Plaid-Tongued Devils / Belladonna

trivial cover Plaid-Tongued Devils / Belladonna
PTD CD4, 2002

Although earlier albums claimed influences including almost every Western folk music form, including klezmer, the frequently ska-dominated rock-tinted pop of the Plaid Tongued Devils is interesting, danceable, and delightful on its own terms. Indeed, the lyrics sometimes feel as though they are a similar salad, as on the opening Flea Circus: "... I can kill you with a soda and mayonnaise heard about it on the information highway."

That doesn't stop all of those other influences from appearing subversively throughout the songs, but there is no longer the faux "ska from somewhere in transylvania" overlay of the earlier "Klezskavania" (which is still a fun album). A quick violin solo (the violin playing is superb) will hark to balkan melody or a bit of eastern dance rhythm. But these are only influences that, along with the lyrics, ensure that this particular band never gets stuck in that thumpa thumpa boring bar rock rut.

One of my favorites is the ska "Na Na Na Boo Boo" which avoids none of the male post-adolescent angst of the lyrics, but relieves the general ennui with a perfectly delightful light-hearted beat and a lovely female post-adolescent dissing session before the last chorus.

I really enjoy the instrumental segments. "Tripas de la Mariposa" is a gentle southern piece; "Miserlou", played on an oddly tuned (for this piece) hammer dulcimer, then sequing into a cover of the Dick Dale surf rock version. Periodically this album reminds me of the Ben Folds Five, although with a sound and lyrics that are somewhat more ponderous, and perhaps less witty. That isn't necessarily bad. The most important part is the beat that never stops. Like the ska (or klezmer) part of their roots, this is music that never forgets about dancing. It's not klezmer, but it's worth checking out.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 7/3/04

Personnel this recording:
Jonathan Lewis: violin, viola, farfisa, mandolin, vocals
Jon McNeil: drums & percussion
Ty Semaka: lead vocals, lyrics
Alan Kolodziejzyk: guitar, vocals
Chipp Robb: electric upright bass, bass guitar

Special Guests:
Wynn Gogol: keyboards, programming everywhere
"Bongo" Ben Johnson: djembe (15), tablau (2), Hammered dulcimer (14 intro)
Colin "Triple Threat" Maier: oboe (2, 12); clarinet (13)
Curtis Delgado: electric guitar (1, 3, 9, 14)
Matt Woodward: violin (10)
Meghana Bhatt: sitar (2, 15); voice (15 intro)
Alex Aujla: x-tro vocal (15 end)
John Heals: electric guitar (2, 6, 15)
Anita "Dragonfly" Mioti: Kid a (9)
Sheri "Scrogglehopper" Godfrey: Kid B on (9)


  1. Flea circus 4:09
  2. Mermaid 6:00
  3. Level seven 4:34
  4. Stealing flowers 7:06
  5. I think I'm a wolf 2:44
  6. No serpentine 4:16
  7. Fade 4:52
  8. Life on the rack 4:05
  9. Na na na boo boo 3:42
  10. Tripas de la Mariposa 1:31
  11. Bigger than I 5:31
  12. Have an ice age 4:04
  13. Russian history XXX 3:08
  14. Miserlou 3:03
  15. Kama sutra 8:10

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