Autumn comes as a real downer to where I live. The rest of New England is blessed with dying leaves in fiery colors, gorgeous sunsets, and crisp weather that promises warm hearths and snacks from Martha Stewartâs wet dreams. Not so for me. Where I live on the coast in Salem, Massachusetts, the weather turns cold and then it rains. The leaves go from green to dead in a matter of days only to get turned into stinking muck by the feet of thousands of mouth-breathing tourists come to town to gawk at âwitches.â The grass on the common turns brown and the town hunkers down for another busy Halloween season and a long, cold winter.
Oddly, I like it this way. If I want scenic panoramas and hearthwarmed idylls, I just need to drive an hour north. At home in Salem, the gross weather and the ersatz festival mood suit my listening habits. I tend to key my music to the seasons. Spring is funktime, summer tends to mean power-pop and loud rock, and in the autumn I pull out my downer recordsâTom Waits, Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds, Neil Youngâs heartsick â70s work, the Black Heart Procession, and German operas about men and women doomed to horrible fates they cannot escape. Itâs not that I court depression. Thatâs a louche pursuit for tortured teenagers in black eyeliner who carve their initials in painful places. But autumn in New England seems the right time for high weirdness straight out of some fetid basement in Peyton Place.
David Thomas, formerly of high punk priests Pere Ubu and punk prototypes Rocket from the Tombs, has been making music of surpassing high weirdness for thirty years now, and age treats him well. These days he records as David Thomas and Two Pale Boys, the two pale boys in question being Andy Diagram (trumpets & electronics) and Keith MolinĂ© (guitars, violin & electronics). The stripped-down instrumentation that these three not-boys bring to their third release, 18 Monkeys on a Dead Manâs Chest (in stores October 19), allows Thomasâ chameleonic voice and bizarre lyrics to shine through a bed of heavily processed trumpet and guitar, sometimes softened by the lilting wheeze of Thomasâ melodeon.