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THE LOW TIDE OF SUMMER'S PRELUDE


If the Louisiana beaches didn't suck so bad, it's exactly the kind of song I'd put on my "head to the beach" mixtape.


If the Louisiana beaches didn't suck so bad, it's exactly the kind of song I'd put on my "head to the beach" mixtape.

originally published: March, 2007

THE LOW TIDE OF SUMMER'S PRELUDE

The Zincs
Black Pompadour
(Thrill Jockey)

Summer means something a little larger to Southerners than is does the rest of America. In Louisiana, summer comes on not like a promise but an inevitability, a six-month houseguest that will travel with you everywhere- to work, to the bathroom, to bed- summer will be here. I lived in a converted attic room of an old house for a while, and when I would get home from work, I'd have to start running up the stairs, because the little antechamber at the landing would usually swell to 120 degrees with a humidity level comparable to the consistency of stick butter. I'd plough through it, shear off my work clothes into shorts and a t-shirt, already drenched, flip on my battered window unit AC and get the fuck out, hoping it would knock my room down to a comfy 85 by the time I dragged by drunk ass to bed. It was miserable but glorious in its bohemian splendors. Anyway, the reason for this intro is to say it has become important to me to have some summer music lined up, and just like this time last year, James Elkington and his Zincs have started the season right.

The zincsBlack Pompadour has a lot of the same qualities that lat summer's Dimmer exhibited: Elkington's sleepy baritone, a slight lounge combo swing to it, and some exquisite complementary twinkling guitar work. This year, the band has added some more texture to their mix, like a horn section through the particularly jazzy (but not jazz - much of the time I defer to Yo La Tengo's take on fake jazz over the real thing) "Hamstrung and Juvenile." The opener "Head east Kaspar" is like Stereolab done lothario-style, the bass and drum lines popping up and dropping off like telephone poles on a breezy back highway drive. If the Louisiana beaches didn't suck so bad, it's exactly the kind of song I'd put on my "head to the beach" mixtape. Having a mixtape like that with no beach is just cruel, and I just don't seek out that kind of self-flagellation any more. I prefer the lighter more delicate flavor of melancholy.

Melancholy permeates this whole things, real melancholy, life affirming happy-sadness that makes you simultaneously feel smart for surviving it all and yet in touch with your fragile humanity. "Coward's Corral" provides a moment of crime jazz boogie amidst a sea of melancholy, namely the twilit majesty of "Lost Solid Colors" and "Rich Libertines." Elkington's ennui almost swallows him whole on these songs, but bolstered by the effortless laid back genius of "The Mogul's Wives" all balance it out. It has the kind of insouciance about it that Serge Gainsbourg's duet with Bridget Bardot, "Bonnie and Clyde" (a song I am tempted to label as perfect in design and goal) has. It's a song I could see playing on a yacht, gazing across stretches of bay as I reach absently for my margarita. Not a moment of extreme decadence, but the resolute knowledge that one is in a good place right this second. And judging from the sweat after having to finally break out the weedeater, the fingertips of summer's hand grazing my shoulders before it circles my throat, I know I'm in a good spot with this pouring from my speakers.

Alex V. Cook

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com

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