Saturday, March 19, 2011

Driftless Pony Club: Buckminster Album Review

I learned about the Driftless Pony Club about a month ago after watching this wheezywaiter video on YouTube. I had been watching wheezywaiter videos for 3 or 4 months when he announced his band's latest album was available and they would be going on tour. Since he described their influences as Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Superchunk, Weezer and the Pixies, I was intrigued so I purchased their album. The album was enjoyable start to finish. The music wasn't anything super-amazing. Just your normal rock music. The lead singer was a bit flat but that's his thing and it works. The lyrics are easy to understand but didn't make any sense to me. The songs didn't seem to be about anything in particular and I began to suspect they simply brainstormed clever phrases and put them together randomly for example

  • Please put the whiskey in before the coke 'cause there are some things you don't want to know
  • I will never get an F for Effort, that won't bring back my only daughter
  • In the house of 1982, built like a ship, your legs are like roots
  • I'll tie your eyes together, even if you sleep forever
  • If you squeeze my hand again, I'll gladly have a coronary

But then I read the band's web page and learned that the album is based on the life of Buckminster Fuller whom I had never heard of. I knew of many of his inventions but I never knew about the man behind the inventions.

The following text is taken off their web page and describes how they got the idea for the album Buckminster.

Almost two years ago, Nate (the drummer) came to us with a list of essays by Buckminster Fuller with titles such as "In the House of 1982 Built Like a Ship" or "When We Live in Circles and Eat in Merry-Go-Rounds." There were about ten essays, each one with an equally crazy/genius title. He said, for our next album, we should use these as our song titles.

I had heard of Buckminster Fuller. I knew he had invented the geodesic dome but that's as far as my knowledge went. Those essay titles had sparked my curiosity so I read his wikipedia page. Afterward, I wrote a song about him. Over the next couple months, I wrote maybe a dozen more songs of varying quality. All about Buckminster Fuller. By that time, we knew our next album would be all about him.

I was surprised by the scope of his work which went beyond domes and into automobile and map designs, even cities that floated in the sky. He helped popularize the term "Spaceship Earth" and one of the first scientists to consider our impact on the environment. But, most of all, what we found most inspiring about Buckminster Fuller was the incident that led to everything.

In his early thirties, before he had done anything, he was broke, living in Chicago public housing with his young family. His daughter got sick and died. Overcome with guilt, Buckminster started drinking and came close to suicide. But instead of killing himself, he decided to devote the rest of life to seeing what an individual could do to change the world. He saw his entire life as an experiment testing the impact a single person could have on the rest of humanity. That was Buckminster's greatest invention: Himself.

After reading up on Buckminster Fuller, the songs started making sense and the random pictures on the album cover also suddenly starting making sense. The more I listened to the album, the more it made sense and I soon began to realize the genius of this themed album.

I have never met or seen in person a YouTuber but when I learned they would be playing in Philadelphia, I immediately bought my ticket. I was officially a fanboy. I had seen from another YouTuber that reviewed one of their early concerts that they played about 15 songs but at this gig they shared the bill with two other bands so they only played about 8 songs. I have to confess that I really liked the other two bands as well although I felt a little out of place at this all-ages show which seemed to be dominated by high-school girls who seemed mainly there for the Mike Lombardo Trio but who also knew the songs to DPC.

I recorded these songs at the Philly gig.

  • Song1 - Starts with "When We Live in Circles and Eat on Merry-Go-Rounds" (album: Buckminster) and transitions to Pluto vs Neptune (album: Expert)
  • Song2 - He Plants Houses Like Trees (album: Buckminster)
  • Song3 - Inspectors of Inspectors (album: Buckminster)
  • Song4 - We're Cheap Already (album: Buckminster)
  • Song5 - Legends of Archery (album: Expert)
The also performed Bike from the album Expert but my arm was tired so I didn't record it.

I bought their 3 previous albums on iTunes. So far I've listened to their album Expert and I love it. I suspect each album has it's own personality. This is definitely music by geeks for geeks although you don't have to understand the lyrics to enjoy it.

We're definitely entering a new period of entertainment where it's many to many instead of few to many. In other words, the number of things we have to entertain us has really multiplied with an increase of TV channels and now entertainers on the Internet. I too have people subscribing to my YouTube channel so I too have become an entertainer.

The following are my best guess at the lyrics of each song. I only include each sentence once. Some explanation is included. I've inserted ??? where I'm not sure.

When We Live in Circles and Eat on Merry-Go-Rounds (full lyrics)

  • Our beds are empty two thirds of the time
  • In an office building I'll be recognized
  • Please put the whiskey in before the coke 'cause there are some things you don't want to know
  • It's time we gave this some thought, too bad I'll die before I'm gone
  • When we live in circles and eat on merry-go-rounds

House of 1982 Built Like a Ship (lyrics here)

  • You were my first experiment. Too bad I'm prone to failure (Fuller's daughter died young)
  • How can I be a [???] when all I see is tetrahedrons? (the tetrahedron was a very popular geometric shape Fuller used in his architecture)
  • I will never get an F for Effort, that won't bring back my only daughter (I think what this lyric is saying is that Fuller will give his best effort in everything he does but nothing he does can bring back his daughter who died at a young age)
  • I don't mind if I die unidentified as long as I'm buried in architecture
  • What are you offering? Are you offering? Is it free?
  • In the house of 1982, built like a ship, your legs are like roots
  • I'll tie your eyes together, even if you sleep forever
  • If you squeeze my hand again, I'll gladly have a coronary (Fuller died on July 1, 1983, 11 days before his 88th birthday. During the period leading up to his death, his wife had been lying comatose in a Los Angeles hospital, dying of cancer. It was while visiting her there that he exclaimed, at a certain point: "She is squeezing my hand!" He then stood up, suffered a heart attack, and died an hour later, at age 87. His wife of 66 years died 36 hours later)
  • When I lost you, I didn't know what I would do but then I conceived of what I could be. A family man, inventor and architect. A [???] subject of this [???]? (Fuller's young daughter Alexandra died from complications from polio and spinal meningitis. Allegedly, he felt responsible and this caused him to drink frequently and to contemplate suicide for a while. He finally chose to embark on "an experiment, to find what a single individual could contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity)

He plans Houses Like Trees (lyrics here)

  • He plans houses like trees being sculpted by the masks and seeds
  • Lets make maps and triangles, lay them flat on the table. Then we'll properly see how the world's meant to be
  • They don't make 'em like him
  • He wears watches in threes (Fuller was a frequent flier, often crossing time zones. He famously wore three watches; one for the current zone, one for the zone he had departed, and one for the zone he was going to)
  • He knows just where he was, is, and where he will be
  • We're foaming at the mouth to keep the pressure coming out
  • Synchronize your arm of watches to the times that we're approaching
  • Shave your head for wind resistant, stay afloat longer than the rest

Inspectors of Inspectors

  • Call me Trim Tab, call me whatever
  • Not that I need to make a living, or that you need to make a living
  • If I just stick my foot out like that, the whole ship's gonna to turn
  • I don't know what I am but I'm not a category
  • Please stop [???]
  • Don't fight the forces, use them
  • Inspectors of inspectors won't guide you to it

We're Cheap Already

  • Where would I be? What would I do?
  • [Augusta?] on a [raid?]
  • The first is always a [???] that makes the second one already [???]
  • Staring at the walls, dancing to [???] and in [tetris???] in [???] ... ??? ... will break
  • We'll be buried in keepsakes
  • The last time I went in, I failed to leave a tip, cuz I don't think ahead. I'll make it up to them tomorrow with quarters and cigarettes, but I don't smoke
  • I went to sleep about an hour ago

A Letter to Michael

  • The things to do are the things that need doing
  • Thinking is momentary dismal of thinking of hearing from a letter to Michael. I've answered your questions. An array of behaviors in an endless cycle.
  • It's not enough, you've got to make it up.

El Cid III

  • You're running in heals, your falling down
  • You cinch your skirt, adjust your mouth
  • A rupture here in Tel Aviv, talking over, answer me
  • We're chemicals and evidence
  • We're calling off this century
  • A broken nail, an injury, someone's effects scattered in the street
  • Hail a cab cuz it's easy when showing leg over sympathy

Dymaxion Chronofile

  • I guess it's time to write it down. This could take a while. Document a life until it dies. 1983. Write it down (The Dymaxion Chronofile is Buckminster Fuller's attempt to document his life as completely as possible. He created a very large scrapbook in which he documented his life every 15 minutes from 1920 to 1983. The scrapbook contains copies of all correspondence, bills, notes, sketches, and clippings from newspapers. The total collection is estimated to be 270 feet (80 m) worth of paper. This is said to be the most documented human life in history)
  • Your silence, we hear, again and again and again. Our eyes, our ears, again and again and again.
  • The words you spoke we'll never know the sound.
  • The wind blew through the waves and make a round.
  • We'll never know, but I can breathe the air as I read it there.
  • I'm not stupid, I'm just naive. I really don't mind and it's how I'd rather be. I'm not a genius, I'm just a man. I really don't mind. This is exactly what I planned.

American Princes

  • I don't make much money. That's OK. I don't work too hard (Fuller never pursued inventions for the sake of riches. He wanted to improve humanity)
  • A better man may better himself. I bet I don't amount to much.
  • The only time I read a book is on my way to class, resting against the safety glass, I forget where I left off.
  • Wires knit the city to stitches. Hahaha.
  • Being [???] we make up words, we talk back words, ... ??? .. I know how it sounds. It sounds absurd like hahaha.
  • Every time I read a book, I mis-interpret what it means. I think it applies to only me. Hahaha.
  • I make a better liar, friend or witness?
  • What ever happened to American Princess?

Safe as Houses

  • Wake up singing rabbit rabbit. I sing the same song. I know where it comes out. It's getting clearer through the static. [???] to the light bulb tied to a new [???].
  • I know, because it comes easy to you.
  • I tried to compromise where our body start, and now I can't tell the two of us apart.
  • And every dirty thought and smoky cough, spills over my teeth and out my mouth.