What kind of band — you may someday ask yourself while wandering through a desert with only an iPod and a gallon of piss strapped to your back — would release a 100-song album, appropriately titled Centennial, into the wild of a musical forest that requires only cricket singles and 10-song full-lengths for sustenance? A French band? The flag-waving has made you cynical, old friend.
Nevertheless, one must trace very little of our Fair City’s history to find the French Connection. It is, of course, right there in the name.
Les Debutantes are not a French but a Louisville band, an atavistic caucus of musicians who play cabaret and circus tunes that would’ve fit finely in France a centenary ago and should here, now, too. They’ve got a Frank Zappa bent for the unnatural arranging of key and guitar and a sardonic third eye for lyrics; song titles from Centennial include “You Can’t Fight the Irish (Why Would You Want To?)” and “Powerful Parlor Talk,” which in perfect irony contains no such talk, only talk of such talk.
For the first time since June the band takes the stage this weekend, marking the mighty return of drummer Charles Bailey and Danny Cash on guitar, along with the classic lineup: Brain trust J. Brent Stewart and J. Glen Reid splitting guitar and vocal duties, along with bassist/vocalist Meredith Noel. Stewart took a few minutes last week to address such important questions as these.
LEO: If you were Mayor, what would you do to help promote people like you in this city?
JBS: If I were Mayor, most of my time would probably be occupied trying to get really good seats at basketball games, publicly flogging Terry Meiners, having Don Russell sainted and commissioning a giant Gonzo fist statue to be erected downtown in honor of Louisville’s other favorite son.
If I had time left after all that, I’d have the Rudyard Kipling declared a historical landmark, with Ken and Sheila put on the fat city payroll to ensure that the doors always stay open and original music and theater are safe and supported in our city. Because if the Rud ever closes, we’re all screwed.
I’d also have an underground lair installed at Cave Hill cemetery, and at night I’d fight crime like The Spirit. I’d be an Action Mayor. Nothing against Mayorforlife Jer, but I don’t think he’d have much luck against a gang of armed ruffians.
LEO: Which Louisville musician needs to get more attention?
JBS: I’d say that if the Blowup In Japanese ever get their act together and release their full-length album, it will be the best rock record to ever come out of this burg. Of course, if they ever got their act together, they wouldn’t be the Blowup In Japanese, would they?
LEO: If music were food, what kind would yours be?
JBS: It would be a pair of edible underwear, filled with meat and cake, dusted with arsenic.
LEO: Tell me about one of your favorite works of art aside from your medium.
JBS: Although I’m really enjoying the music thing, and can’t imagine not doing it, film is what I’m really the most passionate about, and I know Glen shares that passion. We have similar taste in film, and it’s clearly reflected in our music.
We’re not exactly subtle about it either, like when Glen quotes directly from Nino Rota scores, or we ape Ennio Morricone or Goblin or whatever. Several songs are actually lyrically inspired by film as well, most notably “Otto E Mezzo (8 ?),” “Fitzcarraldo” and “Killer’s Kiss.” That one is a combined tribute to Kubrick and Steve Perry, so, you know, anything is possible.
I think a pretty direct line can be drawn between our music and Don Knotts, as well. (I’m thinking here the Andy Griffith and Disney years, not so much Three’s Company.)
LEO: What do you want to say that you know you shouldn’t?
JBS: Glen and I are both single, straight, intelligent, caring, sincere … and are not above abusing our power over our audience to encourage them to date us. You don’t have to date both of us at the same time. In fact, we’d prefer that you didn’t. Intelligent, amazing women, please submit your resume in person at our upcoming show. Thanks. P.S.: No crazy people.