Tag Archives: 33 1/3

Under The Radar: Franklin Bruno

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Lo-fi. Indie. Minimalist. Sparse. DIY. 

No, no, no.you’re thinking Elephant 6 or Lou Barlow or Elliot Smith. Let me try again. 

Pensive. Ironic. Wry. Subtle. Original. 

Ahh, now we have it. Franklin Bruno is a witty writer whose stripped down songs toss the focus onto his sterling wordplay where it belongs. You will have to sail some obtuse melodies and offbeat vocals on occasion, but it’s a journey worth taking.** 

As you know, I sometimes hit the music library and pull out a title that’s either a great old memory, a lesser-known artist, or sometimes both. And then I write a new essay and perhaps link to an old one and suggest you give a listen. Often times I’m pretty clear about what happened to the artist since then; often they’re pretty well known or perhaps joined a different group that attained success. 

But sometimes I have no idea. Such is the case with Franklin Bruno, who at the time I felt drew small comparisons to witty songwriters like Randy Newman, Martin Mull and Loudon Wainwright III. So after a listen to Kiss Without Makeup I was curious to find out. 

Looks like he continued to release more music on Absolute Kosher. There’s another album that came out not long afterwards and a collection of songs from over the next decade. 

And I guess my Elvis Costello reference in my original review bore some merit. Bruno wrote about Armed Forces for the 33 1/3 (Thirty-Three and a Third) book series. According to these Amazon reviews, it’s much like his music you either like it or you don’t. 

He’s a fellow music scribe, working for the Village Voice and Salon, among others. (Since we underpaid hooligans don’t have union meetings or annual conventions, it’s not always a given that our paths cross.) 

He went on to get his doctorate from UCLA and he is (or was) the visiting Professor of Philosophy at Bard College? Sweet job, although I know he must be freezing hs ass off walking across the quad with that wind whipping off the Hudson. Perhaps someday they will show prospective students some of his work as they tour the campus. (When I made the rounds I was baited with projects by Chevy Chase and Donald Fagen.) 

So Franklin Bruno has continued firmly down the path of arts and academia, which is a good thing. I’ll have to circle back and check out some of the music I missed, and I recommend that you at least give Kiss Without Makeup a try. 

** Continue reading that decade old review at PopMatters

His page at Absolute Kosher.

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Under The Radar: The Lilybandits

Lilybandits 33 third

Gone, daddy. Gone

Nine and a half years ago I pontificated about The Lilybandits in Cosmik Debris as part of my scour-the-globe feature called The MP3 Files. I put them on a list of bands to watch and follow, but I never heard anything else from their camp. I only discovered the reference to the live album when looking for a photo to include with this essay!

Andy Whitman writes this about them in his blog Razing The Bar (link below) and I think it sums up my frustration perfectly: “All Music Guide, an exhaustive music reviews database where you can find anybody and everybody, has this to say about The Lilybandits. You can click if you want, but here’s the deal: there’s nothing there. There’s a placeholder without content. And that’s the story of The Lilybandits…” Andy wrote those words a year ago and nothing has changed since. Now that is under the radar!

Here’s my original take from May 2000:

An absolutely stunning record that transcends any single style, 33 1/3 conjures up everyone from Big Star to the Jayhawks to the Long Ryders or even the Rolling Stones (with Gram Parsons steering the ship, of course). Tracks like “Fire In The Hole” recall more obscure y’alternative bands like Walk The West. “Past Few Days”, available as an MP3 file, might be the single most beautiful song I’ve heard this year, with achingly sweet vocals and fragile, haunting refrain. Tracks like “Hangin'” combine strong pop sensibilities with enough roadhouse flavor that both camps should gobble this up.

“Beautiful” is countrified blues with a guitar solo that recalls Ronnie Wood’s heartbreaker on The Faces‘ live version of “I’d Rather Go Blind” (if you’re gonna pay homage, it’s good to reference the gods!). “Long Time If I Don’t See You” is a great morning-after song, and in “Easily Broken Heart”, well…how about Rudy Vallee goes country? Chock full of winning tracks like “Vertigo” and “Top” that will resonate in your head after one listen. Make them one of your favorites, too.

And then, of course, they went poof. Try and find this gem if you can!

lilybandits

A live clip from a 2009 reunion.

Listen to three songs here.

No Depression article.

Razing The Bar blog feature.

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