Various Artists: Cookbook CD: Libro de Cucina y Musica

Matt Cibula

Various Artists

Cookbook CD: Libro de Cucina y Musica

Label: Eenie Meenie

Let's say you're Mario Hernandez. You used to be half of indie hero act Ciao Bella with your high school buddy Jamie McCormick, but then McCormick moved to NYC and you were left all alone. So you formed From Bubblegum to Sky, released an album a couple of years ago that got some great reviews and sold well in Japan, but now you're a little bored. You record for Eenie Meenie Records, a tiny little label out of L.A. specializing in funky electro-twee pop bands like Irving, DJ You DJ Me, and your own band, and you manage to convince Eenie Meenie to release a comp of a lot of your friends' acts. How the hell are you going to call attention to it? After all, comps get shunted aside all the time. How can you make it stand out?

Here's what you do: you create the single greatest concept pop CD of all time. I'm not kidding. Cookbook CD is an 11-track compilation of music, and that is probably the "important" part; but it's also a masterpiece of album art, as well as an actual working (if short) vegetarian cookbook. This is the way to do it.

This art is completely bonkers out of bounds mentalism all the way. The dominant strains, both on the cover and in the accompanying booklet, are pop-culture collage and Japanese comics (hentai, anime, what have you). Cute little ass-kickin' monsters rub shoulders with robots everywhere; adorable slogans like "Are You Vegetarian?" and "Who Can You Trust?" pop up everywhere. The color-separation costs alone must have run up in the high squizillions. I'm tellin' ya, it's a beautiful freaking artifact of the best design (credited to "electric 69", which/who deserves a lot of Grammys for this shit) that I've ever seen. Pop CD design should be wacky and loud and Japanese-inspired and way-too-colorful like this, instead of the dour wackness that usually tries to "disguise" happy silly pop music. Therefore, this is perfect.

Inside the booklet, nearly every act gets its own page to decorate, which is the way every compilation should work. Furthermore, most of the groups actually include real live recipes that one can prepare, hopefully while listening to the music. The Anubian Lights weigh in with a yummy mushroom pie, Seksu Roba come up with a "Bossa Blanco" all-white salad, and so on -- all without meat, all looking pretty great. Of these, the clear standouts are the ones written with personality -- McCormick's "Spinach Soup with Onions" features such great asides as "There's a mutherfucker outside honking his horn looking for a wine bottle through his windshield" and "When I got the onions where I wanted them, I sautéed a huge handful of mushrooms in them until they were godly". And Evolution Control Committee wins all kinds of prizes for their great "Hash Browns to Lay Yer Ass Down".

I want more indie-rock cookbooks, except that I'm afraid that they'd consist mostly of "Taco Bell Surprise" and "Day-Old Stuff We Found in the Van".

Anyway, this irreverent fun approach to the design and the food works perfectly with the actual music on the CD. It's 43 minutes of diverse crazy pop music from several different labels and in several styles, from the shoegaze pop of Rocketship's "Pretty Saro" to the jangle of "Come On Come On" by Kiara Geller to the nu-wave synthomatic "Contact High" offered up by the Ray Makers. (The Ray Makers get extra points for their recipes: Lance Rock's "Spicy Veggie B.L.T." and Hypnotique's "Heavenly Tofu/Veggie Pot Pie." Ace.) "Girls & Shoo Be Doo Wop" by From Bubblegum to Sky is about as close to Elephant 6 pop as anyone this side of Dressy Bessy or the Apples in Stereo, and its presence on the same disc (and label) as DJ You DJ Me's wild Pizzicato Five-style collage turntablist piece "Please Enjoy" is a testament not only to this disc but the Eenie Meenie enterprise as well.

There are some truly wonderful songs on the disc, and no bad ones. I wish that the opener, "Charles Bronson" by the Japanese Tigers, was a little longer than its 1:55, just so I could hear the crucial lines "Fine like Charles Bronson / And playin' like Mick Ronson" more than once � but that's why the "repeat" button was invented, innit? Irving's "The Curious Thing about Leather" recapitulates every single style of music over the course of its seven minutes, including British Invasion bounce, Sonic Youth squall, Tortoisey post-rock, and folky singalong. I can't say that it's especially innovative, because I've heard The 3-Way by the Lilys, but it's an amazing piece of work nonetheless, and embodies the anything-goes spirit of the Cookbook CD -- throw it all together and then make it work. (Memo to self: check out Irving's 2002 CD Good Morning Beautiful at earliest available opportunity.)

Which is not to say that every track is dopeness personified. The Evolution Control Committee song "Magnetize Your Food" is Ridiculosity personified (it's adorable but, y'know, kind of annoying too), and the Anubian Nights are trying too hard to channel Trans Am on the cute but trifling faux-Can/Kraftwerk/Neu "Fur Immer und Ewig". But if you're not hung up on stuff like that, and if you like great new fun music wrapped up in candy-colored packages together with delicious recipes humorously written by the maybe-stars of tomorrow, you won't find a better thing in the world than this disc. Good on you, Hernandez. Now get yer ass back in the studio and do another FBTS album.





A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.