Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Two-Track Tuesday: Boomtown

David + David's Boomtown is not the kind of cassette you want to have in your pickup truck as you peel out of the gravelly parking lot of some abandoned grocery store after getting stoned and picking a fight with your white-trash lover. There'd be no coming back from that trip.

Maybe in ten years' time someone would track your sorry ass down. You'd be living on the West Coast with other junkies and amateur alcoholics, all too burnt by the sun you've been staring far too long at.

You didn't see the sharp turn ahead--one never does--when taking a year off from college became a way of life. When your parole officer started dealing. When your heart became as burnt out as your lungs from cheap smokes and bags and bags of grass. When sleepless nights were measured in six-packs. When a sober sun never rose, and the colors of the dawn looked just like the bruise on your busted lip.

Writing in the dark of the afternoon with the shades pulled down and the air conditioning refusing to cycle off even though it's set at 80 in the 107-degree afternoon, I long to pour myself a drink. Back then, it would've been vodka mixed with some juice. Now I drink whiskey, 10-year single malt. Straight.

David + David never made it big. They were far too smart and talented. Their critique of the vacuousness of the 80s veneer was far too subtle and intelligent to get much airplay. They were certainly in the minority when it came to making sense of, and good music in, Reagan's America.

Toni Childs, who sang backup on Boomtown, cut a few albums of her own. David Baerwald released some solo work to critical acclaim. None of them, however, received the recognition they deserve for redefining music of the late 80s, for writing smart songs about social and personal ills. Their reach was wide, though: even The Belgian knew their songs. In their flannel-before-flannel-was-cool shirts, we see here the evolutionary "mistake" that would lead to full-blown grunge a few years later.

The cassette case is broken and cracked. I'm nowhere near the kind of person I was when I first heard "Welcome to the Boomtown" on Dallas radio and went out immediately to buy the tape. It's been years since I listened to these songs, but they are still cool and smooth and just what is needed. Like a chilled single-malt whiskey. A little rough, a little refined. But still the only thing worth living for.

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