Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I never thought I'd find going through the laundry bag of someones personal possessions a fun project. But with the popularity of TV's "Storage Wars", apparently a dreamer can believe there is gold in the bags and boxes of the poor folk who can't afford payment on their storage locker rental space.

"Storage Wars", an A&E television series, follows a group of second-hand merchandisers as they frequent storage unit auctions in California. The show's drama is dependent on the competitive bidding among them, and the valuable merchandise they may or may not find in the storage units they win.

The poor saps who lose their personal belongings when payment is not made on a rented storage space, abandon their possessions to the auction bidders who gather like vultures ransacking the pockets of corpses.

It's a gamble for the bidders who have only a few moments to canvass the items in storage and determine their worth. They can not rummage through the stored items, they can not even enter the storage units, but instead are filed by, like a guided museum tour, or a funeral line viewing of the deceased, to get a quick overview of the items up for auction. The entirety of the storage unit is then sold to the highest bidder.

The show is likely contrived, as you could purchase hundreds of abandoned rental units and never uncover the valuable merchandise that is discovered on each episode of the series. It's reality television, meaning - it's not real.

So anyway, the point of this blog entry, which I'm realizing should never leave the draft stage, is to mention I went to a local storage unit auction. I hooked up with my brother-in-law, also a fan of the show, and with dreams of signed Paul Revere candlesticks at the bottom of an old gym bag, we got up early and went to the auction.

But we only stood there in awe of the mega-dollars that were being thrown about. We were obviously "Storage Wars" fan boys among the seasoned baseball-capped bidders who flocked to this city auction. The most remarkable thing was how much the local storage auction resembled the TV show.

I couldn't get that catchy, blues driven theme music to "Storage Wars" out of my head. I wanted to swagger down a storage unit hallway and have "The Neophyte" written across the screen.

We couldn't get a bid in, but we had fun. It was all my effort not to raise the $5 winning bid for  a pathetic unit that contained a pile of old sneakers, a broken Fisher-Price toy, what looked like plastic furniture, and a mysterious cardboard box that certainly hid a valuable treasure.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Devendra Banhart Goes Island Hopping On His New Disc

I've warmed up to Devendra Barnhart's new album, Mala (Nonesuch Records). The folkie freak, who hates when he's referred to as anything resembling a hippie, cruises lazy Tiki bar rhythms and tequila sunrise musings on his latest disc. Soft marimbas and strumming acoustics lap against the shore of his island life fantasy, which isn't so far removed from Jimmy Buffett gone full-blown psychedelic.

It's cool, easy music, like Bobby Bloom's "Montego Bay", but without the snappy, whistling tropical edge that song delivers. Mala forces the listener to sip, slowly and methodically, like you would a tall zombie cocktail on an overpriced grass hut rental vacation, its curious tone of surf-side intimacy. One may want more from a new Devendra Banhart album, and the temptation is there to suck the alcohol out of every mouthful.

But it comes in doses. And like the effects of that killer cocktail, Mala creeps up on the listener unexpectedly with thoughtful, albeit tipsy drunken psychological adventures in sexland. Under a seaside moon, Banhart makes longing eye-to-eye contact with the natives in the cocktail drenched "Mi Negrita", that sounds remarkably like Jonathan Richman's excursions into Spanish eyes territory on his Her Mystery Not Of High Heels And Eye Shadow album.

"Your Fine Petting Duck" (smirk if you will) is an orgasmic night of lovemaking with an island girl call-and-response vocal that is as laid-back and rum influenced as a Kid Coconut record. It lifts like a rising wave (or a very happy petting duck) into a pulsating tropical electronica vibe.

The instrumental tribute to the celebrated and departed skateboarder Keenan Milton, "The Ballad of Keenan Milton", seems an homage to The Clash's southern hemisphere and their brilliant Sandanista! album. Its soft and sad plucking of an acoustic guitar above the barely audible sound of a siren wailing in the foggy distance is as entrancing as Sandanista's quietest and most powerful moments.

Elsewhere, Banhart's last night on Earth is more pop oriented than his freak folk image would suggest. His signature weird vocal warble, like gargling with stones, is heard only once on Mala, on "Won't You Come Over". It's a catchy melody with a Caribbean easy beat that vaguely recalls Jimmie Davis' blues-country classic "Come On Over To My House".

So I'm a bit hooked to Mala. It has all the strangeness of an exotic fruit and all the familiarity of a great pop songbook. The more I listen to it, the more I am aware of its several influences. Did I mention Elliott Smith? Possibly Mala is Banhart's attempt to bury his freaky folk dude persona once and for all, and celebrate other musical influences besides Donovan Leitch.

He has only himself to blame for the freaky dude label, which he has publicly detested. One story finds him showing up at a Halloween party wearing nothing but a skirt. He claims he didn't know it was a Halloween party.

this article was first published by the author at