Bongwater by Joseph
Some people seem to know what they want to do right from the start – a strange concept for a Liberal Arts college student who has spent the last two years lithely dodging that very question at various family gatherings and holiday parties. Mark Kramer and Ann Magnuson are two such people. The duo recorded music together as Bongwater, a name that nails the group’s melding of ‘60s pysch-rock with surreal and absurd humor, from 1985 to 1992, after which the pair split up professionally and personally, Magnuson suing Kramer and Kramer counter-suing Magnuson. In the time, between the band’s formation and the double-lawsuit, Bongwater released four albums and each album is surprisingly lush with strange and specific ideas.
I pulled down their second full length Too Much Sleep, which Kramer’s label Shimmy Disc released in 1989. The album features a combination of covers and originals supplemented with interludes of found recordings and Magnuson’s multi-tracked spoken word pieces. The title track, the song that I’m focusing on, combines the aforementioned ‘60s rock influence with Galaxie 500-esque shimmering guitars and melodies (Kramer produced every Galaxie 500 album). Magnuson’s vocals are backed by the French horn meanderings of Coby Batty.
Magnuson takes a devastating idea, a wasted life, and imbues it with humor, “you think it’s humorous the way we fade away / but one day you’ll feel it too and this is what you’ll say / I slept too much.” And for those of you like me (aka a lover of sleep) who, despite the punch line, still find those lines fairly depressing, the rest of the chorus unfolds “…way too much, I’ve had too much sleep, I’ve slept way too much, I really overslept, I could’ve been awake…” Bongwater delivers the laughs.
The average person sleeps away about a third of his/her/their life. That’s valuable time that could have been used for other things like learning guitar or writing a poem or water skiing. This song raises an important question. Are you getting the most out of your life that you possibly can? Or are you sleeping away, so to speak, the precious amount of time you get to be alive? Obviously, I am not advising that you stop sleeping entirely. Science says that’s impossible and it will probably make you unhappy. But maybe ask yourself the above questions. And most importantly ask yourself: AM I WATER SKIING ENOUGH?
The Mad Scene by Winona
You know that feeling when the plane takes off and for four months you leave most of what you know/love, in favor of an incredible experience and exotic educational endeavor? I don’t know that feeling, but I soon will when I leave at the end of this month to study abroad in Madrid. I’m excited, I’ve shopped for my velcro wallet and booked my ticket. I’ve planned on eating at a few churro carts when I first arrive, and my Spanish is pretty damn good. I have most things set up, and today I may have found the perfect song for that moment when you’re in the plane and trying to feel nostalgic or something and listening to Belle and Sebastian etc. Enter a song by New Zealand band The Mad Scene called ‘The Greatest Time.’
Yeah, it starts with Joy Division-y drums and not so Joy-Divisiony horns of sorts, but then the electric guitar comes in all fuzzed out, and the plane is rising in the sky or something, and he starts singing. “He” being Hamish Kilgour, drummer of The Clean, a band of supreme Flying Nun fame. Every so often the guitar picks up and he stops singing, giving the song that feeling of soaring that I may be mistakenly or not associating with a plane ride. The plucky bass interrupts his voice, conspicuously dating this song right back to its 1995 release date. It could be the song that prepares the viewer for a Melissa Joan Hart kiss or maybe a more unknown alternative to some of the similar fuzzy and ethereal 90s music that came out around the same time.
Towards the end we have a psychedelic solo that spins and maintains the heavy snare, swirling and what have you until the song unceremoniously finishes and maybe you realize that you need to get up to use the bathroom but you’re in the middle seat, so you hold it and play the song again. This time you realize that maybe the horns are a little bit sillier than you thought, but dear old Hamish sure does a good job of covering up that New Zealand accent of his.
“Does it feel alright” he asks between that prevalent bass feature, which you now realize is pretty dumb, but still makes you feel just as good.