Potpie Plays the Classics
US: 15 Nov 2009
Exiled on the post-Katrina road, New Orleans’ legendary electronic-expressionist Potpie listened to a diet of classic rock radio until it made him sick. This album purged the nausea by using the first few seconds of some staples of that over-played ilk to make something conceptually glorious in which faded, echoed, and deconstructed snatches are given new life. The track “Six” derived from Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush” is truly sublime and in the pantheon of his best work. Unfortunately, the fun of guessing song or artist source doesn’t make up for a rushed and patchy recording.
A radio station once reinvented itself by playing nothing but Led Zeppelin and bragging “All Led Zeppelin! All the Time!” Naturally, “all” meant 20 or so of their tracks on shuffle, but classic rock radio doesn’t usually even manage that number, and omits tons of music by their chosen artists. Just once they could skip the Clash’s lame “Rock the Casbah” or “Should I Stay or Should I Go” in favor of “Janie Jones”, but, then again, probably best they don’t ruin perfectly good songs by contemptuous over-rotation. For about ten days, the Zeppelin station was a fabulous cultural experiment (during which time at least one person fired shots at the station).
So, to train for reviewing Potpie Plays the Classics, I locked firearms away and tuned to North Texas’s 93.3 The Bone: an obnoxious blend of car ads, innuendo that would make an 8th grader cringe, stupid contests, thinly disguised war-mongering, cheap sexist and racist bullshit, the bare-faced cheek to claim it is non-commercial while broadcasting from businesses and airing their undiluted commercial spiel, and music that hardly shifts from a point on a tiny axis between AC/DC, Aerosmith, Boston, and Cream. The corporate dullards get it right by accident every once in a while, and thus the Who’s “Bargain” can sound magnificent. But this is chiefly radio for the comfortably numb who don’t notice that smell coming from between their ears, who must want to feel they have completed their musical education by collecting the top 30 greatest hits LPs by the top-selling rock artists.
This putrid, cannibalistic format is as predictably dull and dreadful as fast food, and a perfect metaphor for US insularity with cozy, narrow definitions of freedom and wildness closely resembling compliance and conformity, and embracing an arrogant, lazy, convenience: the opposite of much of Potpie’s thought-provoking, damaged, joyous, output.
Among wondering why The Bone features watered-down white-boy knockoff versions of “Voodoo Chile” instead of the real thing, perhaps the lowest point of the two weeks was a vision that the epicenter of the axis of classic rock evil is “Cliffs of Dover” by Eric Johnson: a bilious spandex Riverdance for those who think the troops are fighting for our right to sit in a parking lot in a Hummer with the engine running playing Guitar Hero while slurping high fructose corn syrup and crying for mama. Enter Potpie.