The Tuxedomoon Chronicles BOOK reviewed by Jaye Beldo
Dec 1, 2008, 03:37
MUSIC FOR VAGABONDS: THE TUXEDOMOON CHRONICLES by Isabelle Corbisier; OpenMute, 2008
Emerging out of the ashes of the '60s psychedelic scene as well a punk rock scene of the 70's that was already in rapid decline, Tuxedomoon stood as one of the most unique musical ensembles on par with such theatrical oddities as The Residents, MX-80, Renaldo and the Loaf and the late Snakefinger himself. Staking a claim in foggy netherworld fringes, Tuxedomoon was a substantial element in the San Francisco scene that gave birth to a bewildering variety of performance artists, poets and musicians. As an example of their patented outlandishness, Tuxedomoon composed a most disturbing tune about weather modification that can be found on their album "Half Mute" and which contains the uplifting lyrics: "They're seeding the clouds today, watch, nothing's going to go your way." A haunting anthem for those concerned about chemtrails, HAARP generated hurricanes, tornadoes and other â€˜natural' disasters that currently proliferate the earth. In light of such an inherent lack of commercial potential, Tuxedomoon would have most likely fallen into the inevitable side street of obscurity if it weren't for the prodigious efforts of Belgium author Isabelle Corbisier. Her book Music for Vagabonds: The Tuxedomoon Chronicles serves as an auditory travelogue through a pleasantly bizarre, inter-dimensional, wormhole ridden landscape that the band has woven over the years. An amply fascinating compendium, Corbisier successfully brings Tuxedomoon back to full life, if not a well-deserved prominence in the world of the unique and unparalleled. The author offers us a lucid and gratifying take on one of the most innovative and mercurial ensembles ever to perform. (One only need to experience Tuxedomoon's pre-MTV music video, "Jinx," to see just how far ahead of their time they were in making art out of the collective shadow.) Music for Vagabonds helps to bring these future bound musicians hooked on warp drive back into present day focus, where we can appreciate them both retrospectively as well as prospectively. Chock-full of photos of such art notables as Winston Tong, Stephen Brown, and Peter Principle, the reader is treated to an expanded, telescopic insight into the provably stellar genius of these performers. There are many anecdotes here as well that describe the experiences of the band, living on the utter cusp of the musical mainstream and managing to survive and at times thrive as well during their many tours of both Europe, America and elsewhere.
The Tuxedomoon Chronicles truly comes to life when we make an attempt to value and incorporate such downplayed things as uniqueness, innovativeness and fearlessness—for that's what these musicians have exhibited, going up against the bastion of corporate rock which only crushes originality and the spirit behind it as well. Corbisier's book could have used a bit of editing, i.e., tightening up of its journalistic prose, as some of the sentences are complicated and at times hard to follow. However, it is a literary brew still worth delving into, particularly for those who may have all but forgotten (or never heard of) one of the most astonishing time periods in the otherwise lost world of art rock. In a time period where so-called alternative/independent music has been infiltrated by the corporate powers that be, it is even more important to bring back to life something as curious and bewildering as Tuxedomoon. The Tuxedomoon Chronicles most certainly succeeds in doing this and as such, should have prominent placement on your musical bookshelf.
FYI: Among many other things, Jaye writes for Mysteries Magazine, Girls and Corpses and Paranoia. He has discussed his work on BBC and Capital Radio London, WGN Radio Chicago and Red FM Ireland. Please check out his website here.