Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Squirrels • What Gives?

NOTE: In my Flaming Lips review a few weeks ago I mentioned Seattle band, The Squirrels. Here's a review I did of their first CD, twenty years ago.

Rob Morgan's a raving lunatic. He's nuts. He employs some of Seattle's best rock musicians, promises them nothing but mayhem, and turns out unique—let's get to the point here: downright goofy—songs. He's a fuckin' genius.

What Gives? is The Squirrels' CD album that's been promised for your typical Seattle band's lifetime, a compilation of 15 of Rob's favorite songs. Recorded by various lineups of the group (The Mighty Squirrels, New Age Urban Squirrels, The 23 Squirrel Five, etc.) and including a veritable greatest hits list for those who've seen them live, Rob's vehicle suits him perfectly. Where, let's say, They Might Be Giants might drive a Volkswagen Bug, the Squirrels drive a big ass Winnebago (or was it a bus? I don't remember—see the video), wreck it, and still come up with some great little anecdotes. There's the perennial favorite, "One in the Spirit," a song that's usually done in church, "Oz '90" (i.e., "Oz on 45"), "Pope on a Rope (Cigarette Butt)," and a host of both originals and covers that add new dimensions to overworked pop critic cliches ("quirky," "godlike").
Oh yeah, there's the stellar Seattle musician lineup. Members of the Young Fresh Fellows, the Posies, Fastbacks, Prudence Dredge, the Dynette Set, as well as the dynamic Nadine, all contribute to this zany thing. You could call the Squirrels Seattle's own Bonzo Dog Band, if'n you're familiar with that group's bizarre brilliance. Or you could pray like hell that they don't really come over to your house for dinner…

I've gotta say, sometimes the Squirrels drive me nuts. I mean, I really like 'em and all, and What Gives? is certainly a treasurable item, but this much wackiness can burn even me out. Here, though, unlike a live show, you can shut the thing off when you've had enough. I'm not saying "shut the thing off" like the CD sucks. I'm saying when enough's enough, you can shut the thing off.
(The Rocket, Seattle, December 1990)
(Popllama Products, 1990)

ANOTHER NOTE: Looking at this review after
twenty years, I can see that in my early days as a rock critique I definitely was trying to impress myself with a whole lot of in-jokes. BTW, that's Baby Cheevers above right.

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