|Yep...the guy from NEAR DARK, the chick from the B-52s...|
and that other guy.
Did you know Bill Paxton was in a band? It’s true...
Of course, I didn’t know that Martini Ranch was a collaboration between everybody’s favorite cowardly Colonial Marine and Andrew Todd Rosenthal--although given how her backing vocals appeared everywhere on their one and only album, Holy Cow!, I think it’s safe to give the B-52's Cindy Wilson a seat at their table as an official member as well--for some time. At first, I just knew they were responsible for this cool new wave-y song with Devo-ish pretensions called 'How Can The Laboring Man Find Time For Self Culture?’ that was play a lot on U-68, the Jersey-based local music video station that challenged MTV for a brief time. Their video captivated me, which made their album a must pick-up for me....and then when I learned Paxton was one of the vocalist, I was sold.
‘New Deal’ is the first cut off the album, and it does what a first cut should do--propulse the listener into the band’s style, hook him and get him ready for what he’s about to listen to. ‘New Deal’ is very much dance pop in a new wave style with serious overtones of the Church of the Sub-Genius philosophy that infused Devo’s canon. And that Devo sort of double-speak isn’t here just because Bob Casale produced this album and played on it along with Mark Mothersbaugh and Alan Meyers; this is something that infused all of Martini Ranch’s songs, and helps set them apart from similar sounding acts that sprung up in the mid-to-late 80‘s.
There is a very brief spoken word segment that starts the song (unlike, let’s say, the one that precedes the album version of ‘Laboring Man...’, it’s far too brief to call it a skit), and I wonder if that’s the influence of hip-hop. Many of the other songs on the albums contain what could pretty much be called ‘skits’ at the front of them. The song itself could be construed as Martini Ranch’s mission statement, exhorting the listener to prepare for change, to save his soul by buying into the band’s ‘new deal,’ where everyone gets to judge themselves by what they feel. The transformational aspect of this song is a particular obsession of the band--other songs on the album include a paean to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, a novelty number about a fat-burning formula, and, of all things, a cover of ‘Richard Corey.’
(And this isn’t counting the, to the best of my knowledge,the never-released song ‘Brain Dead’ that the band recorded for the end credits of Bill Paxton’s low-budget film of the same name, a film all about mental transformation.)
To the best of my knowledge, Martini Ranch just...stopped existing in 1991. Robinson formed a new, jazz-influenced band called Swifty’s Bazaar and is recording a second album. As for Mr. Paxton, he continues to be a great lil’ actor, expanding into directing with Frailty.
Here is the song....
...and because I like you, and them, so much, here's the video for 'Reach,' which features the hottest director eeeeevah, Kathryn Bigelow getting her Clint Eastwood on....