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April 19, 1989 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-04-19

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, April 19, 1989 -Page,I 1

Christmas:

hat a

way to spend Passover

I

BY JIM PONIEWOZIK
C HRISTMAS is coming. Their
chords are sounding fat. And for only
600 pennies in the Blind Pig's hat,
you can experience tomorrow the
most unique Las Vegas-related expe-
rience you can have without belong-
ing to an organized crime family.
The Nevada-based power-pop
;group, originally from Boston,
combine catchy, even saccharine,
song structures with a hard-hitting
three-piece delivery and absurdist
bad-dream lyrics for a musical effect
that's something like surfing with
Salvador Dali. Something hard,
gritty, and real, but at the same time
flashy, surreal, and cartoon-like.
Something - well, something kind
of like Las Vegas.
Which brings us to the obvious
question: why the hell does a (semi-)
successful band quit a burgeoning
music scene for the land of Wayne
Newton? Was it the $4.99 steak
dinners?
"Everybody always asks us why
(we moved)," replies guitarist/singer
Michael Cudahy. "Nobody ever asks
us how. How we had to rent a U-
Haul... the rain of mackerel, the ter-
rible vision of the bleeding moon...
the hawk that swooped up the ar-
madillo in mid-air." He mentions
something about liking the desert
and trails off.
As you may have guessed,
Christmas are what journalists like
to call "quotable." You might expect
that from a band with songs like
"Richard Nixon," which asserts that
the chief exec was not merely a
crook but also a cannibal - hosting
"White House backyard baby roast
fiestas" and sporting a apron reading
"Hail to the Chef."
But their lunacy (e.g., "Pumpkin-
head" and "Fish-Eye Sandwich" from
their acclaimed '86 debut, I n
Excelsior Dayglo) has caused them
to be lumped by some into the "joke
band" bin with the Dead Milkmen
and Mojo - an association they
contest.
"We have a sense of humor, and
sometimes we use it," says drum-
mer/singer Liz Cox. "That doesn't
mean we're not serious."
Toward this end, the band will
probably leave their infamous wig
collection at home this tour. "People
were becoming more concerned with

what we were going to put on our
heads than with the music," says
Cox.
Maybe the move will draw atten-
tion to the even more interesting
goings-on inside the band's heads, as
Christmas are what jour-
nalists like to call 'quot-
able.' You might expect
that from a band with
songs like 'Richard Nix-
on,' which asserts that the
chief exec was not merely
a crook but also a can-
nibal.
shown by their second and latest al-
bum, Ultraprophets of Thee Psy-
chick Revolution. Even though the
liner notes suggest "you listen to
this album while nude," the lyrics
take on, among other things, the
AIDS epidemic.
"Human Chain," featuring a
lethal, Latin guitar lick and vocal
trade-offs that sonically move the
virus "from me - to she - to he
- to me - into eternity," explores
the dehumanization of its victims
("First you disappear from sight/
Then you reappear in black and

white"). Cudahy, who wrote the
lyrics, says he considers the disease a
greater threat than nuclear war.
But they don't slight the bomb,
either; "This is Not a Test" and
"Warhog" both tackle it - the latter
declaring, "the bomb is good." Cud-
ahy says he sees the Big One as an
"anti-body for human beings" who
have abused the world. He adds,
though, that "I do want to live -
I'm as selfish as anyone else."
Their lyrical brutality is reflected
in the band's music, the musical
equivalent of a Punch and Judy show
(which they in fact pay tribute to on
"Punch and Judy," a commentary on
spouse beating that Cudahy calls "a
paean to senseless violence"). Over
Nicholas (no relation) Cudahy's
imaginative bass and their own in-
strumental slashings, Cox and
Michael Cudahy's vocal lines twist
around each other like stripes on a
peppermint-and-acid candy cane. The
resultant sound owes as much to the
Beach Boys as the Dead Boys.
To hell with sugar plums - with
a musical menu of Bar-B-Qed babies
and fish eye sandwiches, Christmas,l
true to their name, promises the
most eventful supper since the Last
one.
CHRISTMAS will play at the Blind
Pig tomorrow at 10 p.m., with the
Opossums opening. Cover is $6. Be
there,for X's sake.

What's missing from this picture? OK, besides their clothing. Answer: Christmas' trademark wigs, which the
band (from left, Michael Cudahy, Liz Cox, and Nicholas Cudahy) probably won't be wearing on this tour:

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