Fish Drive Edsels
They say there is no such thing as second acts in American lives, but American lives haven’t fully contended with outsider music, the crushing boredom of suburban Florida, and the permeable temporal membrane of album reissues. God, no.
With that firmly in mind, let me tell you a story. Many years ago, a young girl in Florida became corrupted by a band. It infected her thoughts, her words, her actions, her appearance, everything. Big deal right? You can throw a rock and hit a teenager who’s just gotten done loitering in Hot Topic or is one Slayer album away from going on a cat massacre. But it wasn’t any of that nonsense. This girl was corrupted by something far darker and more mysterious: The Residents. She bought everything she could. She started wearing a top hat around. As a mere teenager, she got closer than anyone ever has to figuring out the Residents’ identity, interrogating a hapless Penn Jillette, sending dead fish through the mail, and even palling around with Renaldo and the Loaf.
Mere fandom didn’t suffice. Iit wasn’t enough to be close to her idols, she had to BECOME them. Hell, surpass them. Besides the Residents, her life was an ultraviolet collage of pop culture weirdness: Jem & The Holograms, David Bowie in Labyrinth, Gary Numan… and her writings and drawings from the time became hopelessly infected by those reference points. And so was born Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin. Using only the primitive musical tools available to her at that point – Casio keyboard, toy drum machine, tape recorder – and a truly unhinged sense of ambition, a strange set of songs were crafted, some attempts at recording began, and then…
Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin disappeared.
The songs, the ideas, the weirdness lay dormant for many, many years. Until the tapes were unearthed, and in what was clearly a cult ritual, the ghost of Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin was channeled, was summoned. And all she wanted to do was finish her record.
Fish Drive Edsels does, in many ways sound like transmissions from an outer realm. Vocals are stretched and distorted into otherworldly shapes, the keyboard lines drift along in a dreamy, hallucinogenic ether, the song structures are strangely timeless, flirting with baroque signifiers before swooping into mutant new (or no-) wave shapes, Morse code/ fingers-on-a-window percussion. There are moments of just sublime strangeness, like “Frozen Fish,” a hallucinogenic paean to, well, a frozen fish, with harpsichord, a creepy vocal, and laser-bright synth lines attempting to restore order. I’m also partial to “Vegetable Medley,” a heady mix of horror movie keyboards, chopped’n’screwed vocals approximating a litany of different characters, and a sense of creeping dread. And people think that Paul McCartney chomping celery on a Beach Boys outtake is the height of “out there”!
Maybe you can file it next to Residents, Renaldo and the Loaf, and Barnes and Barnes, and I’m hearing similarities to the likes of Irene Moon and Russian Tsarlag, but other than that, this music is all alone.
Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin: http://petunia-lieblingmacpumpkin.com