ISSUE #58 Jan. '04
Each year we engage in an exercise of intense opinion when we try to decide the disc of the year. This has been a life long obsession that has produced some of the most amazing arguments, agreements, onfy, and surprises that we can (and even can not) remember. This year has been no different; except the surprise is that the album we picked as the “2003 IndepenDisc of the Year” had yet to be Featured on IndepenDisc. In our possession since September, this CD found early favor across the board, but when we decided it would become the “IndepenDisc of the Year,” the only time we could Feature it was now, January ’04, and we thought, “how fitting.”
le main drag by the Bon Mots is the “2003 IndepenDisc of the Year” for reasons too incomparable to fully articulate, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try…
le main drag is life in general. It reaches out and reaches into us to show how everybody’s life is a drag at one point or another. To each of us our drags can constitute different things, but sooner or later it is life that is the main drag.
the Bon Mots present 12 snapshots of things that make people’s lives a drag, and infuse them with a musical thrill that drops us in the front seat of a roller coaster on a beautiful summer night. A fireworks display illuminates the fact that when placed into a different context we can swipe a bit of pleasure from even the most unassuming of circumstances.
Hailing from Chicago, IL, this quartet works the music so as to define the visual sensations that are aroused by fireworks and the physical/psychological reactions experienced on a roller coaster ride. Songwriters Eric Chail (vocals, guitar, bass) and Mike Coy (vocals, guitar, bass) – (while credited individually [even songs by Chail, odd songs by Coy], are a songwriting team that deserve a long hard look) channel an old school, New Wavy, Garage, pop rock that reminds us of The Hollies crossed with The Jam and sprinkled over with a bit of Squeeze and Elvis Costello & The Attractions. Chial and Coy easily convey the Difford/Tilbrook, Costello/Lowe style of paradoxical writing: music that represents grabbing life and enjoying bopping and rockin’ to it, with lyrics that twist a sense of misery in a clever and witty fashion that makes more sense than the logic dictated to us as “normal.” Normal is a drag, man. Meanwhile, Chris Frantisak (keyboards) plays Squeeze’s Paul Carrack and the Attraction’s Steve Nieve rolled into one and proves that the organ and piano (not to mention various other keyboard goodies) are an extremely overlooked and vital part of the Rock-n-Roll fabric. Here, Frantisak knows when to stand up and stand out as well as when to lay back and simmer under. To take the keyboard contributions for granted here would hurt the overall effect as much as it would to not acknowledge Kevin Hoetger (drums, vocals). His drumming not only sets the whole disc in motion, but tosses it over the edge with a restraint that makes us appreciate those at the playground who give us a push on the swings.
While each song can undeniably be classified as a Bon Mots tune, it is the diversity of each that sets this disc apart and contributes to its rise to the top of the class in 2003. Starting with “Glistening,” a song that provides (as each and every song on the CD does) line after line of lyrics we just want to quote back to people, it tells the tale of a guy on the beach admiring the beautiful site of a woman. She is way out of his reach, and while his desires for her will go unmet, the Bon Mots also tell of the desires of the woman, which also will go unmet. She suffers just the same as him, but at a different level, which he is unable to comprehend. It offers the common ground of rejection crumbling the soul as the path to love, which is the perfect solution laid out by a person who can generally feel for another’s feelings. The song unfolds this in a variety of different scenarios. Place all this within a sound that begins with a bare electro-acoustic guitar intro and explodes in a Fourth of July awe of colors, framed by the printed lyrics in the accompanying booklet which are set against a red hued torso shot of two beautiful babes baking in the sun in string bikini bottoms, and “Basting in your suntan lotion marinade of coconuts and gin / Just to draw me in.” This takes us to another world, which we’ve all visited in one way or another, and has us proclaiming “there’s just too much here, I need another listen,” again and again. But we must move on…
“Nocturna” is Goth, and Goth is cool because it celebrates le main drag in a way that the downbeats can be accessorized with intense guitar playing and swallowed by a wall of organ sound. It is then, within the last 15 seconds, that we appreciate how important the organ is to the Bon Mots sound. With the ringing of guitar strings “Under Wraps” is off and running in a 60s style wall of sound that wraps around the lyrics to fully orchestrate the way we use things to wrap (hide) our flaws/faults. But it’s “Touched By A Robot” that is representative of this album - The Robot being the society we must enter as we say goodbye to our innocence. There’s “no going back to the summer,” our youth is gone, over, our summer of life ends once we enter the fall – the working/consumer lifestyle – we’ve lost it all. The wallowing of the vocals is as sweet as the innocence we’ve lost. It is here where we realize that the Bon Mots are giving us everything we need to sustain that summer…
And, when “Ghetto Falsetto” jams punk rock attitude down our throats with an amazing guitar energy that has us boppin’ and poppin’ over the bridge that carries this song over the edge, using harmonies that sound triple tracked to offer another perspective of the choices we must face in order to endure this life, well, we let it carry us away to a point of blissful complacency where even the story of a mentally disturbed person who wears 6 coats (“Five Coats”) (one for good luck) and directs traffic while sweating in the August sun, has us singing along with a poppy, smile inducing, carnival style upbeat melody: “Do do do do, Da do do do do do, Do do do do, Da do do do do do.”
“Tailights” produces a cool groove of ringing, jangley guitar, and high backing falsettos. The line “An honest strange is much less subjective than you’d like” is delivered on a hook which will stick with you for days and have you understanding that lyrically the Bon Mots have delivered an album of amazing musical territory. “Get Heavy” funks right in and lays down a lounge lizard, mega-cool, suave that blows in the doors of trolling for the opposite sex (“Took her to the bathroom for a little kiss / In a classic combination of innocence and filth”). The ? and the Mysterians tribute at the end bares out the 60s garage influence (a master stroke that should not be taken lightly), until the abrupt end which makes a statement and plunges headlong into “Vultures.” This song booms and takes us into the sky, delivering an amazing mood centered piece that draws us to the back center focusing on the organ and keyboards walking behind the drums and dual lead guitars. We are destroyed to the point where the chorus “And strange as it seems it has meaning to me / But not the way that I imagined it,” propels us down a journey that we just do not want to abandon. Again, the Bon Mots provide a logic that allows for different interpretations even within a single point of view, and it is the more than one comprehension of logic that sustains the ride.
A ride where “Time Was” dares us to dance in a psychedelic pogo that will have whole generations Rockin’ in fuzztones with a guitar solo cranking like no other we’ve heard all year. But, even with everything we’ve related so far, it’s “Errant Geese” that has won our hearts. This song captures everything that is good with music: guitars and vocals work off each other in such precision that when the organ enters and dissipates we are filled with awe and wonder. Separate channel harmonies and duck/geese call organ effects explode once again in a sight via sound sensory overload: “Colors burning seasons turning questioning your lusts and yearnings / until we laugh our smiles away.”
And so, with a bouncing piano and electric keyboard that light up “Idiot Kiss,” the Bon Mots conclude le main drag on a down note, adding to the irony of this pleasure.
Much like the coaster slowing to stop after an exhilarating ride on a beautiful summer night, that has been painted with the colors and punctuated by the sound of fireworks, le main drag (AKA life), is a pleasure of unassuming circumstances brought forth through the music of the Bon Mots.
What more could you ask for from
the “2003 IndepenDisc of the Year”?
le main drag by the Bon Mots
is available now for: $10.98 + s/h*
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