with an Old-West twist, mixed with Asian tones and spacey keyboards. "I've heard tons and tons of American instrumentals of that music," says Louviere, "But these guys just hooked it up! Organs and Asian stylings and inflections. ... insane."
There are also the usual language barriers. The Brothers Hawk sing the seemingly moribund "Nothing in My Life," which inexplicably features the lines "Enjoy yourself/Enjoy yourself," then ends with an upbeat one-two punch: "It's later than you think!" Japanese bands have the best names for bands, because they aren't associating the meanings of the English words with anything, they just go by what sounds cool. "I tried to keep the CD true to the experience of finding these records with indecipherable names," Louviere says.
Sales of the CD have far surpassed what he'd ever hoped, helped along by some play on KALX and some distributors who dig weird shit. After pressing 1,000 discs, he's sold half in just four weeks. "I'm going to try and put out a bunch of stuff," he promises. "Eventually a Teen Dance Vol. Two ... I basically dig up thrift-store stuff for a living now, and I have all kinds of stuff lined up." We can't wait.
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