So: moondog and the clientele
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Moondog - "Symphonique #6 (Good for Goodie)". So according to this article in the Oxford American, Moondog was a blind homeless man who spent three decades on the streets of NYC, begging, composing music, wearing a cloak and a viking helmet. For real. Sure, after he was 'discovered' he was flown to Germany and leading American orchestras and receiving fan-mail from Philip Glass, but in the meantime - there he was, day after day, enough of an institution that the New York Times devoted two columns to the story of his obtaining a different pair of trousers.

It's a good story. Too good, almost. It's as if Moondog's life was purpose-built for a Robin Williams-starring biopic. But before we giggle at the tall tale, before we let the attention focus too strongly on this strange man's biography, let's listen to the music.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, it's wonderful.

It's a stew of sounds, this is. It's a conspiracy of counterpoint. It's clarinet and bass and flute, french horn and tuba, violin and this numbskull snare. It's an orchestra's joyous assembly, a union of likeminded folks, everyone speaking for themselves and yet twittering in sympathy. It's friendly as a warm pie with one slice taken out. I hear Mark Mothersbaugh, Jon Brion and certainly Philip Glass, but Moondog's playful, arbitrary, he chooses places to point at (clouds! town hall! mullberry bush!) and the music skips to new destinations instead of pummelling incessantly the same spot. I saw Annie Hall last night, but a few weeks ago I saw Manhattan, and if Gershwin hadn't written Rhapsody in Blue, or if Woody Allen had chosen high angle instead of low angle shots for his opening Manhattan montage, this woulda been the movie's soundtrack. I'm pretty sure.

Moondog - "Lament 1".

I include this track as well because, whoa!, it's so familiar. Mr Scruff's gleeful "Move On" is built on samples from Moondog's "Lament" (for Charlie Parker). In this excerpt, the drums are skid-scampering like hot sneakers over pavement, violins seesawing like shadows over twenty-four hours, saxes singing the praises of someone, reminding each-other of someone, telling those old stories, trying to capture that someone's old tics, smiling with the memory.

These tracks come thanks to Lawrence. I am very taken with this Moondog man, but apart from the above know little about his work. Looking on Amazon, I see there are rather a lot of records (including a remix album). Can anyone suggest any in particular?

[buy Moondog stuff at Amazon UK/US. And pick up the music issue of the Oxford American.]


The Clientele - "Since K Got Over Me". So earlier this week I was in a certain Edinburgh record shop, lookin' to buy the new Beard, maybe hoping to find an inexpensive copy of the new Akron/Family or R. Kelly cds, flipping through the cheapo bin, and what do I find but a promo-sleeved CD by The Clientele, called Strange Geometry, for £1.99. I own - and love - The Violet Hour, but "Strange Geometry" didn't sound familiar. I had a vague recollection of a b-sides/EP collection, so figured this was it.

Instead I got home and found that this is their new CD, out September 5.

The Clientele are a band of singular purpose, singular sound. They play a sort of music that seems obvious, that's so familiar it's already dear. It makes me think of The Smiths' golden guitars, the hushed vocals of (Felt, and) a hundred shoegaze bands, but then I think about it, I slip on some headphones, and I realise there's nothing like this. This is dreamy but lucid, it's melancholy but not unmoving, it's quiet but loud. And the Clientele are fiercely evocative, bringing visions of a place I've never seen.

It's England, I guess. A London of honeyed fog and smothered light, or else hills and heath, will o' the wisp between the trees, swirls and glimmers and faint recollections. I can never decide if they play music for cities, or for the country. I suppose it's both, but separately. It's for dusk and for dawn: violet hours.

"Since K Got Over Me" is the first single from Strange Geometry. It's all those things I said before, mist and gleam and smokestacks and moors, but it's also got a stronger stare than anything on the previous record. Strange Geometry is a break-up album. Maybe. "Everything's so vivid and so creepy since K got over me," MacLean sings, then much more insistently, "THERE'S a HOLE in-SIDE my SKULL with WARM AIR blowing IN". The drums are realer than on The Violet Hour. Elsewhere there are Five Leaves Left-style strings, maniac "Revolution 1" electric guitar. And also a familiar (dear) sparkle, a shine, a whisper. Here and there, the band play the same parts as they did on the last record. But that's okay: they're just remembering them, like we do.

[read my old review of The Violet Hour]

[More mp3s at The Clientele website, and watch Merge and Pointy for ordering info over the coming month.]


The strangest thing in the universe? Probably K & K Mime.

The new OK GO music video, all lo-fi tripod dance-moves style, is indeed pretty rad. But so is the DIY Clap Your Hands Say Yeah thing that some fan did, in order to bring attention to the Awesome Guy In Shirt-Collars Who Is Dancing. (both via mefi)

Posted by Sean at August 15, 2005 12:01 AM

Moondog: nice find. Very. Rock on.

Posted by Tuwa at August 14, 2005 11:01 PM

nice find indeed. moondog is one of the many records that i've pillaged from my dad's old collection. he's great.

i'll be in touch soon re: my songs.

Posted by gareth at August 15, 2005 12:46 PM

"It's as if Moondog's life was purpose-built for a Robin Williams-starring biopic."

well played

Posted by mc escher at August 15, 2005 6:59 PM

A pre-release promo of the new Clientele? For 2 quid? wild.

Posted by Sean at August 15, 2005 10:57 PM

Watch out, a so-called friend of CYHSY is going to be on your ass for posting a link to that fan-made video! How dare you perpetuate such a thing!

(I only know this because he started a ruckus about it on my own blog, not to mention a few others.)

Posted by Space Junk at August 16, 2005 4:48 PM

I knew Moondog and a friend of mine was the arranger for several of his discs (harpsichordist Gavin Black). The story is no fairytale, it is absolutely true.

Posted by Eliot M. Gelwan at August 16, 2005 9:11 PM

Here's what I have on Moondog: Born Louis Hardin in 1916, Marysville, KS. Blinded by an explosion as a teenager; received formal musical training at Iowa School for the Blind. Sold copies of poetry and music on NYC streets. Took Alan Freed (whose radio show was called "Moondog Matinee") to court over the use of his name and won.

Posted by Winston-LT5 at August 17, 2005 12:58 AM

I have always enjoyed:

Moondog & London Saxophonic "Sax Pax for a Sax"

Release Date: Nov 11, 1997

Posted by John Matthews at August 17, 2005 4:06 PM

"When Machines were mice and men were lions it was once upon a time. But now it is the opposite -it's twice upon a time."
The first time I heard this strange words and voice (and music): on the 1970 CBS-Sampler Fill your head with rock! Anybody remember? I love his Choo Choo Lullaby and "Paris" (from Six Pax for a Sax - featuring Peter Hammill in the chorus!)
- best information is on Tom's Moondog Site:

Posted by Herr B. at August 21, 2005 1:30 PM

I bought the Moondog/Moondog 2 disc because of this post and it's been sitting here on my desk waiting for my attention for weeks. Finally opened it tonight and am listening to it. I'm on track 15 of 34 and so far it's been some whimsical, odd, compelling, and all-around wonderful work.

Posted by Tuwa at September 6, 2005 1:43 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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