Hey, so actually, surprise, double feature this week! Nothing is sacred! Have more songs if you please!
THE BUBBLEMEN ARE COMING! | The Bubblemen Much as I’d love to slap a cold, raw, slab of The Bubblemen on the strongest of my Max Todd Dot Com soldiers, it’s been thirty-four years since their debut and the internet is pretty mask-off about these little critters, so their secret is out. As if Bauhaus needed any more offshoots after Peter Murphy’s solo music, Daniel Ash’s solo music, Love and Rockets’s Peter Murphy-less music, and Dalí’s Car’s Love and Rockets-less music, the members of Love and Rockets decided to make a side project for their side project and donned the now-iconic masks of The Bubblemen. While an unaccompanied listen of “The Bubblemen Are Coming!” betrays their true identity pretty quickly, playing like a more syrupy strain of Love and Rockets’s signature, crisp, dark psychedelic sound, I think it’s the visuals that heighten this to its masterpiece status.
Where the song’s titular bubbly cadence may only read as disconcerting, in conjunction with the video, I find that the declassified-CIA-acid-experiment experience really comes to the forefront. Surveying the comments, it’s clear to me that by some misunderstanding, people are afraid of The Bubblemen and their capabilities (The Bubblemen are coming? Where? When? In whom?)— after all, they really reek of public access TV, of bastard Teletubby children from the wrong side of the tracks. They bumbled along so that Mister Chuckle Teeth could run, and even then, Chuckle Teeth is strutting like a total try-hard and someone should tell him he’ll never be all that. Personally, I just don’t see the hate. Maybe they got me with the hypnosis at the beginning, but come on, 1:03? 2:41? 2:53? I’d tripsit for the Bubblemen.
CLOUD | Jim Noir Alright, I know I said I’d come back next time with a classic Jim Noir song two weeks ago, but what am I supposed to do when he drops his monthly EP? Am I just supposed to not talk about it? This week’s pick, “Cloud,” comes off of EP 5, one of many made this year for Jim Noir patrons in preparation for his next album, Deep Blue View, which will (fingers crossed) be available on all platforms by the end of the year. It’s pretty fun to try and predict the sound of this new upcoming album based on the breadcrumbs scattered so far, which themselves have been quite eclectic. Despite some strange range from funk to 90’s atmospheric to britpop, there has been a pretty distinctive lean in these past few EPs towards an exciting, new sound. For his last official album, AM Jazz, Jim Noir took on a far more spacious sound— still very psychedelic, but almost sort of airy, like clear, blue skies. While a bit of that ethereal airiness still remains, songs from EPs 2 and 5 in particular have defined a fuzzier, foggier, and distinctly more melancholic tone (stay with us, Jim!). Perhaps the most cohesive EP since 2, 5 has somewhat lifted the clouds, though there’s still a tinge of sadness of the most wistful songs of the album, like “Cloud,” which is about as whimsical as one could ask for within this tone. It’s refreshing, but not a total divergence from the consistency between these two albums, which both have their fair share of cynicism (see “Mr. No One” off of 2 and “Sure” off of 5). If you’re interested in listening to “Cloud” or following the rest of Jim Noir’s journey towards Deep Blue View, consider supporting him and his many side projects on Patreon if you’re financially able.
TOMORROW | Shakey Graves Speaking of deep cuts, I was actually totally unaware of Shakey Graves’s “Tomorrow” until my girlfriend played it for me during my spiral down the Shakey Graves rabbit hole this summer. I suppose it’s no wonder— as was the case with much of his early work, the entire album Story Of My Life was independently released, though unlike Jim Noir’s recent EPs, it is available to listen to in its entirety on youtube (though it should be noted that Roll the Bones was in the same inaccessible purgatory until its 10th anniversary in 2020, which gives me hope that Story Of My Life will eventually get a similarly remastered release). Though tomorrow isn’t my favorite Shakey Graves song— it swings further towards serene, sincere folk than his more experimental rock that I love so much— it’s a song loved by many of his fans that’s worth discovering for yourself, and definitely one that deserves a proper release with the rest of its album. As is standard for Mr. Graves, it’s still full of iconic guitar and vocals, and lyrics that I recently heard him describe live (!!!!!!) as first for a love song, but later adapted to be about fear of regret, something that permeates most of his work. Check it out if you’d like— I know I’ll be listening to all of Story Of My Life when I get a chance, as one of my favorite Shakey Graves songs, “Chinatown,” also calls this record home.
SKELETON APPRECIATION DAY IN VESTAL, NY (BONES) | Will Wood and the Tapeworms After being lucky enough to see Will Wood live two weeks ago, I think I learned a lot about him, and some of it was on accident. For example, I felt pretty underdressed amongst the 90’s arcade carpet goths and gays of Meow Wolf, who have a far better fashion sense than I may ever, and like any insecure tool of capital, I soon found myself in the merch line to make up for it. And listen, if I see a stripy Bubblemen mouth and a Tim Burton-looking skull on a shirt, I will fork over every last bill in my wallet to get it until a little moth flies out on a dotted line. I only learned my first Will Wood fact of the night— that this was the cover of Will Wood and the Tapeworms’ first album, Everything is A Lot— after I bought the shirt. For a brief moment, I had reached the peak of poser-dom, and perhaps more out of fear than out of genuine interest, I listened to the whole album to make sure I knew what I was wearing. Luckily, the highlight of the album was the last song on the set that night: “Skeleton Appreciation Day in Vestal, NY (Bones).” I know I can’t stop saying the word “whimsical” this week, and it’s gonna expire any second now, but I do think it’s a good fit for this song, which itself is not quite as wild an spooky as its contemporaries in the early Will Wood years. It also falls dangerously within the territory of theater kid music, embodying the kind of jaunty “comedian-on-piano” style that tends to have good lyrics, but ultimately sounds the same as everything else. Though it’s probably clear that this is also not my favorite Will Wood song, I think it’s worth a listen for its wonderfully pro-outsider message: to proudly show one’s bones despite all of the mistakes and affirmations we wear on the outside, because deep down, we’re all worthy of love, understanding, and forgiveness.
GOD BREAK DOWN THE DOOR | Nine Inch Nails Coming right on the heels of last week (or yesterday)’s Nine Inch Nails pick, “God Break Down the Door” comes from (debatably) my favorite Nine Inch Nails record to date, and is (debatably) the best Nine Inch Nails has ever been. I don’t want to define this era of later Nine Inch Nails purely by the death of David Bowie, as it’s so much more than that, but the ghost of Trent Reznor’s late friend haunts the entirety of Bad Witch. With experimental sound and wailing saxophone that couldn’t be more late-Bowie if it tried (see Bowie’s Earthling and Blackstar— try “Little Wonder” and “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” (specifically the Blackstar version) respectively and you’ll see what I mean). Still, the instrumentation here has Trent Reznor written all over it, with its own unmatched sound design and layered, hypnotic, bouncing rhythm. While just as mournful as any other Nine Inch Nails song, “God Break Down the Door” delivers exactly as much power as the title exudes. The hair stands up all over my body the second the song begins, and the chills don’t go away for all six minutes (it’s not as sensory-hellish as it sounds). It’s eerie, futuristic, atmospheric, foreboding, and almost seismic— a mature and layered sound that marks incredible growth from Nine Inch Nails’s already virtuosic beginnings.
It’s fall, and that means our art this week is appropriately spooky (and probably from the same corner of hell from which The Bubblemen were spawned). I’ve loved the Babadook since I was fourteen— I think it was my first horror movie— but I’ve only recently looked into production designer Alexander Juhasz’s catalogue. I guess we’re getting a bonus song this week, because I was absolutely delighted to find out he is also the artist behind my favorite Shin’s song “The Rifle’s spiral” and its magical music video. His style is inky and angular, and its handmade imperfections bring so much creepy soul through. I’ve always wanted to develop a style like this, and it’s wonderful to see that Juhasz is very much still in the business. You can check out more of his work on his website. In the meantime, thank you everyone for sticking with me through the inconsistency of these posts lately! I know they’re not exactly the pillars holding society together but they’re important to me and I appreciate everyone who’s even stopped in just to read and listen occasionally. See you all next week!
I’m ticked pink to have a double dose of Max Todd Dot Com today, what a scrumptious little treat!!
Oh Maximus oh, how delectable!
WOOT! More songs! I think the Bubblemen exist on a transcendental plane in which they are simultaneously coming, here, and leaving. Thanks for the tip on the SG song, I found it on iTunes. And yes, listening to God Break Down the Door is visceral experience me for me was well. Brilliant.
Also, thanks for the Shins/Babadook artist connection! I’m looking him up next…
Isn’t that wild? I had no idea but it totally tracks.