Toronto
2 min

Family listening

Stoner pop & bull dyke mama blues

21ST-CENTURY WALKMEN. Vancouver's Torquil Campbell and New York-based Chris Dumont are Memphis. Credit: Xtra files

Vancouver’s Torquil Campbell (vocalist with Stars) and New York-based Chris Dumont (part-time Central Park carousel operator) call themselves Memphis. The two met in a hospital in Egypt while recovering from their mutual addiction to sleeping pills. These boys travel a lot. Their debut album I Dreamed We Fell Apart was recorded on laptops at the homes of friends in New York, Seattle, Vancouver and other various locations. It’s heavenly and gracious stoner pop that drifts in and out of your head. Really lovely stuff.



If the first three exquisite tracks don’t win you over, then you probably don’t appreciate the joy of seeing three pug puppies in an Easter basket either. Shame on you. “The Second Summer” starts the album. It’s a jangly, drippy number reminiscent of The Smiths’ “Well I Wonder.” Campbell’s warm breathy voice sings the days of the week supported by sleepy guitars flavoured with synthetic tinkles (Dumont plays most of the instruments on the album). My fave track has to be “Into The Wild,” a peppy stroll through breezy organs, melodicas and skipping drumbeats. “The sky is made out of stories/ So tell him yours while you’re holding my hand,” coos Campbell.



Their cover of The Pet Shop Boys’ “Love Comes Quickly” is a fresh, welcome surprise. The prominent acoustic guitars, strings and electrobeats add a lovely rhythmic punch to the pop classic. On the delightful “Lullaby For A Girlfriend (Or Happy Trails),” graceful guitars and comfy pedal steel carry the delicate bittersweet words and melody. “Where am I?/ In between the dawn and the darkness,” sings Campbell as the nonchalant whistling of the constant traveller appears to beckon; it slowly fades away at the album’s end. The late great writer/world traveller Bruce Chatwin once said that life is “a journey to be walked on foot.” For their musical journey, Campbell and Dumont just added a laptop to the equation.



Shave’ Em Dry: The Best Of Lucille Bogan is a jawdropping new compilation of blues recordings from 1933 to ’35. It features Mississippi born Lucille Bogan’s raw vocal talent and more importantly, her outrageously exquisite filthy songwriting. Her lyrics – to paraphrase a Morrissey ditty – would make Caligula blush.



The music is stripped down straight-ahead blues. Her accompanist on piano is Walter Roland with the occasional support of guitarist Josh White. The album has a glorious wonky, amateurish feel to it. But when you think about the horrendous racism of the time, Bogan’s sheer unbridled playfulness with her graphic sexual themes is a true inspiration. Like her more popular contemporaries (Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey), Bogan dabbles with lesbian themes.



On the super cool track “BD [Bull Dyke] Woman’s Blues,” Bogan slyly confides, “Comin’ a time, BD women ain’ goin’ to need no men/ ‘Cause the way they treat us is a low down and dirty sin.” So there! On the jaunty “Baking Powder Blues” Bogan is in a playful jovial mood as she sings of snuff and her “Black Belt” origins.



“My name is Piggly Wiggly and I swear you can help yourself,” flirty Bogan states on “Groceries On The Shelf.” Food metaphors abound.



Bogan is at her naughty best on the “unissued” version of “Shave ‘Em Dry.” It’s so bawdy and insane (she laughs and screams throughout). “I’ve got nipples on my titties/ As big as the end of my thumb/ I’ve got something between my legs/ That make a dead man come.” But my fave line has to be, “Now, your nuts hang down like a damn bell chapel/ And your dick stands up like a steeple/ Your goddamn asshole stands open like a church door/ The crabs walk in like people.” Well, they sure don’t write ’em like they use to. Great stuff.



I DREAMED WE FELL APART.

Memphis.

Paper Bag Records. $14.99.



SHAVE ‘EM DRY: THE BEST OF LUCILLE BOGAN

Lucille Bogan.

Columbia. $13.99.