In the jungle canopy of Belize grows a moisture-loving fungus -- a member of the Geotrichum family, to be exact -- that has recently been caught in the act of attacking compact discs, munching on their plastic and aluminum with a glee that only a fungus can know, destroying whatever data is encoded in these previously thought-to-be-indestructible little circles. According to the BBC and scientists in Madrid who've observed the hungry organism in action, there's little reason to believe that the world's supply of CDs is in danger, as the fungus is really only viable under specific conditions, such as the tropics and muggy little basement rooms where blazing humidifiers foster the growth of clandestine psychotropic plants.
In a way, the idea of nature revolting against modern music is kind of exciting. We've got to find something to do with all of that dreck. There are hundreds of thousands of CDs released in America each year, which guarantees that there is never a short supply of titles deserving to be thrown to the microbes, if not the lions. A Yanni feast for the single-celled beasts? A sizable chunk of the KBPI playlist as a combination platter, perhaps? (So far, there's been no news of the fungus displaying a preference in style, but natural selection seems to indicate that it's only a matter of time.)
Disc-eating bacteria or no, it's sometimes easy to become jaded when you regularly wade in the shitstream of major-label record releases. Backwash recently caught a Conan rerun on which High Fidelity author Nick Hornby -- now doing intermittent music writing for The New Yorker -- confessed to chucking albums simply because he didn't like their cover art, or the looks of the lead singer, or the wording of the bio. It happens.
But sometimes, occasionally, the opposite occurs: A band, an album or a song comes along that undoes all of the bad stuff -- for a little while, at least.
That happened recently, and Backwash is humbly indebted to the White Stripes.
Right now, the buzz surrounding this Detroit duo is a little bit deafening. They were the darlings of the South By Southwest festival in Austin, where lead singer/guitarist/Cro-Magnon man Jack White flailed and flipped out to the purposely primitive drumming of his partner, Meg. (Sister? Girlfriend? Ex-wife? Time magazine, of all sources, recently blew the band's cover by revealing that the duo's bond was post-marital rather than familial.) They've been credited with almost single-handedly ushering in full-fledged revivals of both scrappy garage rock and Delta blues, beginning with their powerfully simplistic, full-length, self-titled debut and continuing through their heavily blues-inflected De Stijl. Their new offering, White Blood Cells, is a confusing, country-flavored effort that stubbornly takes a seat in the gap between Mick Jagger, John Bonham and Maybelle Carter. (The album is inexplicably dedicated to Loretta Lynn.) The difference is that the White Stripes hype is the kind that takes on a life of its own, practically unfed by any record-label promotional efforts. The band is signed to Sympathy for the Record Label, as itsy an imprint as you can hope to find, which means there are no videos, no ad campaigns in colorful trade journals, no cutesy mailings to music publications to get the word out. When Backwash tried -- repeatedly -- to get young Jack on the phone for a quick interview, we were told by his publicist that he "wasn't used to all of this," and he's "not always good about being around."
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Here's what we do know: White, a former guitarist for The Go and a whole gaggle of other bands in his hometown, has demonstrated his own split loyalties to everything from musical theater to the Grand Ole Opry by covering songs by Blind Willie McTell, Son House and Dolly Parton (the band's live reading of Ms. P's "Jolene" is so minimal and explosive it almost hurts). White Blood Cells, however, is full of his own compositions: Ringing with the plaintive tones of a Montgomery Ward guitar, White's refreshingly coherent lyrics and Meg's intuitively simple drumming, it's one of the most undeniable collections of songs -- songs! -- to come down the lane in recent memory. The White Stripes can be sort of physiological: Their music lodges in the brain and shoots down to the nerve centers -- like a fungus, maybe. We also know this: You should go to the Bluebird on Friday, July 20, when the White Stripes will perform with Waxwings and the Von Bondies. White on.
Denver's club culture is shining a bit more brightly thanks to Lipgloss, a new club night held at 60 South (formerly Zu Denver) on the third Monday of each month. According to the Lipgloss braintrust (an offshoot of the Denver-based online arts publication Hybrid Magazine), the evening is designed to fuse pop art and culture with a purposely disparate roster of artists, most of whom are more likely to evoke various waves of British and American punk, pop and underground music than contemporary dance fare. In other words, the drums and bass will be the old-fashioned, picked-and-struck kind: bands like Cheap Trick, the Smiths, T. Rex and the Small Faces are in the rotation. This month's installment is coming up on Monday, July 23, and will feature the spinning styles of DJs Tim Cook, Tyler Jacobson and Michael Trundle, as well as a "pop art" show by A Mutiny-affiliated artists Jack Jensen, Danica Bomar and Sean Wetsine and photographer Jessica Reed. This gloss may require repeat applications.
Since we're discussing club events that reference the mouth, why not one that's named for candy? The Chocolate Factory is the latest weekly gig to spring from the hip-hop-obsessed brain of Francois Baptiste and his associates at 3 Deep Productions and ENT. Every Thursday night at Bash (19th and Blake), Baptiste and a crew that includes DJs Big Daddy Rallo and Shawn Blaze spin old- and new-school hip-hop, R&B and dancehall reggae. It's a yummy mix, all right, one that returns a welcome dose of hip-hop culture to a sanitized LoDo. But that's not all Baptiste is up to: La Rumba is his newish Wednesday- and Friday-night fete at the midtown club of the same name; each week, DJs Tony V, Javio and Chonz spin hip-hop, house and Latin grooves for the loco crowd. Baptiste is also hosting a new radio show -- The Mix Tape Show -- with rapper Kingdom and DJ Chonz; the program airs Sunday nights at 11 p.m. on KS/FM 107.5. It's fun to watch Monsieur Baptiste take Denver's hip-hop community to deeper places.