Obscurity Knocks: Beanpole, "Now I Know"

(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 Sacramento. 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