REVIEW: Ral Partha Vogelbacher: The More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes Are Hiding In My Toilet Again
Ral Partha Vogelbacher: The More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes Are Hiding In My Toilet Again [Megalon, 2002]
Three words? Gently silly lofi.
This record is called The More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes Are Hiding In My Toilet Again. You didn't read wrong. The More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes Are Hiding In My Toilet Again. This is why I love independent music. Can you imagine the conversation around the table at EMI Marketing HQ, if Ral Partha Vogelbacher was signed there?
EMI Associate VP Marketing, Zak Spillay: I like it! I like it a lot! You've got that whole 'garage' thing going. Fuzzed out. Short. The White Stripes meets Nick Drake. You know, the guy from those Volkswagen commercials?
Ral Partha Vogelbacher guy Chadwick Bidwell: Yeah, uh. I'm a big Five Leaves Left fan.
EMI Director [Alternative], Sasha Kull: I like "Pink Moon".
Zak: "Pink Moon" is amazing! [ high-fives Sasha ] You're the man, Sasha! Yes! "Pink Moon"! Pink pink pink pink pink pink moon...
Chadwick: Either of you guys ever hear the cover by Sebadoh? From Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock? They do it all hardcore and crunchy.
Zak: Is that an album name? "Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock"? Jesus Christ.
Sasha: Christ Almighty.
Zak: Yeah. Seriously. Musta been Jerry. Yeah?
Sasha: Definitely Jerry.
Zak: Yeah, Jerry Carruthers. Associate Director, Marketing, at Sony. Big fan of the long titles.
Sasha: Helloo Fiona Apple.
Zak: Fiona who?
[ laughter. High-five. ]
Zak: Okay, so, you got a title? I'm thinkin'... Purple Sun. No no... Not gritty enough. You've got serious fuzz on that disc, man.
Chadwick: We had decided on The More Nice Fey-
Sasha: Grease Fang.
Sasha: Grease. Fang.
Zak: Sasha, that's fucking awesome. That's. Fucking. Awesome!
Sasha: Ral presents: Grease Fang.
Chadwick: Ral Partha Vogelbacher. And the rest of the band had decided on The F-
Zak: Yeah- I like that. 'Ral.' Like 'Prince'. None of that Partha Vogelbacher shit. Grease Fang. Killer. Bat-killer. Get some matted-up wolf for the cover...
Sasha: Or a black guy with opaque contact lenses.
Zak: Opaque contact lenses! You're fucking on fire today, Sasha!
Sasha: And silver tattoos. Who's taking a dump on the Strokes album.
Chadwick: We already decided on an album name.
Chadwick: We know what we want to call it already.
Sasha: [ winking, forming a gun with this thumb and index finger, shooting it at Chadwick ] Grease Fang.
Chadwick: No, uh. [ looks at his notes ] The More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes Are Hiding In My Toilet Again.
[ Silence. ]
Zak: You want to use the word 'toilet'?
Zak: 'Fey'!?! Do you fuckin' know what "fey" means!?
Chadwick: It's because the whole record is the story of an elf called Sadko. He hates the sun at first, but then grows resigned and tries to help his fellow gnomes. He becomes legendary, you know? That last song - "Vasilador! Sadko! Vasilador!"-
Sasha: That's the instrumental?
Zak: We fuckin' hate the instrumental.
Chadwick: Well, it's played when Sadko returns from the battle with the insectoids over taxation.
[ Silence. ]
Chadwick: Madko and Badko tell the whole story after they're shoo'ed from the toilet.
[ Silence. ]
Chadwick: Hence the title. The More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes Are Hiding In My Toilet Again. [ He smiles optimistically. ]
Zak: Get the fuck out.
But that didn't happen; instead, Ral Partha Vogelbacher signed with Megalon, a little label with outstanding taste, and so here we are - enjoying the disc as it was meant to be, replete with the heavy-as-elephant-butter title.
The More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes Are Hiding In My Toilet Again is a gentle, sprightly little album. It is delightful afternoon fare - zingy bedroom folk with echoes of Damien Jurado, the Beta Band, and a heavy dose of Lou Barlow indie fuzz. The band, album and track names ("The Sunshine Hates Sadko's Guts and Wants to Eat His Brains", "Cartweels With the Princess During the Siege (In The Rain)", "Sadko Seeks the Oracle of Rockathon", etc.) are entirely absurd and rather pretentious, but by expending so much silliness in the dressings, the music is left clean, likable, and rather less cartoony than the average Guided By Voices record. The group weaves ambient atmospherics over plucky acoustic ballads, raising and lowering the tension as double-tracked vocals jerk from whinsome verses to happy choruses. The guitar is a consistent pleasure to listen to - simple and pleasing, like the soundtrack for a tree-filled daydream. The album's best track, "Cheap Vodka Knights", puts snappy, pitter-patter percussion under a wagon-bouncing acoustic melody, then lurching off the track into a fierce, 'look me in the eyes!' moment. There's a great deal to like in these twenty-five minutes, and from the green album cover to the conceptual back-story, this could well be described as music for garden gnomes - kind, unburdened songs for lolling in the grass, running fingers through soil, and watching beetles as they lumber between tulips.