(Welcome to Obscurity Knocks, where every Thursday we'll unearth something good -- but obscure -- we think deserves notice.)
MP3: "Now I Know"
From: Pop Goes The World! compilation 7" single, Catch That Beat!/Lovemeknot Records, 1998
Who were they? Sacramento multi-instrumentalist
Verna Brock, mostly. A veteran of numerous Sacto
bands, including Holiday Flyer and the sublime Rocketship (that's her bass playing and backing vocals on their classic single, "Hey Hey Girl"), she began
creating low-tech solo recordings in the mid-1990s, leaking them out on a
series of 7" singles and compilation albums.
Beanpole never did release a full album, although there was a five-song 12"
single on Blackbean and Placenta Tape Club, an absurdly prolific record label
and vinyl manufacturer.
What happened to them?Beanpole's final single, 1999's
"In A Muddle," was the first to feature backing musicians, mostly friends from Holiday
Flyer. Not long afterward, Verna put
Beanpole on permanent hold to devote her energies to that band, and later the
California Oranges. These days Verna plays
flute for musical-theater productions and other projects in and around
Why do we care? Because as far as fragile lo-fi pop
goes, Beanpole was one of the best of its era. The mid-1990s was flush with similar bands, from relatively well-known touring
acts like the Softies, to such now-forgotten kindred spirits as the
Receptionists, Tokidoki and Mad Planets. In Beanpole's recordings you can hear obvious musical training - many tracks
feature flute and violin - with Verna's plaintive voice on top and an overall
air of low-key spirit.
The song in question: "Now I Know" appeared on a four-song 7", Pop Goes The World! It came out on Catch
That Beat!, a wonderful fanzine from Japan. (Also on this 7": Bunnygrunt covering Dinosaur Jr.'s "Repulsion.") Although less string- and woodwind-laden than
some of Beanpole's other recordings, this is one of my favorites for its sheer
enthusiasm. I especially love the way the
measured verses give way to frantic guitar strumming during the chorus.
Where to hear more: Most of the Beanpole releases are long out of
print and hard to find. However, some tracks are still available. "I'd Know You Anywhere" originally appeared on the March Records Pop American Style double CD; you can currently find it on iTunes. "Destination" appeared on the Something Cool CD, which Darla
Records has in stock, along with most of Holiday Flyer's and California
Oranges' recordings. There is no
Beanpole website, although California Oranges has a MySpace page. Thanks to Verna Brock for permission to upload. -- Mike Appelstein