Archive for the ‘Brewer & Shipley’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TARKIO-Sea Songs for Landlocked Sailors (1999).

Tarkio was Colin Meloy’s band before he formed the Decemberists.  My first reaction to the name Tarkio was that it sounded like Tarkus, the album by Emerson lake and Palmer.  And, since I heard about it during The Decemberists’ The Crane Wife album, which is proggy, I assumed Tarkio would be a prog rock band.  Little did I know that the real name of Tarkio comes from a train stop in Montana and that the real (at least to me) forerunner for this album is Tarkio by folkies Brewer & Shipley which featured the song “One Toke Over the Line.”

All of Tarkio’s music was collected in 1995 on the album OmnibusOmnibus contains their album I Guess I was Hoping for Something More, this EP, and various other unreleased tracks.

This EP actually came out after Tarkio’s debut album (when I decided to write this first I assumed it came first).  It seems especially surprising to me because the opening song sounds very different from anything on the LP.  Not worse, just like a direction they chose not to go in.  His voice is kind of processed and sounds, yes, funny.  Although I have to admit I rather like it—it’s much more alt sounding than the rest of the disc, which has a more folkie charm.  This disc was self released.  And I cannot believe that there are no images of it online anywhere.  Decemberists fans are crazy intense and no one has a copy of this CD?  Weird.

So as I said, the first song, “Devil’s Elbow” is full of vibrato and sounds like an alt rock song circa the mid 90s.  The solo sounds like it could be done by Robert Smith.  “Weight of the World” sounds more alt-folkie, big guitars and whatnot.  And the chorus sounds very much like a Decemberists song.  And check out these lyrics: “we hear the homeless philharmonic singing all the Charlies Angels to their heavenly convergence in the sky.” Pure Colin.

If you had any doubt that this was Colin Meloy’s band (which you wouldn’t, but if you did), this song title will tell you all you need: “My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist.”  Lyrically it is pure Meloy, although musically it’s more spare.  Decemberists fans will recognize this song from Castaways and Cutouts (that version is over a minute longer).  The Tarkio version has louder guitars as the song progresses, although the Decemberists’ version has more interesting instrumentation.  “Mountains of Mourne,” is a sad ballad played mostly on banjo.  “Never Will Marry” is a slow dirgelike song–very traditionally folk-sounding.

I really don’t know much about why Tarkio broke up.  This EP shows a band experimenting with their more ballad-y side.  Probably not destined to be a big seller, it works as a nice companion to their debut.

[READ: May 26, 2012] “The Region of Unlikeness”

This was the last short story I found by Galchen and I was really excited to read it.  It starts off a little oddly—it’s one of those stories where there are two characters spoken about and they are inseparable and it’s not always clear which is which.  Especially when the opening is as peculiar as this, “Ilan used to call Jacob ‘my cousin from Outer Swabia’”  Originally the narrator thinks it a joke, but she later decides it’s a sort of a clue.  She met the two of them by chance.  They were talking loudly and boisterously about Wuthering Heights in a coffee shop.  And that intrigued her to no end.  So she chimed in, and the three of them ended up talking for a while.  The crazy thing about them was that Jacob had a daughter. He seemed so carefree and like he had no responsibilities.   She never met the daughter, he barely mentioned his family, and yet she was always there in the back of his mind.

And she fell hard for Ilan—he seemed antiquated and resourceful like “fancy coffee and bright-colored smutty flyers.”  Of course all of her friends found the two of them arrogant and pathetic, but the narrator could not be drawn away from them.  Although really she was drawn to Ilan, who was generous with praise, while Jacob was kind of sulky and dark and was “jealous of Ilan’s easy pleasures.”  The narrator felt Jacob was pedantic.  All of this makes it surprising that the bulk of the story is about the narrator and Jacob.

And then she stopped seeing them.  Literally, they were nowhere to be found. (more…)


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