M.F. Lunch and the Little Cotton Woolies

This month, my editor handed me two CDs that bands had sent to me to review, and it brought about a dilemma for me. Which do I choose to review first? Do I review the CD that has the best music? Do I review the band that actually plays here in town, or do I pick the band that has made it enough to tour in Houston? In the end, it came down to packaging. One band had a slick, environmentally-friendly CD case that tied, and it came with a very professional-looking press release giving a biography of the band. Impressive. The other CD was obviously locally-made, with a crinkled letter and a handwritten note on top stating, "Dear Carole – Hope you find this CD amusing – M.F. Lunch.” We had a winner.I love bands that don't take themselves seriously. The letter continued to state that the band M.F. Lunch and the Little Cotton Woolies is “a collective of psychedelic/punk/street musicians” who perform infrequently “in downtown Baton Rouge until they are asked by ‘authorities’ to leave.” Great! It also helped that the letter warned me that the band members are old – with an average age of sixty – and "vastly unattractive." This was a very kind warning, for when I opened the CD, I was not as shocked by the appearance of some of the band members, some of whom reminded me of the scared peasant people in apocalypse movies.

I flipped over the self-titled CD and took a look at the list of songs. Song one was called "Insects with Human Heads." What? Track three was entitled "Take It – It's Poison." Lovely.

Unsure of what I would find when I popped the CD into the player, but vastly entertained by the press release, I began to listen. The first track started out kind of bluesy, with vocals in the manner of that song "They Did a Bad Bad Thing," or whatever it's called. It was alright, and the lyrics were interesting to say the least. Never having dropped acid, I think this song may be the closest equivalent that I can aurally get to experiencing the phenomenon. It also mentioned insects more than any song ever should.

The second track, called "North Baton Rouge," with vocals by M.F. Lunch, was one of my favorites on the CD. It was much more cheerful-sounding than the previous track, and its genius could only be truly appreciated by those who have lived in Baton Rouge for any significant amount of time. I really loved the chorus that epitomized how I felt about Baton Rouge for several years until the city began to grow on me. It went, "One of these days, I'll move away. I'm tired of living alone. But until that very day, this wasteland is my home. This wasteland is my home." Sing it, brother.

On track six, female vocalist Zenobia Marsh is introduced. She has a gentle vocal style that reminds me of a mother who is singing her child a lullaby. Of course, that effect is totally marred by the lyrics she is singing. I preferred track seven, called "Marina." This is a lovely, melodic, slow song that rolled in a folksy style, similar to that of Simon and Garfunkle without the harmonies, and told about a prostitute named Marina. For me, this song is a good representation of most of the songs on the CD. The music is a strong and lulling listen, suitable for a quiet Sunday morning, except the lyrics keep kicking you in the teeth with their sheer strangeness and unexpectedness.

I liked this CD, but it took me a couple of listens before I truly began to appreciate the music, so I can see why the band says that local booking agents consider their music "not what people around here want to listen to." They do take a little concentration to listen to, and they are not danceable. Well, you might dance to them if you are stoned, but it wouldn't involve much more than twirling spastically as you try to catch one of the fairies that keeps flying around your body.

I do think that I am going to keep the CD as part of my collection, as I can see myself cruising to it on sunny days with the sunroof open, drinking a Mountain Dew®. I guess that’s because, in many ways, it reminds me of the odd and strange music I used to listen to with my friends in high school as we cruised around, enjoying what it felt like to be young and unemployed. The best song to do this to would be track eleven, "The Devil and Elmo Lewis." It's a strictly instrumental song and was one of my favorites.

If you are interested in checking out this band yourself, visit them online at www.myspace.com/mflunch. Their CD is also available at CD Baby and other online distributors, and they say they will soon be available as a digital download through iTunes and Rhapsody™. Don't you just love the digital age?

I also want to remind you that this is one of the best times of the year to live in Louisiana, as our two biggest music festivals are coming this month, and each is only an hour away: Jazz Fest in New Orleans and Festival International in Lafayette. Both have their own websites and can be easily found with any internet search engine, and each gives a list of the musicians and artists that will be playing. The only bad thing about these events is that both are always scheduled at the end of the month, at the same time. Jazz Fest’s lineup has more recognized musicians than Lafayette’s (my favorite artist, Harry Connick, Jr., is closing out the festival in New Orleans), but the one in Lafayette is free, whereas the one in New Orleans is not. Either is worth going to and an enjoyable way to spend a beautiful weekend day.