Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Miracle Legion Comes Back Quietly Through the Side Door

Summer 2011 sparked one of the most unlikely comebacks in college rock history. Miracle Legion's beloved off-shoot Polaris performed live for the first time ever* at a fan event for the Nickelodeon classic The Adventures of Pete and Pete in LA. Sticking mostly to the actual soundtrack from the show, many at the time assumed this was a one-off event, but the response propeled them to mount a series of well-received tours. In addition to the expected soundtrack songs, every show mixed in some extra treats for the more in-the-know fans. Seeing as how the band comprised 3/4 of the (1990-96) Miracle Legion lineup, classics like Madison Park, Storyteller, and Closer To The Wall were also put into the rotation. One would think after the years it took Mark Mulcahy, Dave McCaffery, and Scott Boutier to finally return the stage in the form of Polaris, that would be as far as it would ever go. Looking at their label, Mezzotint's, website (as of this writing), the only hint of any activity is the change of "Miracle Legion was" to "Miracle Legion is/was" in their bio, but over the past week a few blips have slipped out through social media.

The band's Facebook profile picture changed to newly enhanced cover art for 1996's long out-of-print Portrait of a Damaged Family, which is making its vinyl debut for this year's Record Store Day. This reissue comes 20 years after the original/only CD pressing, and no less than 12 years after this first was teased by Mezzotint's defunct As Far As We Know e-mail newsletter. Containing a strong, if not disparate, collage of tunes that would have fit right in on WART Radio (Madison Park) and re-recorded outtakes dating back to 1987 (Please), legitimate copies of this swan-song record have long eluded fans. This is due in part to the strange Science Sleuths style cases used being discontinued by the early 2000s, necessitating a redesign of the packaging, and in part to the decline in CD sales causing Mulcahy to question "how many people would actually buy a Miracle Legion CD". No further details of this reissue have developed, but one can expect it will remain readily available like every prior Mezzotint RSD release.

Now that Miracle Legion vinyl completeists will finally be able to exist, that leaves the matter of reunion shows. When I first saw Polaris live in 2014, I pretty much accepted the three of them, along with ace sideman Henning Ohlenbusch more or less filling in for Mr. Ray Neal, being the closest simulation of a Miracle Legion show to ever expect, but without much fanfare (or a single news outlet reporting), three UK dates were announced for Summer 2016. Days after, a lone US show was quietly posted (in Iowa of all places). Now, while I'm not above going all the way to the Midwest for a big-deal show by one of my favorite bands, I'm keeping my fingers crossed the next two weeks bring news of a full US tour. 

Miracle Legion have returned to the party quietly through the side door; here's hoping they make a stop in every room.

*Scott and Dave backed Mark at the 2005 Daffodil Festival in Merriden, CT but that doesn't count!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Rock Dentistry Densetsu

I vaguely recall a school lesson about bread in ancient Egypt. By vaguely I mean the only part I recall is something about how they would make bread with rocks in it. I asked the teacher why they would do such a thing and she responded, “poor dental hygiene”. You could imagine, if you had learned in school that bread was originally to include rocks in the dough, what a talking to that baker would get, for dentistry still had to occur before such reckless experimentation could be fiddled with. As such, one could make an argument that the conservative objections to rock and roll of the 1950s had less root in pious moral panic, and more in concerns over the dentist bill.

To understand this first let us consider the experience of a trip to the beach. Walking past a boardwalk  t-shirt stand, you may see several teen idol licenses you are not familiar with and assume their names are just strange sayings. In the same fashion that I originally assumed One Direction was some kind of motivational fad buzz-phrase, some preacher or school principle must have first been horrified at the idea of “all the teens in town getting on the road to the Hell that is the pre-masticated buffet”. The zeal must have been enough to prevent the sheepish audience from understanding the intended figurative use of the word Hell as a caution against the inability to eat solid foods.

What was meant to discourage tooth loss inducing bread-dumbness had instilled a religious vendetta in 1950's America against the kind of rock and roll that doesn’t necessitate dentures out of the box. That being said, the establishment would gradually accept rock and roll music and an observable turning point came when Brian Wilson declared he was “making real good bread” in The Beach Boys' 1964 hit “I Get Around”. This point of fact attests to the complete mis-attribution of his impact on rock and roll to that Pet Sounds/Smile hub-bub. It was indeed his straight talk to the self-deputized tooth cautioners that got us out of the days of grievances over “devil’s music” and in to the frontiers that would be the days of grievances over the youth being just a bunch dopers that are allergic to haircuts.