Starting to think that every band from Gainesville, Florida sounds like the Big White Sister Squirrels? Think again! Enter PopCanon: an unusual pop rock band that puts Gainesville, Florida square in the center of The Kingdom of Idiot Rock. The songs on their new 15-track CD run the length and the breadth of this kingdom where they proudly call themselves the court jesters.
If you haven't seen PopCanon live (or didn't see them when they were known as The Semantics), then this CD is an excellent primer. Listening to it in the privacy of your own space gives you some time to appreciate the lyrical craftsmanship that goes into their songs. Or, if you're not in the mood for anything that heavy, the CD also makes for great drinking games. You can play 'Name that Squonky Tone', 'Guess that Time-Signature' and even 'Who's that Philosopher?'. The serious truth is, it will pop you on so many different levels, your head won't know when to bang.
The songs hit every type of type of musical style with a bizarre range of themes. There's rocking tales of post-modern authors like Thomas Pynchon (Wanda Tinasky) and Robert Coover, along with quieter tributes to mathematician Rene Descartes (Rene’ Rene’) and author Jorge Luis Borges (Labyrinths). [Should I be ashamed that I don't know who most of these people are?] There are staggering acknowledgments to the sounds of regional bands (Merimble, The Curse of Clang). [Ditto.] And rollicking tales of dolphins (Fishbee Island), threesomes (Valentine's Day), and their own strange pop stylings (PopCanon Fight Song and Too Many Mikes).
Do I recommend it? If you're easily offended by sarcasm, NO. To get on this ride, you must be at least this tall and not be offended by lines like "on Valentine's Day, your brother told me he was gay and he loves me more than I love you" (from Valentine's Day) or "you say you sold your soul to the devil, I'd like to see your receipt" (from Codename: Snossage).
The sounds that emanate from this jetset-septet include everything that makes rock good: acoustic guitar (David Hornbuckle), electric guitar (Ned Davis), insane drums (Blue Lang), fretless bass (Michael Murphy), plus saxophone (Don Undeen), trombone (Alyson Carrel), violin (Lorien Carsey), jazz piano (Ned again), cornet (Alyson again), and even an occasional tuba (even more Alyson). David and Ned share most of the singing duties (often at the same time) and if you listen closely, you may even hear Satan himself.
The amazing thing is the complexity of their arrangements. Instead of playing songs in easy 1..2..3..4..1..2..3..4.. time, they make their music even more interesting by playing it in counts of 5, 7, 9, and even 11 (also sometimes at the same time). If you had trouble singing the alphabet song, this stuff might be too advanced for you.
So who do I recommend it to? If you enjoy early new-wave brit-pop like XTC, Squeeze or Robyn Hitchcock, you already worship at the same temple - go buy the CD now. If you enjoy Clang, Primus, They Might Be Giants or early Talking Heads, then PopCanon is like the girl next door - encourage your friends to buy the CD and then steal it from them when they're out of town. If you've never heard of any of these bands, go see PopCanon live for a crash course in being entertained. Then go buy the CD.
Not sure where to get it? The Kingdom of Idiot Rock is supposedly available in record stores and other establishments throughout their home town of Gainesville. You can also order it directly from the band by visiting their web site at http://web.popcanon.com/ or sending $10 in a check made out to Alyson Carrel to: PopCanon, POB 14872, Gainesville, FL 32604. It's also available at their shows and from your best friend's CD collection.
©1998 James (Gary) Geniesse