Phish covering They Might be Giants; X collide with XTC; The Mighty Mighty Bosstones in a bar brawl with Camper Van Beethoven; these are only vague pointers towards a decription of PopCanon's sound. An unsigned band hailing from Gainesville Florida, PopCanon have carved a niche all their own, with offbeat elements of jazz, ska, klezmer and country spicing an already tasty brew of muscular pop rhythms, bizarre time signatures, and clever college-radio hooks. Eclecticism seems to be their watchword, and their lyrics reflect this as well, covering a wide range of unusual subjects that include semantics, astral projection, sexual positions, and postmodern literature. Indeed, their first CD, The Kingdom of Idiot Rock, contains songs built around the likes of Borges, Pynchon, Derrida, Coover, Descartes, and Joyce.

"Bloomsday" from The Kingdom of Idiot Rock

A peculiar song that juxtaposes Bloomsday with a birthday "crucifixion," this song rolls along on a bubbling riff built upon a solid bass line and driven by a muted but precise horn section. Like many PopCanon songs, it goes through several unpredictable changes until the song is stripped of all but drums, bass, and voice for the unsettling "Iron Nails Ran In" passage. The rest of the band kicks back in, and the song flows immediately into "Labyrinths," a song about Borges that manages to rhyme "tetragrammaton" with "Tlön."
The rest of the CD is likewise as odd, surprising, and enjoyable. Mastered by Mark Pinske, Frank Zappa's recording engineer (who claims "Frank would have liked this,") the whole CD is a tour de force of postmodern delights. The music is all over the chart, but never sacrifices musicianship or originality for a cheap thrill -- these guys do not slum for effect, they pretty much treat everything as a challenge and then they rise to it with a Zappa-like sense of cheerful skill. The lyrics are clever and mordantly funny; but you have to keep up -- PopCanon is just as likely to sing about Wanda Tinasky and Derrida as they are about incestuous threesomes and frolicking dolphins.



Your Bloomsday party started
With rising Telemachus.
Your birthday crucifixion was causing a ruckus.
But I couldn't look at you
Without feeling sick.
The scene supported you, but I said
Bloomsday must be doomsday this year.

You suffered in your silence
As we passed around the Guinness.
I must admit your stoicism started to win us.
But I still couldn't look at you
Without feeling
The scene supported you, but I said
Bloomsday must be doomsday this year.

You stood there looking down upon us
With your drunken grin.
In the land of the Lotus-Eaters, Leopold Bloom said
"Iron Nails Ran In."

The scene supported you but I said
Bloomsday must be doomsday this year.

Notes from the Band

I asked the band if they could provide some notes on the song. . . . and it turns out that the song is a wee bit more literal than I had originally thought:

Ned Davis:
The crucifixion you mention in quotes ('crucifixion') REALLY happened -- someone ACTUALLY nailed himself to a cross while nearby, others read the entirety of Ulysses aloud. Gainesville's an odd town -- but i'm sure dave will fill you in.

David Hornbuckle:
Indeed, it would be a beautiful metaphor and a much more universal story I suppose if the 'crucifixion' in 'Bloomsday' were a metaphor of some kind, but, as Ned mentioned, the song is actually very literal.
We were having a Bloomsday reading at a local art gallery as typically happens in mid-June in college towns. I had arranged to read the fourth chapter, "Lotus-Eaters" but attended most of the other readings (As you may know, reading Ulysses aloud takes approximately 25 to 30 hours. I believe I left a couple of times during the cycle to eat or rest).
Across the parking lot, there stood at that time a ramshackle punk rock club by the name of the Hardback Cafe (a fittingly ironic name for this story, don't you think?). One of the bouncers at the club -- Patrick was his name -- was having a birthday party which had, of course, been much more widely publicized than our silly little reading, the reason being that Pat intended to crucify himself at midnight. He had had a cross built of wood and arranged for a professional body piercer to be on hand.
Around the time chapter three was beginning, I slipped out of the art gallery to find out the progress of the party. There was quite a crowd gathering in the little club, but nothing had happened yet. I waited around a few minutes. Just before I headed back, Pat was led into the room and placed down on the cross.
I couldn't watch, partly because it was sickening and partly because I felt I had more responsibility to Joyce than to this spectacle. After all, we were taping the reading... and timing it. It was a rather self-indulgent night all around.
When I got back to the gallery, word had already gotten around that the crucifixion was starting and everybody (I mean everybody) left the room. At that point, it was my time to read. I dutifully sat down to read my chapter.
I delighted in remembering as I read out loud to myself that 'Lotus Eaters' is the chapter where Bloom sits in a cathedral, meditates on the Catholic ceremony and concludes that INRI stands for 'iron nails ran in.'

Don The saxophone player here.
As an additional note, I ditched Dave's reading to watch the crucifixion (hey, they taped it, I can always listen to it later) They let everyone in until it was packed, warned everyone theat they had better leave or they wouldn't be able to. Then they chained the doors shut (hello fire inpector). Pat made a speech about it being all about "new beginnings" or some such thing. then everyone cheered and was rowdy until they put him on the cross. His arms were tied in four places. He's a big guy, and the nails woulda ripped right through otherwise. They also mailed in the meaty part of his hand, not the more biblically correct space just below the wrist between the arm bones. But whatever. He didn't cry out as his friend Danarchy drove the nails in (way better than that blubbering "why have you forsaken me, father?" jesus) It was very quiet as they raised him up. He didn't complain at all until theyput the crown of thorns on his head "get the thorns off, get the thorns off!" and they did. then they took him done,pulled the nails out very carefully, and covered them with lots of paper towels (the scratchy brown kind) i shook his hand the next day, and the holes were already healing up. So that's the whole story as I remember it.

PopCanon II

PopCanon on the Libyrinth

Labyrinths -- This jazzy homage to Borges is found at the Garden of Forking Paths.

The Treasure of the Temple -- This song, inspired by Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, is featured on Porta Ludovica.

Wanda Tinasky -- Is Wanda Tinasky really Thomas Pynchon? Detailed at Spermatikos Logos.

Links/CDs/Sound Samples

PopCanon has yet to be signed by a major label, but they have been developing quite a following in Florida, and they support themselves vigorously through newsletters, mailing lists, and a full Web page. You can visit the PopCanon Web Page here, where you can learn more about the band and purchase their CDs.

Here is a sample of reviews of Kingdom. They definitely make for some fun reading. . . .

You can also purchase The Kingdom of Idiot Rock directly online from CD.Baby.com:

The Kingdom of Idiot Rock
$10.00. Pop Canon / Audio CD / Released 1997


PopCanon Earth Headquarters
POB 14872
Gainesville, FL 32604
Hot Line: (352) 377-8978
E-mail: popcanon@popcanon.com
PopCanOnLine: www.popcanon.com

--A. Ruch
15 December 2000
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