Music

The Cut-Out Bin #4: Tulip Sweet and Her Trail of Tears, Tossed (2000)

Lauren Bans

Drunk, raunchy country punk from a Minnesota woman who doesn't seem to give a shit.

The fall of 2000 brought Minneapolis one of the best party-punk albums ever made. I was still quite young and still unenlightened: I had an aversion to alcohol, a love of middle-aged music (e.g. constant Indigo Girls), and a strangely non-denominational refusal to go beyond second base, even with my boyfriend of two years. He was a music director at the local college radio station and had access to loads of free CDs. He was also one of those sweet fumbling boys who politely refrained from pushing things.

When my birthday came along that year, like on all other obligatory gift-giving occasions, a five-inch gift-wrapped square waited for me at the end of dinner. The present that night, Tossed by Tulip Sweet and Her Trail of Tears, normally would have quickly found its way to the stack of albums by Minnesota college-radio darlings that I never listened to, but in giving this CD, my boyfriend had more in mind than simply getting away with an expense-free birthday celebration. Later that night, on my dorm-room bed engaged in barely PG-13 activities, he tore himself away and walked over to the stereo with a scheming gleam in his eye.

Seconds later, Sweet's sultry voice filled the air, whispering dirty, suggestive things -- "I can make it very hard and deep" and "Suck the tit and increase your luck." It dawned on me that perhaps a larger deflowering conspiracy was at play. "What the hell are you doing?" I shouted at my boyfriend, who was busy attempting some sort of screwy handwork on my breasts. I went honor-patrol ballistic. "Out! Out!" I screamed, both at him and the trashy girl crooning through my speakers. Both were unceremoniously ejected.

Fast forward to 2005: I no longer have a steady stream of free CDs, but fortunately, I have discovered booze, horniness and rock 'n' roll. Though my prudishness made me ignore the deliciously sexy musical stylings of Tulip Sweet back in 2000, the rest of the country had no excuse. While Touched made a few Minneapolis top-ten lists and Sweet was hailed for the "over-the-top chutzpah" of her live shows, the fervor didn't translate well across state lines and corporate radio conglomerates weren't too eager to give air time to a gal singing about sexual exploits and sneaking out of her parents' house to go binge drinking.

I might have never rediscovered Sweet if not for my current state of poverty. Instead of hitting up the Virgin Megastore, I have no choice but to retreat back to the dusty stacks of albums I never really gave a chance. So one fateful, lazy day this past summer I picked up the Sweet CD, and with the faint memory of having a histrionic tantrum five years ago over some penis-related lyric, I nonchalantly popped it in for a second go. When Sweet's track " 'Scuze Me for Livin' " came on, Sweet seemed like the long-lost drunk daughter of Johnny Cash, pairing a mellow country twang with girly fire and grit-soaked vocals. Her raunchy, brazen lyrics, often bellowed out over acoustic guitar riffs, were a perfect fit for the woman I had become. Listening to her belligerent, clearly shitfaced vocals, I pitied her for embarrassing herself but secretly admired her ballsy I-don't-give-a-fuck attitude. Yes, she sings about how she drank too much and fell over the record player, but it's hard not to admire Sweet as she screams, "But you're a mean little critic so pick up a stone and whip it / And I'm a girl with a mission pull my finger and you can watch me flip it / Scuze me for livin' and boozin' and losin' my ass/ Scuze me for livin' and pukin' up beans on the grass."

"B.A.D.B.O.Y.S," the sixth track on the album, adds a tongue-in-cheek piano rhythm reminiscent of smoky, dimly lit cocktail lounges complete with sparkling red-dress-clad singers. Yet the song is not seductive in any traditional sense. Sweet slurs her words and shouts like a whiny child, but it works in the context of her lyrics -- her shameless pleading for dirty, raucous sex is infantile. Sweet is like a child who isn't satisfied until she gets what she wants. As she cries, "Don't want a nice boy / I don't want to have to be nice to that nice boy / I want a bad boy baby / I treat him like a baby / I act like a baby and he understands me," her voice squeaks as if she might start crying if her desire is left unsated. The electric guitar mirrors her emotion with playground bravado.

If my description so far leads you to think the entire album is Sweet singing about partying and sex, well, you would basically be right. But Sweet is a master of finding a variety of musical means to sing about the same thing. "Goodnight Parents" sounds like a lullaby: Sweet crisply annunciates her words and sings them slowly and soothingly over a sweet keyboard melody. Yet syrupy bedtime music aside, Sweet is putting her parents to bed because she's "meeting my friends on the railroad tracks / So you won't have to see me drink a full 12-pack." Though we hear much about Sweet's exploits, the album is never boring because the musical flavor keeps changing, from sultry burlesque to country ballad to a Sweet-sounding dirtiness.

Soon after I belatedly became enamored with Tulip Sweet I discovered that the band had broken up after recording its second album, Cry. My heart was broken. I had already lost my new favorite bad girl only days after unearthing her album. Why Tulip Sweet and her Trail of Tears didn't blaze across the fields of America igniting delight in horny, pubescent punk boys and girls remains a mystery. But as any adoring fan would, I went out that night Tulip Sweet-style and drank myself silly. When I arrived home I put on the fourth track, "Tattoo Yer Name on My Ass" to play for my equally inebriated company and we all started dancing like crazy to Sweet's demanding immortality on her man's ass. It was then I realized, in honor of Sweet's wonderful and sardonically clichéd album that I would declare her immortality not on my ass but through the shaking of said ass at least once a week. I'd like to think she would be proud.

[back to section front page]

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image