Thursday, December 01, 2005
It’s been noted that some of the main culinary markers of civilization - cheese, wine and bread - are all the result of controlled spoilage. You know, yeast, curdling, all that. Well, with respect to the music of David Gates and Bread, there’s definitely plenty of evidence of both too much control and too much spoilage. Bread was probably the softest of soft rock. Way more soft than rock. Staff of life, emphasis on staff. All the connotations of half-baked yeastiness, sponginess and crustiness apply. Most definitely made from dough. I can’t really figure out how to get around offering up two tracks. “London Bridge” has some surprising Moog eruptions toward the end, and “Look What You Done” is just all pillowy and powdered. Bread makes the Eagles sound raw. But then. But then. There’s simply something subversive about music this neutered (the fact that the guys from Ween have gone on record as being big Bread fans sort of speaks to the transgressive nature, compare the Ween bros.’ very loaf-like “Chocolate Town”).
Trying to meditate on the sound of Bread and what it means, what it points to, spurred this disturbing Borgesian simile: Bread is like a mustache and the opposite of a mustache.
I seem to remember reading that Glen Campbell in his autobiography mentioned that he worked with Gates early on their careers, maybe before they both got to the West Coast. The key to understanding David Gates, it seems to me - the same key to understanding the Flaming Lips and the Five Americans - is Oklahoma. (Campbell is from Arkansas, but you get the idea)
You may be familiar with the Five Americans and their 1967 hit “Western Union,” with its clever little Morse-code riff. They sort of decided that “communication” would be their gimmick and theme, I think. They went on to do a track called “Zip Code” and one called “No Communication.” People had more ideas and feelings to express to one another back then. This one’s called “Reality.” For all you reality-based readers. There’s something very problematic about the Five Americans. For one, the wobbly harmonies make you realize just how much they were not Buffalo Springfield. And the band’s look qualifies as disturbing, I think. There’s a lot of blondness, unfortunate hip-huggers and blank, blank stares. The guys remind me of the kind of master-race labotomized humanoids you’d see on a dystopian episode of Star Trek. Beautiful, but horribly empty. Maybe violent. I believe I’ve mentioned my Melanie-hating office mate. He cannot tolerate the Five Americans either. You be the judge.