Bite the Wax Tadpole in the ’80s, making hypothermia fashionable. Left: Darren Smith. Right: Mark Dery, sporting what some claim is a mullet, but which he will insist, to his dying breath, is not.
Discreetly buried on this site, at the end of an interminably long, shamelessly self-aggrandizing biographical blurb written in the Bob Dole-ian third person, is an embarrassing admission:
Long, long ago, in a universe far, far away, [Dery] pulled off a passable impersonation of a male Patti Smith during his brief-lived career as a performance poet. Since 1985, he has collaborated with the composer/multi-instrumentalist Darren Smith as one half of the music/spoken word duo Bite the Wax Tadpole.)
Bite the Wax Tadpole sprang from the homebrew cassette revolution and Manhattan’s downtown music scene. Although we played a few East Village art-club gigs (with Sophie B. Hawkins sitting in on drums), we mostly toured Smith’s Jersey City bedroom, recording songs on a four-track tape deck.
As I write on our newly launched WordPress site:
This was music made by men in small rooms, with all the twitchy-eyed intensity that implies. Smith, a virtuoso who had studied South Indian vocal music, Balinese gamelan, and electric banjo (with Peter Tork of The Monkees!), proved an ideal foil for Dery, a chronic word-aholic whose spoken-word performances were somewhere between William S. Burroughs’s deadpan monologues and Jack Nicholson’s scenery-chewing rants in The Shining. The landmarks on Smith’s mental map ranged from Bartok to Bollywood, Ice Cube to Meredith Monk; Dery’s influences were the Killer B’s: Burroughs, Bowles, and Ballard. Together, the pair made music full of dark humor and quantum weirdness, with a dream logic all its own.
Why am I telling you this?
Because Bite the Wax Tadpole’s new CD, Turn Me On, Dead Man—the title is taken from the backwards phrase in The Beatles’ “Revolution 9”—is NOW AVAILABLE FOR THE RISIBLY MEAGRE SUM OF $10 (in the continental U.S.)
Five Reasons You Must Order a Copy of Turn Me On, Dead Man :
1. Sixty-nine minutes (and two seconds!) of chewy nougat and chocolate-y goodness. It’s flavoriffic!
2. A six-page CD booklet, printed on high-quality paper(!), overstuffed with lyrics and commentary on the disk’s 17 songs, and featuring the ironic yet insouciant graphic design of Carlos Morera. Buy this stunningly designed artifact of the Late Caligulan phase of the Bush imperium for Morera’s work alone; sell it on eBay a decade from now, when your 401k has turned to ash and you’re spending your retirement as a minimum-wage barista at Starbuck’s.
3. Bite the Wax Tadpole builds Vocabulary Power! Can you define “magnificat,” soldier? How about “skirl”? Or “trepan”? Or “lancet”? This is the only CD intended to be listened to with a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary handy. Hell, it’s the only CD featuring vocals by a writer cited in the OED! (See “technopagan.”) The only collection of alt.huh? songs that includes a tune about a febrifuge. (Look it up, sailor. Or you could just…buy the CD!)
4. Forget Cultural Literacy; Turn Me On, Dead Man contains enough grad-student literary allusions, obscure historical references, smartypants wordplay, knowing riffs on pop culture, and deadpan meta-whatever to give Jacques Derrida a spastic colon.
5. Where else can you hear a full-tilt rocker about a tyrannical boss who thunders, “You’re gonna be a dissected crayfish, and I’m gonna be the man in surgeon’s greens wiping your entrails across my lapels”? A bizarre monologue by a worker on some David Lynchian assembly line (or is it a slaughterhouse?) that churns out an unspeakable product involving creatures with “sucking discs on the tops of their heads”? A musical suicide note, narrated by the Nazi nudnik Rudolph Hess? A techno elegy about the sinking of the Titanic, set to a sampled loop and sung by the ship itself (“A prunefaced corpse, his features blurring, sits crosslegged on the ceiling of my ballroom, warming his hands by the chandelier”)? I’m just sayin’…
Did I mention that you can BUY IT NOW?