Red, White and Bleaaaah

If Radar Station ran the post-9/11 world, the playlist would change

Sep 11, 2002 at 4:00 am
If clones of Radar Station could somehow take over the country, the first thing we'd do is destroy all the jingoistic shit songs, all the earnest drivel, all the life-affirming anthems, all the quiet-dignity-havin' pap that September 11 spawned. Neil Young, Lee Greenwood, Bruce Springsteen (yes, even you, Bruce!), Paul McCartney and Toby Keith would each receive a punishment befitting his particular musical crime (a mildly disapproving glance at Bruce, a sharp rap of the knuckles for Neil, a good paste in the mush for Paul, death by lethal injection for Greenwood and slow evisceration with a rusty penknife for that brain-dead abomination Keith). In our utopia, the phrases "fallen heroes," "war on terror," "Let's roll" and "axis of evil" would be stricken from the lexicon, and all those who tried to distract the proles from the Bush administration's sinister agenda by way of swelling strings and rippling flags and starry-eyed slogans about how everyone hates us because we're just so gosh-darned good -- well, to paraphrase the Angry American himself, those folks would get a boot in the ass, 'cause it's the Radar Station way.

Should anyone wish to watch the heartbreaking footage of the World Trade Center collapse, the only acceptable soundtrack would be a song written by the Handsome Family before everything supposedly changed forever, the weirdly prescient "There Is a Sound": "There is a sound old buildings cry right before the morning light/The quiet sound that's left behind when airplanes fall from the sky."

Actually, you could easily find a few dozen appropriate songs by the Handsome Family, the husband-and-wife band of Brett and Rennie Sparks whose grave/tender, funny/sad songs we can't stop raving about in these pages. (If we ever lose this soapbox, we'll stake out street corners and press homemade cassettes into strangers' hands, just watch.) The Handsome Family don't do September 11 songs, per se, and it's to their infinite credit. For the Handsome Family, the apocalypse is always and forever under way: A deer limps across a supermarket parking lot; invisible birds fall out of closets and perch on the hands of dying men; a girl is carried off by crows and kissed by a gravedigger's son. If this all sounds like a major bringdown, well, it's not nearly as depressing as real life because it's also very beautiful. And Mr. and Mrs. Sparks engage in some of the most hilarious between-songs banter you'll ever hear, like some kind of postmodern alt-country Sonny and Cher, only, uh, funny. So, absent a Radar Station fascist coup, the best way to avoid the nauseating marathon of televised 9/11 tributes is to catch the Handsome Family at Off Broadway on Thursday, September 12.

If there's a Baysayboos bandwagon, we want to glom on; if there isn't one, consider this a humble start. The Baysayboos may not be the best group on the local music scene, but it's the best at making dozens of jaded barflies grin idiotically for whole minutes at a time. During their long but by no means too-long set at the Way Out Club a month or so ago, when they opened for Stew and Heidi of the Negro Problem, the winsome septet endeared themselves to several smarty-pants types with their oddly pretty cacophony and fresh-faced enthusiasm. Except for the stoic bassist, who wears some kind of vintage army uniform, the band members dress like paralegals -- never have so many ties, khakis and sensible shoes graced a rock & roll stage. (The sole female member wears nylons and dressy blouses.) In their bland and cheerful attire, the BSBs seem resolutely wholesome. Sartorially speaking, they're a slap in the face of indie-rock uniformity: Their hair is clean, their manners polite, their smiles innocuous.

And then, of course, there's the way they sound -- "asinine and childish," in the words of one Baysayboo, but that's only partly accurate. What if seven misfits from the high-school band seceded, dropped a shitload of acid, listened to a bunch of Lambchop and Neutral Milk Hotel albums and then decided to form a rock & roll band? Yeah, that sounds as if it could be a horrifying spectacle, a fucking disaster, and we won't lie to you -- sometimes it is. But in the space of about a year, the BSBs have come considerably closer to realizing their enormous ambitions. And let's face it: Most reasonably skilled musicians can, with a modicum of self-discipline and talent, pull off the standard guitar-bass-drums rock & roll formula. It takes an insane amount of chutzpah to incorporate a horn section and a violin, and here's to the Baysayboos for trying it.