Now that Deastro's gone all big-band on the scene (with a rumored record deal), it seemed like an appropriate time to virtually visit with some of the ne'er-do-wells that populate that special place of DIY-by-yourselfness, aka the one-man band. (Sorry, ladies, there just aren't that many examples of the kind of monomania outlined below to flip the nomenclature to "one-person" band. But prove me wrong! Prove me wrong at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
For some "one-man-band" is a dreaded term. But there really is just something so naked and ambitious and focused about a dude with a gee-tar, key-tar or other sonic accoutrements laying it all out, solo-style. I'm not totally immune to the charms of the more standard-issue singer-songwriter genre. But what we're hunting for here this week — with the help of our friends at Google — is that outsider-ness. The joie de rock that only happens when someone's alone with an 8-track and a headful of cough medicine or literature or hummingbird noises or whatevs ...
A classic recent example of said genre would be the Ferndale-based blues revisionist named Jawbone. Holed up in his Litter Box studios with a guitar, jury-rigged kick drum and a mouth organ, and surrounded by tools and car parts and motor oil and hazy memories, he's cast out a couple dozen tracks on two CDs — Dang Blues and Haulin' — to some acclaim, some international touring gigs and a respectably hyper and original take on country blues that's equal parts feral and thoughtful. He hasn't been so active lately (he's thrown his time and effort into the family business — that would be the delish Pinwheel Bakery in Ferndale), but head over to his Website and heed the thesis.
Meanwhile, out in the Deuce, working under the banner of the Quite Scientific label is I am a Bolt of Lightning. Homeboy works the quivery, snide-yet-Oberstian vocalisms and seemingly offhand home-recorded charm as few can manage in this post-post-post-whatever landscape. It's vaguely poppy, teasingly folkie. And darkly bitter. "Misanthropic" is an adjective common to the one-man band, after all.
On the jammin' "Greeley Square," he muses: "I don't know if drinking kills you/But I've been close more than once/I swore it off by the morning/till I remembered having so much fun."
He starts the recording "I Know Karate" by first asking if whoever else is in the room just wants to fucking sing it before launching into the accusations thusly: "You may think that you know how to hurt me/but I do not fear you, I know karate/and I've seen all your best moves/they're not that awesome."
Meanwhile, about eight hours north of here, in the urban jungles of Marquette, walks a prolific beanpole of a man named Sycamore Smith. His alter ego Marc Smith works menial day gigs that offer plenty of time for lyrical composition. The latest fruits of mopping up after Marquetters from this pro is titled "Sickdom." If you haven't discovered his charms, do so.
If you're a fan of something like the Jazz Butcher, the Fall or other hyperliterate song-stories that would put that dude from the Decemberists to absolute shame while delivering the message over jingle-jangle from a kazoo (indeed, dude sings through a kazoo at that), then, well, his sites are your online spot for a fix. Really! He has a nimble wit and a way of turning a phrase from playfully droll to painfully dark and back again before you've even caught up with the meter. In a different world, he'd be an emcee of Eminemian proportions.
Sycamore'll be playing around here in September with Tim Monger from Great Lakes Myth Society. I'll try to convince MT to let me open up the pages to him at that time. In the meantime, pay him a visit virtually.
The yang to the acoustic-based yin of the aforementioned solo-bros is electro-dance provocateur Charlie Slick. He, much like Deastro, picks up the one-man live groove lineage from recent local notable Dykehouse and Baltimore's Dan Deacon. But where Deastro claims the shoegaze-dreampop side of the Dykehouse coin, Slick — who has just released a new album he calls Edward Murphy —works the tongue firmly into whatever cheek happens to be nearby while hewing to a sonic aesthetic that sounds like what the Normal's cover of Grace Jones' "Warm Leatherette" would sound like if it were covered by Wall of Voodoo. Or something like that... He just got done rocking the Elbow Room in Ypsi and is set to be at 313.jac (as in Jacoby's, 624 Brush St., Detroit, 313-962-7067) on Friday, Aug. 22.
Finally, also of note is crooner Creepy Clyde — a warped karaoke crooner who has taken up residence on local TV show Nightmare Sinema with his original Halloween-friendly tunes and scare-friendly covers in the lounge style. He performed at my former employer's Halloween party last year and it was, indeed ... creepy!