All I need is a catheter and lobotomy
Everything will be clean and clear and clutter-free
So begins the Bastard Fairies' first, and thus far, only album, Memento Mori. It was recorded on Garageband with kiddie instruments, after firebrand and all-around crazy chick Yellow Thunder Woman convinced musician and producer Robin Davey, formerly of British blues band The Hoax, to produce an album with her despite her frequently-declared dislike of musicians and most music. The two met after he produced an album for her brothers and sister (blues band Indigenous, and she doesn't like their music, either) and they co-produced a Native issues documentary together, The Canary Effect.
Thanks to its free release on the band's myspace page, and their presence on youtube, with mostly fabulous music videos featuring backup musicians in quirky costumes and Yellow Thunder Woman's
voluminous monstrous cleavage, the album had been downloaded nearly 50,000 times by March of 2007.
The melodies of the album (Davey's) are soft, childlike, even wistful; the lyrics not so much any of those. Yellow Thunder Woman, the lyricist, has a wicked sense of humor, and is acerbically political and unsparing in her social criticism.
Figuratively, you're hanging out with them, and they say a bunch of provocative shit, and mean it, and want to see the look on your face.
The tracks, what they sound like, and some lyrical highlights:
- The Greatest Love Song: The first song they wrote together, and the first one on the recorded album-- in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they left them in order. A rough paraphrase of the lyrical content could go something like this: Wouldn't love be easier without reproduction and independent thought and other people and interests? Sarcasm is frequent in this album. The low, hallowed tone of the verses contrasts with the refrain, which uses Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks-style backing vocals which make me cringe.
One of the things I love about this band is that when Yellow Thunder Woman sings, "la la la la", she doesn't do it because she's run out of lyrics, she does it because the narrator of her song is going, "la la la la".
- Apple Pie: The tone is bright and sunny like the narrator. This song is also heavily sarcastic, though I should note that they don't belabor the ironic intention-- it's obvious from the lyrics and she sings it straight (although it is kind of kitschy). I don't dig confrontation, I keep my mouth shut / but I'll lie to save my own ass. Catchy. No, really, it is.
- Habitual Inmate: A haunting, sweet song about OCD. Yellow Thunder Woman is fascinated with human psychology and how, as she puts it, "basically we're a bunch of robots". There's a fan-made video (they're cool with that) juxtaposing this song with 1953 footage from mental institutions. I wanted to quote some particularly sad and understanding lyrics, but I realized there aren't any-- the lyrics are pretty straightforward. It's all in the melody, the delivery and instrumentation.
- The Boy Next Door: 'Cause I slept around / when you thought I was yours / all that time I was with / I was with the boy next door. It makes no apologies. It is, in fact, autobiographical. And it's fun. And awesome. I'm also told it was used in an episode of The L Word.
- Ode to the Prostitute: The narrative voice is a prostitute, again, no moralizing. The instrumentation sounds Southwestern.
- We're All Going to Hell: A promotional video for this song, featuring an eight-year-old girl in a feather boa criticizing religion and conservative politics, was distributed on youtube, and achieved prominence after The O'Reilly Factor decided to feature it and its distribution as an outrageous example of child abuse. The rest of us found the whole thing kind of silly, especially after the band released a statement clarifying that the child was an actress, but it became one of the most-discussed videos on youtube and is likely responsible for the majority of their publicity.
The lyrics do what it says on the tin: All you Catholics wearing condoms, you are going to hell / All us fatties eating bonbons, we are going to hell / Unbaptized babies learn to limbo, purgatory is hell / And your religion is a gamble and you are going to hell... The official video, released much later, is literal and kind of juvenile; bad animation of a bunch of celebrities going to hell. There's a bizarre and inexplicable coda about Menelik II of Ethiopia at the end.
- Everyone Has A Secret: Rough lyrical paraphrase #2: I have a secret which will soon be the end of me. The arrangement is spooky, for lack of a better word, and spot-on.
- Moribund: The saddest song I know. The saddest song I could even conceive of. The impersonality of medical institutions and procedures is a motif in several of these songs. The whole thing is a lyrical highlight, but I'll stick to this verse: Give me morphine just to take away the pain / I asked the doc how long I've got but he couldn't say / Take my appendix 'cause I think it's going bad / Take my frontal lobe 'cause I think I'm going mad. It's narrated by a kid.
- A Venomous Tale: Also sounding Southwestern in a way I don't really have the music theory to explain. Everything I said was a lie / But you don't understand / I make you a man / 'cause you want me / and you need me / just like you . The music video features a creepy clown and Yellow Thunder Woman looking seductive on a bed, in a hot tub, and sitting around the kitchen table with a bunch of costumed oddos.
- Guns and Dolls: An entirely out-of-left field lyrical whatsit discussing guns and dolls, and how the narrator's obsession with them is ruining her life. But, you know, playful. Very much arranged as a folk song-- it's just vocals and an acoustic guitar. Beware of the way it lodges itself in yer brain.
- Memento Mori: The title track. If you didn't already know, memento mori are artistic creations intended to remind us of our own mortality. That's what this song is, and I hate to use the word uplifting, but it once brought me to happy, exhilarated tears for several days during an uncomfortable period of time when I was constantly aware of life's absurdity. I cannot remember any of its lyrics apart from the refrain: Eat, drink, and be merry / For tomorrow you may be dead.
- Ten Little Indians: Yep, it's the children's song. Sung by a Native American, with its confirmed messed-up racial history ('Indians' was what replaced the n-word in that song, when it became unacceptable) and additional rumors that the song started out as a celebration of Indian genocide (it does traditionally count down after it counts up) it makes a chilling point, and bookends the album nicely. It also has the effect of reminding the listener that the whole thing was written and recorded in a week.
They don't actively book gigs, and one attempt to do the concert thing at LA's Viper Room ended with Yellow Thunder Woman leaving in a huff after a confrontation with the bouncer. The duo has also performed some cover songs (like "Brand New Key", "Bad Moon Rising", and "Whatever", a parody of a parody song that eclipses its predecessor) released an extended version of the album, for-pay, with five bonus tracks, and produced promotional videos and at least one photography collection.
This information came from the Bastard Fairies' own myspace and youtube blogs (apparently, they've abandoned their independent site), two interviews, one with Simon Thorn, the other with Morley Seaver, for wickedinfo.com and antimusic.com, respectively, a news item from pluginmusic.com, and All Music Guide. I peeked at their Wikipedia page, but there's nothing here from there that isn't from somewhere else here, if that makes sense. Please do /msg me if you have corrections, additions, or suggestions.