#36 – “7-11” (1983?)

TMBG Unlimited - July
L.K.: I wish we knew exactly how old this song is, because it sounds like their other very very early stuff.
A.S.: I suspect it’s from the infamous 1983 demo that the Johns have been pretty secretive about.
L.K.: Even if it wasn’t on the demo itself, it at least sounds like it was recorded at around the same time, based on the drums and the very lo-fi nature of the whole thing. Speaking of songs that make me ponder if they were inspired by real-life events…
A.S.: Inspired by, maybe.  I have no idea what the hell 7-11s sell that’s expensive and made of glass.
L.K.: Yeah, that’s kind of… weird.
A.S.: And who window shops at a 7-11 anyway? Of course, all these strange details are partly why I love this song so much.
L.K.: What do they even sell? We don’t have them in Ohio. You’re from the northeast, help me out here. Is it like a Sheetz?
A.S.: It’s waaaaay less fancy than Sheetz.
L.K.: Is it still mostly food though?
A.S.: It’s basically a convenience store, known primarily for their Slurpees.
L.K.: So yeah, junky gas-station-esque food and drink.
A.S.: Yep. The exact sort of place where no one would window-shop.
L.K.: This is such a weird, fascinating little song. And again, pretty ridiculously straightforward lyrics. It’s just the location of the breaking and buying that makes the song so strange, given the store in question.
A.S.: The music bears that same dissonant tonality that marks a lot of the band’s really early stuff – the chromaticism before the first “You break it, you buy it” especially.
L.K.: I love old TMBG back when they sounded like The Residents. Ancient TMBG fascinates me so much because instead of being really embarrassing, like a lot of bands’ early work probably is, it’s very different, but still extremely good.
A.S.: It sounds like the work of two (or three) guys with a wealth of ideas and untapped creativity and energy, willing to try out anything that seems like a good idea at the time – a direct Residents homage, disco, a song based on a tape loop in different time signatures. It’s all extremely fresh and mostly-formed, although I guess by 1983 they’d been making music for a while already.
L.K.: Maybe the stuff they did in high school was the really embarrassing stuff.
A.S.: Given that they don’t want to release it at all, probably.
L.K.: By their early 20s they knew more of what they were doing. Flans’s delivery of the entire song also absolutely slays me.
A.S.: The mumbling
L.K.: Total deadpan, not even singing. A big, weird, mumbly spoken-word piece over this crazy musical backdrop.
A.S.: I miss their total lack of conventional tonality.
L.K.: Yeah, in as much as Join Us was supposedly a “return to form” (whatever that means) album for them, I always miss the really bizarre qualities that a lot of their older stuff had and that most of their newer stuff lacks. Not that there’s anything wrong with regular pop music formats, but I miss some of the more experimental things.
A.S.: I still want to hear those damn Join Us demos or whatever they keep holding back from everyone.
L.K.: Oh yeah, the “mutant” songs?
A.S.: Yes.
L.K.: I mean, they really could just be really bad! But we’ll never know.
A.S.: Could they possibly be worse than “Ten Mississippi”?
L.K.: Well they at least weren’t being aimed at two-year-olds, so automatically I am presuming they’re better.
A.S.: Then they’re probably worth hearing at least once.
L.K.: Well, they do still have the right to not release everything they create, especially if they aren’t really satisfied with it themselves. They’ve already willingly released waaaay more stuff to their fans than most bands would.
A.S.: True.
L.K.: Because they did  release stuff like “7-11” when they probably just could’ve sat on it and kept it hidden, I tend to cut them a bit of slack. Though having heard some of the great Dial-A-Song numbers that never made it any further and were never released in any official capacity by the band, I really wonder if they’re hiding any other gems…
A.S.: Just knowing that these things are there is enough; it’s so tempting. You’re right though, at least we have “7-11” at all.
L.K.: I can’t wait until “Sally Boy Candy Bar” comes up…
A.S.: Because that is the greatest song.
L.K.: I’m warning you now, readers. I’m just warning you.

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