October 30th, 2021 7pm Stage 2
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Life In A Blender
For over 25 years, Life in a Blender has been the canvas for singer and songwriter Don Rauf's blackly comic landscapes. The group has released albums ranging from screaming punk to orchestrated chamber pop, and has brought the high theatrics of its live act to stages from Berlin to Austin to Toronto to Brooklyn and Seattle.
Don Rauf formed the band with high school friend Dave Moody (then bassist, now cellist), and within a couple of years had acquired the drumming services of Ken Meyer. Guitarist Al Houghton and bassist Mark Lerner joined in 1992, and violinist Rebecca Weiner Tompkins signed on in 1993. While the band's core lineup has remained remarkably constant for the past 18 years, the list of former members, guest artists, and collaborators includes Chris Butler (The Waitresses, Tin Huey), Chris Rael (Church of Betty), Jonathan Gregg, John Linnell (They Might Be Giants), Gavin Smith (Les Sans Culottes), Susan Hwang (Debutante Hour), Brian Dewan, and Olivier Conan (Chicha Libre, Las Rubias Del Norte).
Life in a Blender's "Friend from Quebec" was featured in Michael Moore's Canadian Bacon, and "Mobile Wash Unit" appeared in Sara Lamm's documentary, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox.
The band's most recent album, SATSUMA, is being released on November 20, 2020.
Riding high on a recent prolific streak, AGE OF ISOLATION marks an ambitious change of direction for the Mommyheads. While 2020's New Kings of Pop was an iron-fisted set of earthen prog-pop anthems, Age of Isolation is a decidedly chilly affair that is dominated by alienating synths and foreboding poetry. At times calling to mind a dystopian collaboration between ELO's Jeff Lynne and Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, the gloomy synth-laden aesthetic marks a first in the Mommyheads' already kaleidoscopic catalog.
Opener "TV Dinner" unfolds with the band's familiar cascading arpeggios and lilting melodic beauty but the chorus arrives with vocoded backing vocals, buzzing keys, and a slyly mocking hook: "it's okay to tune out and eat your TV Dinner,." The gentle pulse of "Am I Too Comfortable?" provides a poignant meditation on living a simpler life amidst the chaos of the modern era, adorned with moody chords and descending synth glimmers. The title track features a crawling 17/4 section with delicate harmonies and guitars that call back to the band's quaint indie masterpiece Bingham's Hole. The chorus resonates: "a serotonin imitation/welcome to the Age of Isolation."
There's a loose theme at play here: we're so preoccupied with being safe/secure that we're forgetting how to connect. Even the love songs like "Twists and Turns" ring with a desolate melancholy; sweetly romantic yet deeply haunting. This is the sound of a band attempting to breathe life into a mechanical, barren futurescape. And while that may sound foreboding, it's crucial to note that the countless earworm hooks, melodic invention, and sonic frenzy make all the desperation downright fun.