Monday, July 9, 2012

New Wave for the New Week #157

It's hard to know exactly how to describe Couch Flambeau to someone who has never heard them before.  They were young, loud, and snotty, but they weren't exactly a punk band; they were very funny, but much more than just a novelty act; they had the chops to play in unusual time signatures and with jarringly shifting tempos, even moving into jazz-like improv jamming at times, yet the band was almost like a hobby they indulged in their off time from their day jobs.  A list of of the band's gigs dating back to 1983 on their website lists no shows outside of their hometown Milwaukee area, yet every "big name" band that came through Milwaukee had them as their opening band.

Back in 1980, Jay Tiller and Neil Socol formed the band that would become Couch Flambeau, quickly releasing a local cassette, Curiosity Rocks, under the name Couch Potatoes.  By 1983 they had adopted their new name and released their debut album, Mammal Insect Marriage.  While the rest of the world looked at Milwaukee as the home of Violent Femmes, the Femmes themselves and others in the know were raving about Couch Flambeau.

They hit their stride with 1985's The Day The Music Died. Containing slices of snarky fun like "The Zoo Is Cool," "Curtains For You," and "Satan's School For Girls," it's a record that takes a few listens before it really sinks into your brain.  Once it's there, though, you'll never forget it.  The following year they issued a hysterical, perhaps autobiographical, single, "We're Not So Smart."  On the flip side was a wonderfully irreverent cover of Mountain's "Mississippi Queen."  That was followed in 1987 by the five-song Models ep, whose title track may be Couch Flambeau's best known song outside of Milwaukee - which is not to imply it was anything more than an obscure cult favorite.  By the time Ghostride appeared in 1989, though, Couch Flambeau was reduced to only the original duo of Tiller and Socol, and it seemed that their run was over.

Almost a decade later, though, Tiller and Socol were back with a self-titled CD that picked up right where they left off. For those who had missed out the first time around, 2004's I Did A Power Slide In The Taco Stand anthology does a nice job of spanning their career.  It's a perfect primer to the joys of Couch Flambeau.

Here is a rare clip of Couch Flambeau in an early local TV appearance performing "The Zoo Is Cool," followed by an audio-only of their anthemic "We'll Go Through The Windshield Together." Enjoy!

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