#74 – “David Dinkins” (1996)

House Of Mayors EP
L.K.: House of Mayors! Yes! I’ve been waiting for this.
A.S.: Certainly one of the rarest and strangest items in the catalogue. And we begin our discussion of this rather esoteric EP with one of its strangest songs.
L.K.: People who go into House of Mayors expecting it to be like State Songs, or even Linnell’s regular TMBG stuff, are in for quite a surprise. Sure, there’s the title track which is fairly standard catchy Linnellian pop, but then there’s stuff like this.
A.S.: The title track ranks up with the best songs John Linnell has ever written, but the rest of it is really wild.
L.K.: This is like some crazy microtonal shit, I don’t even know. I mean that in the nicest way possible, but it is really painful to listen to. Linnell certainly seems to have taken advantage of the Hello EP format to make some songs that I’m sure would never have been released otherwise.
A.S.: John Linnell indulges his greatest Harry Partch fantasies on this one, but with electric piano rather than chromelodeon. I have no idea what he did to get that microtonal sound, if he reprogrammed the keyboard or just modulated the notes as he was playing them.
L.K.: Yeah, I’ve always wondered that any time I heard this number.
A.S.: It’s such a disorienting listen that I can’t latch on to where the traditional tonal center is (assuming there even is one). And not only that, but it’s also the second track on the EP where this is an issue. Both tracks are followed by the most traditional songs on the release, too, which I’m sure is no coincidence. Apparently Dinkins, mayor of NYC from 1990-1994 has heard this song.
L.K.: Really? What was his reaction?
A.S.: “It’s got a nice beat to it, but I don’t quite know what to make of any song called ‘David Dinkins.'” As quoted in a Village Voice article from the end of 1996.
L.K.: “Beat”? Ok, I’m sure he hasn’t actually heard it then.
A.S.: I dunno, it does have a swing feel…
L.K.: Beat? What beat?
A.S.: The ride cymbal?
L.K.: I guess, but the beat is the last thing I’m really thinking about when listening to this.
A.S.: I really wonder how many tones Linnell split up the octave for this.
L.K.: I don’t have a good enough ear to be able to tell.
A.S.: I’m not at all prepared to do a formal analysis of this.  I think that’s how you can tell the REAL TMBG fans – those who have done formal analyses of “David Dinkins” and “John Purroy Mitchel”.
L.K.: Maybe if I had some friends who were friends with higher-ups in a music department at a prestigious college…
A.S.: Hey now.  But you also forgot to add the important qualifier, “Who give a shit about TMBG.” One other little thing about this song – I never noticed Linnell scat singing the melody at the end until now.
L.K.: Yeah, somehow that also escaped my notice until today, but it’s charming. Confusing, yet charming.
A.S.: Like the entire song. Like the entire EP.
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