Saturday, October 9, 2010

Discoveries: A Sinful Life

Timbuk 3: A Sinful Life


I was in middle school, a loser and a loner; my best friend that year was a kid who lived down the street, a year older and just as socially maladjusted - but his home life was better, so we always went there after school. PJ was into a particular sort of eighties drum-machine-driven echo-harmony new wave music: he introduced me to The Thompson Twins, Everyone But The Girl, and Wang Chung, too, though I seem to remember that Howard Jones was all mine. And when this song and album came to me, it was my first step as an audiophile from mood to songwriting, and one of the first moments in my life that my attention shifted from song-at-a-time to LP and catalog.

Oh, sure, I must have heard The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades on the radio that first year, though truly, I was 13, and my tastes were running more towards even cheesier popsongs that year. But I didn't really discover one-hit wonders Timbuk 3 until their sophomore album, Eden Alley, which PJ brought to my attention when it emerged the following year... and though by then Timbuk 3 was already fading from public view, it was this album that stuck, a perfect collection that held and still holds together track by track, falling into place in my ears somewhere between Suzanne Vega and The Boomtown Rats.

Today, PJ is a reluctant lawyer, playing a couple times a month at a local open mics, hoping ever-after to make it as a musician so he can leave the legal life behind. He's moved on from that suburban house which you can see above, angled to show it as it always looked as I approached it, from my own home from down the street. But his own songwriting echoes those 80s bands more than most folksong, most especially in its quirky intellectualism, polysyllabic meter and rhyme, bittersweet cynical worldview, and tongue-in-cheek, high-metaphoric, commonground concreteness. And hearing Timbuk 3's slower, folkier side, which crops up on this album here and there, is a key indicator of where that sensibility came from.

Oh, and full disclosure: I have a co-write credit on one of the songs on PJ's long-shelved debut album I Know What You're Made Of, which you can check out and purchase here.

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