Once upon a time Thomas Pynchon was my world. (Need I remind you of my disgraceful Honors Thesis?) This was about the same time music meant something to me—surely you remember? Before you bored of life and its trappings? Back when everything radiated raw, brittle vitality?
(Of course you remember. You were young once too.)
So you can imagine my elation when I discovered Pynchon had penned liner notes for some band I'd never heard of. Music and Pynchon? What could be better?
Nothing could have been better.
So I spent the better part of two months tracking down Lotion's Nobody's Cool. (This was before the Internet was the Internet we know and love. The only available options were CDNOW and a plane ticket to someplace with a decent record store.) I finally landed a copy through a book distributor I'd befriended who lived in New York but was passing through Baton Rouge on his way to a family wedding in Bunkie. This septuagenarian ventured into some independent shop in the Village for me.
Only now do I understand his sacrifice.
Point being, eventually I landed a copy of Nobody's Cool and, in my unbiased view, it was the best album ever. I listened to nothing but it for months and months and then I fell for this girl hard.
You know the rest of the story. I lent her the album in a sad attempt to impress.
She declined my bait.
I never saw the album again.
In the years since, I've longed to hear it again. Was it everything I remember it to be? (Surely not.) Was I suckered into love by Pynchon's imprimatur? (Most certainly.) Is the thing any good?
I didn't know ... until my best friend from high school visited a few weeks back. Said he had a surprise for me.
Can you guess what it was?
Of course you can. (My readers are no fools.) (Although they waste too much time here to be taken too seriously.) What does it sound like?
I'll refrain from commenting on the album, if only because you'll find Pynchon's comments below the fold ... but if "Dear Sir" or "The New Timmy" seem draped in '90s alternative cliché, try listening to "Juggernaut" or the lyrics to "Sandra." I'm making no grand claims about the quality of the album other than to say I love it ...
... but I'm all attentive and nostalgic and without fail would.
Thomas Pynchon's liner notes for Lotion's Nobody's Fool
The name of Lotion's first album is Full Isaac, which besides getting instant screams of recognition from Love Boat rerun watchers everywhere, shows an attentive nostalgia at work—not to mention some dream of an endless cruise, upon which Nobody's Cool is the next leg of the band's creative itinerary. As beneath the austerities of twelvetone music may lurk some shameless piece of baroque polyphony, so, throughout this album, beneath the formal demands of rock and roll as we have come to know it, between the metal anthems and moments of tonal drama, the darkest of surrealist lyrics, the most feedback-stricken, edge-of-chaos guitar passages, may also be detected the weird jiving sense of humor of a cruise combo, even an allegiance to the parameters thereof, the lounge chords on "Namedropper" and "Rock Chick," the bass line of "Juggernaut," so forth.
But ... it's supposed to be the Millenium here—the Apocalypse, right?—worse it's New York in the middle of a seasonal charm deficiency—and these guys are smiling? Well, not exactly. If it's a cruise gig, it sure runs through peculiar waters, full of undetonated mines from the cultural disputes that began in the Sixties, unexplained lights now and then from just over the horizon, stowaways who sneak past security and meddle with the amps causing them to emit strange Rays, unannounced calls at ports that seem almost like cities we have been to, though not quite, cityscapes that all converge to New York in some form, which is after all where these guys are from.
The recording studio is half a block from the subway. Times Square is being vacated and jackhammered into somebody's idea of an update. Next door to Peepland, up in a control room out of The Jetsons, the band, between takes, are discussing Bobby "Boris" Pickett, on whose 1962 hit "Monster Mash" it turns out Rob's substitute music teacher in elementary school played saxophone. Everybody here knows the record, not necessarily the Birth of Rap, less an influence than something trying to find a pathway through to us here in our own corrupted and perilous day, when everybody's heard everything and knows more than they wish they did. It's never certain how these things will be carried on, but mysteriously it happens. Every night, somewhere on the outlaw side of some town, below some metaphysical 14th Street, out at the hard edges of some consensus about what's real, the continuity is always being sought, claimed, lost, found again, carried on. If for no other reason, rock and roll remains one of the last honorable callings, and a working band is a miracle of everyday life. Which is basically what these guys do.
And here they are, now. Find the remote, get out the Snapple and Chee-tos, and like the Love Boat staff always sez, welcome aboard.