We is Verbena
We never talk to strangers
We still do what our parents tell us
We live in Birmingham, Alabama
We sound like stupid, shit-kickin' Alabama kids
We'd like one day to have our own jet with a picture of a unicorn painted on it
We have seen a group analyst
We choose never to look on the bright side when we can always look on the
dark side and never be disappointed
We met at an inhalers anonymous meeting
We recorded our album with Dave Grohl (as seen on TV)
Birmingham is a pleasant place to live because it's not Mississippi
We think church is fun because they give out wine and crackers
We know who Bill W. is, but none of us would consider him a friend
We signed to Capitol because out of all record labels, they have the dopest building
We don't need no education
We don't understand all this talk about the death of rock, because technically speaking, it's not a carbon-based life-form and wasn't alive in the first place
We are influenced by: single parents, cancer (not the sign of the zodiac), bad music, bad times, flowers, cable TV, plastic surgery, crime, Curious George, Creedence, Foxy Brown, Marc Bolan, Elmore James, Minor Threat, Andy Gibb,
still more loud gay sex, books with pictures, loneliness.
It may be so, as the great one claimed, that Sun Ra came from Saturn. But only by way of Birmingham. And though we're reasonably sure no interstellar travel was required, Fitzgerald's search for his Zelda led him ultimately through Birmingham. The town was known for much of the last century as the most segregated in America, home to both the nation's largest chapter of the KKK and perhaps the 60's most notorious law enforcement villain, sheriff Bull Connor. It has seen landmark bombings punctuate each of our most bitter civic debates, at the 16th Street Baptist Church ('66) and thirty-odd years later at the New Woman's Clinic. And for decades astride, Red Mountain, on the city's south side, a 55 ft - 60 ton iron statue called Vulcan used a gleaming torch to tally overnight traffic fatalities.
Long before any of that, for reasons still unclear, some cockeyed seer tagged it "The Magic City".
To the south, about halfway between Birmingham and Montgomery, just a few miles east of the interstate, lies Verbena, pop. 3702. Named for a flowering purple herb, Verbena, AL provided 1860's sanctuary for thousands fleeing the deadly yellow fever epidemic that gripped the nearby towns, just about 100 years before Sun Ra supposed a more celestial liberation via "Magic City" blues.
Rock'n'roll Verbena (vrrr-bee'-na/pop.3) got its first whiff of escape courtesy the good people at Merge Records, an EP combining two self-released 7-inches leading to the 1997 full-length debut, Souls For Sale. Predictable regimen of touring followed, and so the attention of some big record labels. Into The Pink, produced by Dave Grohl, marked their Capitol records bow in '99.
What's made plain through the records and the seven year's transit, is that there is, of course, no exit: the South has dug a proud scar across the band and its mongrel punk blues. La Musica Negra, as produced by Rob Schnapf (Beck, Guided By Voices, Elliot Smith), takes its fury mostly from the ancient Bible-country conflict betwixt the pious and the prurient. Where immortal hellhounds trailed and devoured the forefathers of the blues (and its hillbilly seed, rock'n' roll), Scott Bondy's 21st Century update surely doesn't see those dogs go hungry.
"Me & Yr Sister", "Devil in Miss Jones", and "All the Saints" crawl up from a haunted Delta tradition, where familiar demons--distilled, sexual and chemical--seldom stop to rest. "Killing Floor (Get Down On It)", and "I, Pistol" mock the Bush II brute American burlesque, as "Way Out West" (much like "The Desert" on Souls), "Camellia" and "Dirty Goodbyes" take different paths to refuge.
La Musica Negra is the band's first without a contribution from Anne Marie Griffin, as remaining founders Bondy (guitar, vocals) and Les Nuby (drums) team here with Nick Daviston (bass) on all 13 tracks. The son of a working jazz musician and lifelong resident of Birmingham, Daviston has been heard to wonder lately whether this might be his ticket out.
Maybe so. And maybe someone plays piano in a joint somewhere on Saturn.
Thanks to Dreambaby for submitting the biography.
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