Monday, January 10, 2011

[Monday Music] -- STAN RIDGWAY/Partyball

Partyball is the third solo album by one Standard Ridgway. For those who have no idea who this man is, go find most any 80's  compilation and listen to the song Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo. Mr. Ridgway was the lead singer of Wall of Voodoo from its inception until the finish of the tour for Call of the West (the album that spawned Mexican Radio). Then he took his leave of the group to do his own thing.

I also own the first two solo albums from Stan (The Big Heat and Mosquitoes). Both of them are very good, but for some reason I keep coming back to this one. The Big Heat has some very strong songs, but the instrumentation sounds a bit robotic. Mosquitoes compensated too much, taking the singer/songwriter vibe a bit further than I like. Partyball hits a happy medium where Stan just lets his stories flow, and that's what these songs are. Stories... Stories sung in an earnest, nasal voice. It's the earnestness that sells the songs, even when they veer into the oddly surreal.

From the worker's lament/daydream of I Wanna Be A Boss to the tale of rah-rah spirit turned ironically erroneous in The Roadblock, Stan connects with working-class common-sensibilities like no one else I've ever heard (and before anyone brings up Bruce Springsteen, please keep in mind that I consider the Boss a hack).

There are tales of the absurd here as well, most notably Uba's House of Fashion, where the protagonists of the song are those looking to shed their beaten, damaged skins, and take on a new form where life can't recognize them anymore to continue beating them down.

Perhaps a nice condensation of how Stan paints his songs, here are some of the lyrics for The Overlords...

Well I been breakin' rocks up on Coolie #3
I know it's been forever, thought you'd never hear from me
The weather up here is rotten
Rainin' granite all the time
And both moons are glowin' purple
And there is no sun to shine

I been diggin' down in a tunnel
That goes twenty miles down
And I know my life is cheap
When I hear that rumblin' sound

Oh the overlords, got me workin' overtime
Oh the overlords, well they never make it rhyme

And there is something in the air
That is burning in my throat
A big, black cloud is passin'
Droppin' acid on my coat
the overlords got me workin' overtime

It's been ten years and a day
After world war nine
They pushed us to make meaning
And from their meaning was our crime...

From those few stanzas, you know that the main character of the song is a slave labor grunt in some oppressive, dystopian future. His life sucks, and he knows it. How does it end? Well... go track down the song, if not the album.

Partyball is not ground-breaking, but it is solid and challenging. There are understated grooves to many of the songs which initially masks the bleakness and irony of the lyrics, and it makes for an interesting dichotomy.

GopherDave Grade: 7.5/10

Track Listing

1.1 (Watch Your Step) - Instrumental Segue
1.2 Jack Talked (Like A Man On Fire)
2.0 I Wanna Be A Boss
3.1 (Mouthful of Sand) - Instrumental Segue
3.2 The Roadblock
4.0 Snaketrain
5.0 Right Through You
6.0 The Gumbo Man
7.0 Harry Truman
8.1 (Venus In Hell) - Instrumental Segue
8.2 Overlords
9.1 (O.K.?) - Instrumental Segue
9.2 Uba's House of Fashion
10.1 (Bad News At the Dynamite Ranch) - Instrumental Segue
10.2 Beyond Tomorrow

Lyrics Copyright (C) 1991 by Standard Ridgway. Published by Illegal Songs/Mondo Spartacus BMI. Used without permission, but with no affront meant to Mr. Ridgway or Illegal Songs/Mondo Spartacus BMI.

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