So, a band called Tullycraft, which some of the savvier readers (if I have either readers or readers with savvy) might know about has just released their first single in years. And people are getting excited. Well, I am, and some other people who have much more knowledgeable blogs, too.
I’m not going to spend time telling you about the band because I don’t really know that much about them as people, I only know the music. (Anything I told you would be stolen from Wikipedia.) I don’t even know how I heard about the album Beat Surf Fun, but it was a staple in my CD Walkman in the year before I got an iPod. I loved their debut Old Traditions, New Standards (even though I acquired it seven years after its release).
Yet, I haven’t persuaded someone else to listen to the band. My wife thinks the sound is ‘weird’ (and it is stripped down and different from most of what you’ll hear on any radio station). But something about the songs just make me happy. Oh, and confused.
“Pop songs your new boyfriend’s too stupid to know about”
This song is one of the first that really made me take notice of Tullycraft—the ultra-indie rock/pop aesthetic rears its ugly (and probably/hopefully) self-deprecating head as it drops the names of non-mainstream artists (whose very evocation amounts to a declaration of coolness) against the less-obscure mainstream alternative bands (balancing Neutral Milk Hotel and the Bartlebees, one unknown to Wikipedia, against the Breeders and Green Day).
In this song love is expressed for the estranged addressee with the nearly-as-obscure (to an East-coaster) Allen Clapp. The next few verses continue to prove superior indie-knowledge—hence superior cool and therefore greater love—with comparison of bands like Lois and the Crabs and the Pastels with better known acts like U2, Lemonheads, and Weezer.
Of course, these bands (even the well-known ones) aren’t all created equal. When I first heard this song, I chuckled, because the band took to extremes the well-known trope of establishing coolness by knowing of (not necessarily even much about) bands no one else does. But then, I worried a bit, because the style and character of the band playing with this motif seemed to raised obscurity itself to an art form.
Yet, the ultimate proof is in the song itself. The singer, the one who knows all the names of all these really great bands, is the one who has lost the girl. The obscure indie ephemera have been of no avail to the jilted lover. Now all he, the person singing the song, can do is cling to that superior taste and expert knowledge while his ex makes out to a soundtrack of Green Day and Weezer (so 1994, right?)
“Lost in Light Rotation”
This new song brings back everything I love about Tullycraft. Once I decided that the playfulness was part of the point, I relaxed and just enjoyed the simple and clear vocals (a light, almost chatty singing that can’t seem to carry rancor or malevolence) backed by a female voice, low-fi guitar and bass (played with some skill), all with limited effects and production. The songs are spare and straight, proving that independent music can be light but that light and fun doesn’t have to mean simple.
And this song is not simple either. The band returns to themes it touches upon with “Pop Songs…”, the definition of ‘cool’, the non-permanence of popularity (implied), and the double-sidedness of sub-culture identity construction. The song starts with Tollefson’s familiar conversational yet hyperventilated style, as he sings three lines before the mixed-gender chorus breaks in with “We Know, We Know”.
It is the chorus, sung quickly but clearly that gives the song its name:
Never took the time to learn the slang that we speak or the slogans on the t-shirt
Never took the time to read the map to avoid all the fake DIY Traps
Ray Gun, Ray Gun
We just changed the station when you’re lost in light rotation you’re not fast enough to keep up with the
Ray Gun, Ray Gun
We just changed the station
when you’re lost in light rotation you’re not fast enough to keep up with the girl
The lyrics mull over authenticity and questions of genre/identity that can’t be asked without inviting a questioning glance if not a dismantling look at the one who asks it. Classic Tullycraft and classic Indiepop dripping with irony and play.
But, lest you think the band is all serious, here’s a song that reminds me in thematic ways of Camper Van Beethoven’s “Take the Skinheads Bowling”.
“The Punks Are Writing Love Songs”
And another inscrutable tune about bikinis:
“How to Stuff a Wild Bikini”