Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
There's a great tale in the children's picture book, "Mouse Soup," by Arnold Lobel, where a mouse that's been captured by a hungry weasel is trying to talk its way out of becoming dinner. He makes up an elaborate lie about how the weasel's soup would be significantly better if it had a couple things in it besides just mouse. He tells the weasel that the soup needs stories in it to actually taste good. The mouse tells as one of these stories a tale about another mouse that hears a cricket loudly chirping outside its window one night, goes over to the opening and asks the cricket to move along, for he's disturbing the mouse's slumber. The cricket mishears the request as a call for more of its song and recruits another cricket to chirp harmonies, doubling the choir. The mouse again requests that the music end immediately and the crickets again - hard of hearing as they are - mistake the displeasure for encouragement and go forth to find more crickets, doubling the choir. This happens four more times, until the crickets finally understand that the mouse doesn't want them there and they say, "Well, why didn't you just say so the first time," and they saunter off to find someone else to serenade through the night. New York band, Parts & Labor, may have been that pack of crickets the first time they visited our studio, right after the release of their excellent, break-out album, "Stay Afraid." This was in the first few weeks of Daytrotter and they'd played a coffeehouse in downtown Davenport with Wilderness, the spring night beforehand and they'd stayed up late that evening, playing a rogue, early morning hours set in the vacant and dark concrete bandshell along the Mississippi River. They'd plugged into the live electrical outlets on the side of the stage and were fully armed with their volumes before - if memory serves - the police came by and told them to knock it off, that it was the middle of the goddamn night. When they arrived at the studio on the day of the taping, they were just being themselves. You see, they need their volume. They absolutely MUST have that ear-splitting mother lode of cranked up ferocity. It has to be there for them to feel comfortable and in some settings, that puts a major crimp on how everything's going to go. Several requests to lower the overall loudness in the room were met, not with stubbornness or defiance, but we believe, with a voice in their singers Dan Friel and B.J. Warshaw's heads (drummer Joe Wong - who played on this session - was not in the band at that time) that said, "Give us more of what you're giving us." It sounded as if they turned it up every time they were asked not to, just like the crickets. It just didn't work. It's been the one session in our five years that hasn't posted because it was just impossible to post the results. This do-over is a different matter - not entirely - but it is different. You can still hear Parts & Labor's uncompromising punishment of the ears. It's a pummeling that's just relentless. It would be assault if it weren't so darned likeable though. The one thing that you can never deny this ultra-creative trio is that, even when it sounds like 20 drag races to the death, happening simultaneously, busting out windows with their hauling ass decibels, lighting their clothing, our clothing, the fields, the barns all on fire in doing so, waking everyone within a hundred miles up with its monstrous cacophony, it still comes to us, almost sweetly.