Monday, July 14, 2008
UNDOING THE COLUMBIAN NECKTIE WITH BABY OPAQUE.
Once upon a time in the sleepy little college town of Charlottesville, Virginia there existed a little band called BABY OPAQUE. These three guys tried their best to play their Jazzpunk at places like The C&O and TRAX between 1984 and 1986, but they never quite fit in. As Singer/Bassist Michael Dean put it; "Baby Opaque was not popular. We were active in a southern college town about nine years before weird music got popular there. We were too jazzy for the few punkers, and too punky and jazzy for the majority of folks who just wanted to boogie and drink to rehashed white 12-bar blues."
Opaque put out an E.P. on Cloaca Records called PAIN, FEARS AND INSECTS in 1984 featuring 5 songs on 7 inch vinyl. The music was sweepingly energetic, and more inspired than the usual run-of -the-Miller's hardcore of the day. More melodic than the Dischordians in nearby D.C., yet strangely preoccupied with Suicide and Guns. The first song "MY FRIEND DIED" recalls an incident in early eighties California where a disgruntled man went postal inside a McDonalds, and in the last song "HOW NOW BROWN MAO?" the allusion returns when Dean snides "Give me a gun and I'll give you a milkshake..." The album was fucking perfect for an early teen like myself, being preoccupied with guns, killing yourself, depression, and well, cheeseburgers. Michael Dean sounded so gloriously sad, and after putting out what he felt was his life's work, he had a nervous breakdown.
The band returned with a full length LP called FUGUE IN COW MINOR, and it sound like the rest did the band some good. As a unit they don't sound as hectic and rushed, more relaxed and almost downright spiritually at peace with themselves. The first song starts as a shuffle, and the lyrics reminded me of living by the ocean in Vietnam. Suddenly, with a Spanish Ramones count-off, they launch into a 60's garage thrash where the lyrics fit in just as well as the first part.
I adored these guys when I was young, and in many ways they were the first true local band I ever heard besides The Statler Brothers. I painstakingly crafted a T-shirt using old alkylyd housepaint, and covered their songs on our first homemade tapes; back when we used dulcimers and trashcans.
Dean has put both of these great releases out for free download, and the response has been pretty healthy considering only 1000 copies of each release were ever printed. He eventually moved out to San Fran and started a band called BOMB, which put out some major label releases during the 90's. Now Michael runs a website and podcast with his wife, and seems to love his pets and life very much.
MY SHORT CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL DEAN
May 28th, 2008 at 1:53 pm
I remember picking up the EP at the Waynesboro Record Corner when I was 12, shortly after finding out about DOUBLE NICKELS ON THE DIME. I am so happy to have found this music (again…)
Thanks for inspiring me to pick up the Fender Jazz…
Michael W. Dean Says:
May 28th, 2008 at 1:57 pm
So funny…so many people compared us to the Minutemen. But I didn’t hear the Minutemen until after the first Baby Opaque EP came out, and I don’t really think it was an influence on the LP, as I didn’t listen to them a lot until a few years later.
May 28th, 2008 at 4:25 pm
I never really saw the connection either. But I can say That PAIN was the second “punk” record I ever bought. Waynesboro had only one record store, and in that store was a tiny little bin labeled PUNK/HARDCORE with maybe four or five records in it; mostly SST stuff. But anywaste, I didn’t mean to imply you guys sounded like them… it sounded like nothing I had ever heard, being knee deep into crap like The Fixx and (under muted breath) Duran Squared.
Fugue came out, and I promptly snatched that up. By that time I was playing bass and singing in Death Tripod. We covered I Don’t Need To Understand, and on one tape I still have we played the whole EP. I even made a back alley Silk Screen T-Shirt with the COW from the back of the LP.
Michael W. Dean Says:
May 28th, 2008 at 4:27 pm
I’d love to hear that cover. E-mail me an MP3 and I’ll post it.
Please check out and Download BABY OPAQUE- My Pick for the Day...
BABY OPAQUE"S WEBSITE
MICHAEL DEAN'S BLOG.