If You Could Only See What They Are Doing to You
(Sound, 2003)

Maybe we don't want it to be true, and maybe it shouldn't be funny, but I'm afraid it's both. People of my generation are just not right, and the reality of our lives in post-hippie America is often nothing short of bizarre.

Duenow is some kind of crazy tribute band to that reality, and they rock the fractured world in which we flounder.

If you've ever packed a drunken parent into bed or heard yet another story about peace and love and free sex, then well, you know. Did your mom take acid, but you never have? Uh huh, so you understand.

For those of you on the other side, don't think we blame it all on our parents. It's just that our shrinks said we have to.

I think I've never seen the whole scenario summed up better than in the first track of this album, "Six Packs." "Sometimes, she drinks a six-pack, sometimes she has to drink much more," croons the star of this show, vocalist Zach Duenow. Relating several of his more interesting encounters with his new-agey, hard-drinking, wardrobe-bleaching mother (be they real or imagined, I can't say), he finishes off by reassuring us that, "all the acid wore off by morning's end 'cause when I woke up the whole world was normal." Well, that's all right then, eh?

"Vagina" (track 13) definitely had me curious. When I finally came to it, it turned out to be a song out of 1950s beach blanket bingo -- except for the chorus chiming out "Vaginaaaah." I laughed for the songs entire 90 seconds of play. You can't beat a tribute like that!

There's a kind of Smashing Pumpkins/Nirvana/Bob Dylan kind of groove going on, and Blind Melon most of all (a one-hit wonder, but a good song all the same).

Anyway, this stuff is straight out of my high school years, although it is not, sadly, what that music has evolved into. (No fan of Puddle of Mud here!) Anyone who grew up as a latchkey kid and playing Atari Pac Man should totally be able to relate.

There is a creative streak in this music that definitely makes it exceptional from other genre bands. Duenow mixes guitar, harmonica, upright bass, electric banjo and other relatively normal instruments with an assortment of "found" sounds such as wax cylinder recordings from the Library of Congress, pots and pans, Coleco-Vision blips, children's laughter and samples of pornography (thankfully not all on the same song). The result is a sound with a good beat that you can dance to, and a warped message you can dig.

Although the band was begun as the vision of Zach Duenow, his wife Dorothea joined in early as drummer. Together they take their music in quite an unusual and intriguing direction.

And if you need something to do while listening to the CD (though it's plenty entertaining) check out the arrangement of artwork in the insert. All the lyrics are there, although sometimes they run behind stars or across a wall of Post-its. It's an unsettling but compelling peek into the busy if not entirely collected psyche of Duenow.

Children of the Baby Boomers, welcome to your legacy.

- Rambles
written by Katie Knapp
published 5 June 2004

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