Playbill: Eugene Chadbourne
All hail the inventor of the electric rake! Though the unearthly clatter of the amplified yard implement may be Eugene Chadbourne's oddest claim to fame, chances are it isn't his most remarkable. The completist's nightmare that is Chadbourne's official discography spans three decades and lists more than 130 releases, featuring songs by the Beatles, Bach and Beefheart , and including collaborations with everyone from John Zorn to They Might Be Giants to Corrosion of Conformity.
Chadbourne's music is usually classified as avant-garde, a term perhaps suggested by album titles such as Ayler Undead, Country Music in the World of Islam and Jesse Helms Busted With Pornography. Its basis, however, lies in rock, bluegrass, jazz and protest music, all of which Chadbourne deconstructs and reconfigures into a unique idiom that simultaneously parodies and celebrates roots music. He splits the difference between Zappa's overdetermined pop jokes and Negativland's cornball culturejamming, but with an innocence and an earnest, joyous folksiness that recalls British folk-punks the Mekons, or especially his longtime bandmates in Camper Van Beethoven.
Far more important than that electric rake are the banjo and the guitar, which sing for Eugene like down-home devils on a sunny back porch in Hell. The Chadbourne catalog bursts with phrases that could be used to name his singular style - "Redneck Jazz?" "LSD C&W?" "Shockabilly?"- but the best one, sadly, has already been appropriated for the movement that prefers the tag "Naturalismo:" this is real folk, made by a real freak. - Daniel Mee
Eugene Chadbourne performs Saturday, March 10, at Super Happy Fun Land, 2610 Ashland, 713-880-2100.
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