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Calm Down Juanita - Undertown

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By: Justin Asher
Calm Down Juanita, Undertown, Seattle,
Album Rating:
10

Undertown is by local Seattle's own Calm Down Juanita. Never heard of them? Neither has anyone else, on the web I can only find a radio play list or two from the early aughts in Seattle that mentions them. Otherwise, all I can say is that this really psychedelically inclined guy named Kevtone used to come to Johnny Dowd Shows in Seattle and get the party started with a crew of his delightfully trouble making friends (this memory could also be of other Seattle people who were there at the same time as Kevtone and actually weren't in his crew, but he just had a don like quality to him). He was a treasure trove of musical conversation and apparently played with Camper Van Beethoven (no record of this on the web). I also sort of remember he had a girlfriend that always ended up trying to beat the shit of him by the end of the night, maybe it wasn't him, maybe someone in his crew, but I remember the girlfriend really throwing down full strength, closed fists, chin down and no shrieking, like a real boxer. He hooked me up with today's second blast, it's the album "Undertown" by his band Calm Down Juanita. He played all the drums and bonkers synths, which is one of the many highlights of this super solid album. It's best to start with a comparison to Flaming Lips because both bands are kindred spirits of the 90s punks-are-taking-acid scene that distinguished itself from the cornier phish-hippy crowd with more aggressive music and a less precious view of having your head messed up. From there, they diverge from the Lips in a sexy way. While the F L's music is closer to a poppy zeppelin with it's big boomy drums, singy dingy choruses and chirpy singing, Calm Down Juanita goes for the later period Marvin Gaye style of making music. Tracks unfurl as if they're stream of consciousness, but not disconnected from songfullness. You can sing along but they're not verse, verse, chorus, rinse, repeat, it feels more like a thought expressed in a baritone, occasionally falsetto, pillow talk and slurry voice that begins, happens and then ends. This cool vocal situation is surrounded by a band that makes sure every part is acid-y, slinky and soulful with frequent surprises. there's even a rapper on track 11 and it's completely alright. I guess there's no real single on it which could be among the many reasons they never really went anywhere but who the hell knows, maybe they're all dead. Kevtone, if you're out there, your album rules, hope you're well.

 

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