Paper Towels hails from a bridge near the ocean in Los Angeles, CA, but their roots can be traced back to Mobile, Alabama, according to the 8 page bio (instructional guide) that arrived with the mysterious press package. Their debut record, Today We Eat, Tomorrow We Fight, Tonight We Fuck arrived via snail mail as a cassette. 9 songs to each side, each song barely approaching the 2 minute mark – with instructions.
The packaging is filled with contradictions (track listings) and small details, intentional typos and head scratchers. I’m only allowed to talk about what I’ve heard and no more, no less, or a threat (I can’t mention the details of) will occur.
Creepy? Sure. Inviting? Yes. 18 songs split up into 3 movements, 6 each, connecting the dots on a modern day tale centered around domestic nothings, technology, and romance.
Interactive cassette player listening and reading awaits each new Paper Towel snail -mail target. The production sheet notes, “Lo-fi tracks recorded in sync with handheld panasonic cassette recorders and carefully mixed down to single tracks through the process of 4 and 8 track recorders, till each device’s single tracks became one.”
The PR notes are as exciting as the music: “Contained within are songs performed by Paper Towels somewhere public, noisy, very dirty, and very urban. Shotguns, garbage cans, guitars, horns, violins and old world tools (hammers pounding on cement) are used as instruments to create a seamless piece of modern folk music held together by a wall of violent barbershop harmonies that simmer down to souful, perverted lead performances presented as narratives on the last movement – a celebration dinner by the gathering, and then the goodbye by all involved to mankind and each new listener.”
‘Eat-Fight-Fuck’s‘ first two movements are performed by a barbershop quartet x’s ten- a choir of homeless people, a gang of misfits, maybe? Opening songs, Be My Friend? and Like bounce along softly to choral harmonies, acoustic guitars, knee slaps and trash can beats, giving way to electric guitars colliding with synths and the sound of cars passing by, reminding you this is 2011-not 1928 as it eerily resonates to Mississippi John Hurt’s landmark recording from 1928, Avalon Blues. The ‘quartet’ sing-screams louder above the street noise. With tracks 3-6, Friends Watching, Pasta Boiling, Dogs Barking and Do They Know It’s Sunny Out Today?, I start to believe I’m under a bridge with 100 homeless people singing their hearts out to a world getting louder, faster, madder.
The lyrics begin to take shape, exposing the record’s dark, paranoid story towards the middle of the second movement. Tracks 7-12 are highlighted by an estranged epic rock song, Buy More Batteries, Hide The Batteries, Buy More Batteries!; and Don’t Burn The Matches Till The Whole Town Crawls, which clearly rips off Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir melody, beat/rhythm with a wall of violins and an army of garbage can banging. It’s monstrous, and evil.
1,000 men singing in mono on Click, Click, Click (track 11) offers up humorous-if not scientifically correct-warnings to mankind’s most irresponsible kine, “Husbands and wives, your children are getting fatter and not for the better. Click, click, click.” It gives way to an army of women on Together, We, making their first appearance on a joyous chorus to close section 2; “TODAY WE EAT, TOMORROW WE FIGHT, TONIGHT WE FUCK!”
It’s glorious in it’s repetition, a set-up for section 3’s romance and a chilling final bow.
The army of men rising to fight too soon during the first 2 sections has now taken a seat – to the possibility of a little love – having been lured by the women’s advances in section 2’s close. Tracks 13 & 14, How Was Your Day? and This Salad is So Delicious are comprised of multiple dinner conversations. Sounds annoying? Strangely, it’s an inviting scene marked by familiar old world melodies drifting in and out of individual conversations being performed by two-to-three lead narrators and a few acoustic instruments.
Horns and violins cut in softly between each song/conversation, setting up the record’s main course; I Love The Way You Smile When You Chew Your Meat, The Most Comfortable Concrete Bed In The World, If Loving You Tonight Is Wrong, Please Sign Me Up For Hell, and a disturbing outro sung by a single child to an eery, echoing violin competing with a theremin-saw on a fading melody to the finale, Goodnight, Sweet Prince.
How much of this was rehearsed or thought over is unknown according to the production notes. Thus, adding to it’s mysterious, primal, existence by the recording’s end. At it’s core is a giant middle finger to boring, domestic life, useless technology, and the death of the traditional family unit. If there’s a place Bob Dylan sings about on Desolation Row where everyone goes before they say goodbye, Paper Towels was there as it appears on these 18 mesmerizing recordings.
Today We Eat, Tomorrow We Fight, Tonight We Fuck is unlike anything I’ve heard this year – or in the technological/digital era. Here’s hoping the mailman is as good to you with his audio t(h)reats as he was to me this year.