To say that Charles Potts Magic Windmill Band are “quirky” would be an understatement. Song titles like “I Live In My Car” and “Issued By The State” (in reference to an ID) are a hint that “serious” might not be a word this band takes to heart (of course our interview with the band last week is another big hint). Comedy is a tough concept to incorporate into art; as most amateur stand-up comics know, when the jokes don’t come across as intended the results can be, well, “no laughing matter.” But when a band is able to marry ultra-mundane concepts like ID’s, engine trouble, and cancer with humorous wit and Silver Jews-style poignancy, the results can be at once humorous, thought provoking, and above all, an enjoyable listen. The Golden Calf, of course, is the latter.
Describing The Golden Calves would, more or less, be a lot like trying to explain a joke to someone who doesn’t get it. If I told you the kind of lettuce they served on the titanic was iceberg lettuce, you might laugh (if you like awful jokes), but if not, neither a lengthy history of the titanic nor a lesson in horticulture is going to help much. And, believe me, the album has it’s fair share of jokes. “Whoopin’ Up Cattle” is more or less a collection of one-liners about, well, not a whole lot: lyrics like “spent a couple hours just a-flippin’ off the sky, I don’t ask satellites don’t ask why / Nothing to do but flip the bird, look up at the sky and yell curse words” and “Eating corn starch in the family room, too damn lazy to dust my broom / Gonna cash my check on Friday night, I’m gonna get a jug of whiskey and cut some lines” are interspersed with multi-harmony vocal calls. “I Live In My Car” is a hilarious look into the wonderful life afforded to a man who’s chosen to live in his car: “13 miles-a-gallon on the open road with the windows down and the AC off / John Cougar Mellencamp knew that it would happen to me…” Suffice it to say, I laughed out loud on a number of occasions listening to this album.
While the comedy is entertaining, it’s not the best thing the album has going for it. Instead, it’s the topics the band incorporate into the music, ranging from the strictly comical (“I Live In My Car) to the mundane (like the need of a government issued ID to cash a check on “Issued By The State”) to topics that are slightly more serious, like cancer. “Goodbye Son” is the tale of a man who’s taken up residence in a Mississippi town after his car broke down there ten years ago, and is now writing to his son to tell him he’s dying of cancer (or rather “the big C, and that’s cancer in city talk”). Whether or not the band meant it as a truly poignant example of taking life less seriously, it does show the band’s willingness to stretch their comedic view of life to life’s limits.
Other songs like “Shiny Trophy” tackle the topic of a state-championship-winning football player who’s now moved onto real life. Like one of those Army recruitment commercials which place exciting images of “Army Life” (like reattaching appendages in a helicopter with one hand while launching RPG’s with the other, or something) with images of success in after-military life (like balancing a checkbook), the song uses the metaphor of the “excitement” of high school football to highlight the boredom of “real life.” But then, I think I may have just explained the joke…
I often complain about bands taking themselves too seriously, but there’s an awfully cliché saying that you “shouldn’t take life so seriously, you’ll never make it out alive.” Cheesy as it is, it’s entirely true. At this rate, Charles Potts Magic Windmill Band are on track to make it out alive.