#22 – “Oddball” (Mono Puff; 1996)
L.K.: This is basically the straightest cover to ever… be a straight cover.
A.S.: Right down to the vocal inflections.
L.K.: Flans even mimes Frank Black’s HEY HOW DID YOU KNOW I WAS GONNA SAY THAT. But yeah, it’s just that obvious. I think even Flans realized Mono Puff did a disproportionately large number of covers, which is probably why this wound up on an EP instead of an album proper.
A.S.: I think it’s more LP-worthy than, say “Don’t I Have The Right?” That one seems to be more like typical B-side material. Of course, maybe that’s why it wound up on the album, to trick us all.
L.K.: Yeah, there are always a ton of good songs that inexplicably wind up as B-sides while weaker stuff winds up on albums… I guess they have to give us some reason to buy the EPs.
A.S.: And discovering those hidden gems is really rewarding, which, you’re right, is probably the whole point of doing that.
L.K.: Flans himself thinks it should’ve been on the album though (note the last sentence):”This is a track originally recorded by Frank Black that Mono Puff covered during a b-sides session hastily put together at (gone but beloved) Coyote Studio in Williamsburg at the behest of the record co. It united the guitarmanship of Mr. Lyle Workman (now of movie fame who was in town touring with FB at the time) and super-rock guitar genius Eric Schermerhorn (who was in the middle of his tenure with TMBG after some years with Iggy Pop) Their 100% locked-rock interplay on this track is really quite fantastic. Ms. Robin Goldwasser (of Electric Car fame) also jumps in on the harmonies on the final chorus line. This should have been on the album!”
A.S.: Yeah man, this song rocks. The whole Frank Black – John Flansburgh camaraderie has always been endearing.
L.K.: Oh yeah. No clue when they first became so buddy-buddy. Flans is buddies with everybody though, so, y’know.
A.S.: One of indie rock’s coolest heroes champions the work of one of its most uncool heroes – and vice versa.
L.K.: I love the story from Frank Black about how he had that Flood cassette just sitting around in his car for forever before he listened to it and gradually realized it was a really great album. Guess he must have missed TMBG’s stuff from the 80s.
A.S.: Their kinship kinda makes sense Both offer very twisted takes on pop music, often with blatant disregard for typical song structures and a weird humor about them. Black’s music is a lot darker, with a lot more bizarre sexual stuff going on, but at the same time, both musicians are capable of heavenly pop goodness, which, speaking of, have you heard “Oddball”s A-side, “Headache”?
L.K.: No, I have not!
A.S.: Oh my god, that is a shining Frank Black pop moment.
L.K.: I really need to get into more Frank Black stuff. Or Pixies stuff. I’ve liked everything I’ve heard so far. You know, Flans directed a music video for Frank Black for “Los Angeles”. Hovercrafts, man.
L.K.: More connections! Everybody knows each other.
A.S.: Elektra Rekkids.
L.K.: ”The ‘Los Angeles’ video that we did, the last minute and a half of the song is this open field of grey over which hovercrafts are floating. It’s about as tripped up as any video I’ve ever been involved in, and it was also realizing a dream of Charles’, getting him in a hovercraft.” -Flans, on Frank in the L.A. vid.
A.S.: Oh god.
L.K.: Really, who wouldn’t dream of being in a hovercraft?
A.S.: Speaking of Frank Black, I’m pretty sure he did the only really good cover on that Hello Radio LP too.
L.K.: Oh man, I was just listening to that cover the other day.
A.S.: I haven’t heard the covers comp in a while but all I really remember about it is that it felt like everyone just slowed all the songs down.
L.K.: Isn’t that what people tend to do on all covers comps?
A.S.: I hate that.
L.K.: It’s why they usually tend to suck. Hell, or A.V. Undercover.
A.S.: “Oh hey, this song has sad lyrics. Let’s make the music sad too!”
L.K.: “Look, we made the song three times as slow! The song is already sad so let’s make it boring.”
A.S.: Because no pop songs with sad lyrics have sad music too!
L.K.: Frank Black sort of did the opposite by doing a cover that was faster and more upbeat than the original.
A.S.: Yeah Again, I’m probably biased since Black was the only artist on that comp that I particularly cared about to begin with, so maybe I should give it another listen sometime.
L.K.: But it has Steve from Blue’s Clues on it! Not that it’s a very good or interesting cover of “Dead” otherwise, but it’s STEVE.
L.K.: He died in an episode of Law & Order.
A.S.: Right, I forgot he was on that comp.
L.K.: I think he got beaten or molested or something in an episode of Homicide: Life On The Street… ANYWAY. Frank Black. He did a Hello EP too which had a cover of “Duke of Earl” on it for some reason. It’s the only song from that EP that I’ve heard since it was the only one that was on the sampler disc… But yeah, “Oddball”.
A.S.: Great cover. Great song.
L.K.: He’s performed with TMBG live and they’ve performed live with him! Which is worth noting.
A.S.: Great relationship.
L.K.: Absolutely. Coupla weirdos who go great together.
A.S.: Coupla… ODDBALLS.
L.K.: …though Mr. Black’s twitter is a lot more sane than Flans’s most of the time…
A.S.: And of course, this won’t be the last time Mr. Black/Mr. Francis/Mr. Thompson comes up in conversation here.
L.K.: Nope! See that, readers? That’s called a cliffhanger.
A.S.: Except I think everyone reading this knows the resolution.
L.K.: Well, yeah… yeah, they do.
A.S.: It’d be nice if more folks didn’t! But who the hell are we kidding?
L.K.: Over 700 page views, man. We’re TAKIN’ OVER THE INTERNET.
A.S.: We are roughly as popular as this really stupid and boring motorbike video!