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Columns > Jesse Jarnow - Brain Tuba

Published: 2001/10/18
by Jesse Jarnow

BRAIN TUBA: Anarchy in the Peach Truck Republic

We get a lot of swill in the JamBands.com offices: CDs, obviously, but also
tee-shirts, stickers, 8 × 10 color glossy photographs with circles and
arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, handwritten notes. Most of
this stuff is pretty alright by us. We also get press packets: long
documents explaining, in terms no listener will ever get to read, the
significance of the music, why the music was made, who it was made for, and
usually an amusing anecdote involving some meaningful gig in a podunk town.
These papers are generally interesting and I tend to read them, but I don’t
forward them to the reviewers. The reason is fairly simple: the record is
what is important. The reviewer should have no privileged information. He
should be a listener first and foremost. If the artistdid not see fit to
include it in the liner notes, then the information is as good as imaginary.
Most press packets are a page or two tops. Sometimes, bands get a little
excited and include every clip ever published about the group. That’s
amusing. Sometimes. A lot of press packets are written in breathless
pseudo-objective voices suitable for reprinting. Recently, though, we
received an unprecedented package. A band calling themselves "The Peach
Truck Republic" graced our desks with a very large black binder containing,
it would seem, at least 100 pages of material, if not more.
The packet is in promotion of a two-disc set called "Fenceposts", clearly a
concept album of some variety. The volume is titled, modestly, "Fenceposts:
A Literary Portrait." Included along the usual biographies are philosophical
explications of the songs, charts of each tune (including maps of where in
the mix each instrument is as well as handy "theme/mood/styling"
categorizations including such descriptions as "revelation", "tradition",
"development", "conceptualization", "perspective", "discovery", "urban
enticement"... and, oh God, the list goes on and on).
"That no question be left unanswered is a related motive of The Peach Truck
Republic’s production team," the introduction to the book claims. Great,
then. I lifted the volume over my head and shook it. "Oh great and mighty
press packet," I intoned. "Will this book describe in depth how this album
sounds such that I don’t have to actually put it on?" The metal bindings
rattled and I threw the book open to a random page, which happened to be
page 32.
Under a description for a song on the second disc, titled Digging On The
Bottom, I found the following: "The realization and surface admission
foreshadow that which is to come, and offer a glimpse into the product of
honest appraisal, however uninvited". Well, yeah. Sure. Right, right. Yes,
yes. It makes perfect sense. I have admitted that I’m writing a review based
on the press packet alone — definitely an uninvited interpretation, pretty
surface-level and artificial. Sort of. Ah, but it foreshadows that which is
to come and offers a glimpse into the product. I’ll be damned, it’s even a
glimpse of honest appraisal. Far out. I guess this whole dang idea has been
sanctioned by the Gods after all.
To be fair, the band’s name suggests an aestethic which is played out nicely
through the notes: floral wall-paper patterns back black and white images of
old trucks running down dusty roads. (Did I mention that this packet was in
color?). The charts on the song maps indicate the instruments. There
seems to be a lot of guitar, vocals, and percussion. A good deal of banjo,
also, which would lead me to believe that the guitars are probably acoustic
ones, strummed brightly.
Anybody who dare doth criticize me for criticizing the album on these
aestethic grounds, irregardless of content, can go fuck themselves. One can
learn more about a band from the way they present themselves than he can
from listening to their often innocuous music. I’ll stand by this review as
truth come Budnick and Bernstein with pitchforks. Two bands can sound
exactly the same and come at the music from completely different angles. How
else can one tell their intentions apart without a press packet?
I won’t cop to not listening to the album, just as a fail-safe.
Suffice it to say, it lived up to all of my expectations and created a
nicely pastoral background texture while I skinned avocados and bashed
coconuts in preparation for the third annual JamBands.com Friday afternoon
dress-down fiesta and death orgy. It was a groovy, groovy time.
Need Jesse Jarnow say more?

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