Life in a Blender – Homewrecker Spoon
Brooklyn-based Life in a Blender’s songwriter and singer Don Ralph is an illustrator who uses music in place of paint to reveal elusive nuances of thought, emotion and life. Back in their high school days over 25 years ago, Don Ralph was inspired to form a band with friend Dave Moody (now cellist with the group). By 1993, four other core band members had also signed on. They include Al Houghton (guitars, banjo, organ, piano, backing vocals, percussion), Ken Meyer (drums, cymbals, percussion), Mark Lerner (bass, mandolin, banjo, backing vocals), and Rebecca Weiner Tompkins (violin, viola). The band has a bizarre sense of humor, whimsical outlook on life, and charm. They no doubt have a cult following for their pop underground music that is melodic, inventive and clever.
To understand Don Ralph’s title cut on the band’s seventh album, we must first remember the nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle” in which the dish ran away with the spoon. Then remember how British artist/illustrator Randolph Caldecott anthropomorphized the utensils with the spoon in a dress with a big red bow. Finally, I start to gain some insight into how Don Ralph’s eccentric songwriting mind works. “Reminds me of Old Homewrecker Spoon, The nursery rhyme should have given you a clue.” In the song, I fully expected Tompkins to take off sawing her violin like a “cat and the fiddle,” but instead she provides some subtle chops that fit right into the song’s dynamic groove.
The colored pictures that Life in a Blender whips up are built upon lyrics, melodies and instrumental dynamics. Of special note are the arrangements that incorporate the horns of Jackie Coleman (trumpet), Kevin Moehringer (trombone), and Gavin Smith (alto sax). Ed Pastorini’s piano also appears on four tracks, three of which also have Jane Young’s backing vocals (“Summer Goes Too Fast,” “Sean Connery,” and “Homewrecker Spoon”). Thus, these three might be best choices for airplay, but I must confess a liking to the funky effects in “Hoot Owl” and “post-apocalyptic joy” in the uplifting, optimistic song “Juiciest Plum.” Lerner’s banjo is also especially effective in another song, “The Rain Makes Me Thirsty,” that might have also been inspired by a nursery rhyme. The song’s genesis includes brief interludes of instrumental gypsyjazz and finally a unique rocking flair. The title cut’s theme is revisited in “Silver Spoon” in which Don Ralph sings “Silver spoon, right since birth he’s put you to work, Why not rest a bit? It’s time for a switch, to my mouth.” He also presents a convincing case in “The Answer” that “I am the answer, Burning through every room in your brain.”
This is the kind of music that grows on you. It has a fair amount of complexities in arrangement, but at the same time it also conveys hints of playful childishness. It’s all presented with inimitable gusto in a manner that is interesting and provocative. I wonder what kinds of songs Don Ralph would come up with after studying additional rhymes and illustrations for such tales as The House that Jack Built, The Great Panjandrum Himself, or Sing a Song of Sixpence. They would surely be quirky, vivid and enlightening! (Joe Ross, CDInsight)