Panda Not Dubya


When I’m not dreaming of a Canadian-led invasion of the U.S. and a subsequent regime change that results in free nationwide health care and a Tim Hortons on every block, I ponder the enthusiasm I have for Killer Mike videos and whether or not it’s appropriate for me to enjoy so much art and rock in a world that has been recently devastated by so much violence, hatred, and Aaron Brown.

It only takes me a few secs to scream from my fire escape, “Hell, yes!” Art and rock and art that rocks and rock that arts will always be more important than murder in my book. Ya gotta keep the torch of life lit even in the shadow of Dubya’s mountain of bullshit. Even if it’s the cutesy pocket hymns of ersatz Brill Building popsters the Aislers Set? Or the Hello Kitty skronk of Deerhoof? Sure! Why not? Indie kids need lovin’ and big ups and an occasional pat on the back when they learn a new chord on their guitar, too.

The Aislers are led by Amy Linton, who used to be in a band called Henry’s Dress, and their latest album, How I Learned to Write Backwards, was recorded in Amy’s garage. If I had a garage I would want it to sound like Amy’s! All echo and space and hush, like she took out the rakes and lawn mower before letting the tape roll. Any phony Tinkertoy girl group sounds with Spectorian drywall and wan straight A’s-and-hair schoolgirl warblings are by this point in time not only homages to Leslie Gore or Wendy & Bonnie, but also haunted by the specters of ’80s icons Marine Girls, Oh Ok, Shop Assistants, and even the Adult Net or Fuzzbox. Heck, even the spirit of Let’s Active’s Faye Hunter could be haunting Amy’s garage—from the ghost of Mitch Easter’s garage! It blows me away when someone can make nostalgia for the ’60s or the ’80s, or in this case both, sound relevant or recent or worth swooning over. I just can’t decide whether my theme song is “Mission Bells” with its urgency, sunshine, doubt, and ability to make me feel like Rory Gilmore dreaming of Dean, Jess, and my future at Yale, or any of the songs that feature blocks of wood, fuzz guitar, and sleigh bells. It’d make the perfect soundtrack for director Owen Anderson’s next foray into Franny & Zooey-land.

Deerhoof don’t make me nostalgic for anything I can put a finger on, unless it’s my Troubleman Mix Tape‘s melange of gangly good-natured noize boyz and girlz, but that’s too new to pine over, right? I like how their song “My Diamond Star Car” on Apple O’ reminds me of a punk-rock instrumental version of Dizzie Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts.” And how sometimes I feel like I’m hearing the Japanese version of the Breeders’ Pod. Only singer-bassist Satomi Matsuzaki is Japanese, though, and she’s got the kitschy broken-English nonsense words to prove it (full lyrics for “Panda Panda Panda”: “China panda/Bamboo panda/I like panda/Bye bye panda/Panda road”). This would make me nostalgic for Frank Chickens, Shonen Knife, the Plastics, and Ann Magnuson & Bongwater’s version of “Dazed and Confused” if I had ever stopped listening to them. Deerhoof’s discordant axes, crazed riffs, drumrolls, and stop-start chirping do make me think wistfully about the greatness of the all but forgotten Dogfaced Hermans, though. Sigh. But I’m being unfair, as usual. Deerhoof make Deerhoof music. And it makes me jump up and down to the delight of the ankle-biter in my house. Both the Aislers Set and Deerhoof make my spring with their new albums, and I’m gonna throw Apple O’ in the Walkman and go buy all the old stuff that I missed from these bands the first time around. ‘Cuz I’d rather buy art than a gas mask, or a load of crap from whoever’s lying to me today.