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The Holy Modal Rounders

The American Metaphysical Circus: You Can't Ever Come Down

It would be too easy to wax nostalgic for nostalgic wax and just list the records that you heard first and will remember always coming out of your older brother's portable radio, the one in the perforated black pleather case. The thing had a handle and a bent antenna and ran on batteries, but around outlets, you could plug it in, and that was living. You remember it as it was, tuned to the same "underground" radio station for half a decade. 

Only in hindsight can you claim critical distinctions between any of the tunes or the musicians on the playlists spun by the college DJs with the cool nicknames, and nasally, post-adolescent voices. The ones bunkered in some out of the way corner on the campus of Brown University.   

As far as you cared, one tune was as laudable or as damnable as another, no matter who the performer. Perhaps with the advent of the rock press, an easily influenced adolescent (you!) started copping attitudes about geniuses and sellouts and all that nonsense, but in the halcyon days of first encounters with the underground, the song was the thing, whether it was the Beatles or Pearls Before Swine, the Byrds or Circus Maximus, Bob Dylan or Tim Buckley or Lord Buckley even.

NRBQ: “…One too many grilled cheeses and a thousand fries behind.”

The freshly minted NRBQ

One thing that never gets old in pop music is funny, mainly because there’s so little of it, Ween, Tenacious D, and Flight of the Conchords notwithstanding. Of course the comedy doesn’t work if you don’t have appealing hooks or great chops. When the latter includes pumping rhythms, popping syncopation, voices that can step out or blend, and enough smarts to put it all in a blender and still be identifiable as you and only you___ or them, as was the case of the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet (NRBQ), then you deserve the (nearly) forty year run you had.

Keyboardist Terry Adams’ loony hats and karate chops to the clavinet, the nightly draws from the Magic Box, exploding Cabbage Patch Dolls, otherworldly appearances by faux manager/wrestling goon Captain Lou Albano, all the while playing an everything-but-the- kitchen-sink brand of post-modern American music comprise some of the goo that made NRBQ stick so hard.