Let's Have A Pancake!

Chandler Travis Philharmonic

Sonic Trout Records, 2000


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


She said, "He's crazy, I can't take a second more of this, dammit."

-- "That's What She Said," Chandler Travis

It's a sweltering May afternoon, the kind of day when it feels like even the trees must be sweating. Against all better judgment, you're outdoors -- under a tent, in fact, tucked down along the edge of the Sacramento River on opening day of the annual jazz jubilee. A Dixieland jazz band is assembling on the modest stage in front of you just now, clean-cut, pin-striped gentlemen in styrofoam hats, just about ready to go on trumpet, sax, clarinet, trombone, bass and drums.

You're just beginning to forget the scraggly, wild-eyed fellow you saw lurking down by the railroad tracks where you parked your car, when suddenly, he appears out of nowhere, leaps up onto stage with a battered electric guitar slung around his scrawny neck, and bellows, "Hit it!"

From there the proceedings quickly take on all the trappings of a musical three-ring circus. The rhythm section plunges forward and the singer croons with all the insouciant sarcasm of an American Ray Davies, while the horn section careens forward with such complete and precise musical abandon that you begin to think their leader may be possessed by the ghost of Frank Zappa.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This sonically-induced daydream is brought to you by the Travis Chandler Philharmonic, a band that, as one critic put it, "puts the 'harm' back in philharmonic."

"Alternative Dixieland" is about the closest anyone has come to capturing the flavor of the Philharmonic's output. It's a bastardized micro-genre that kidnaps the busy but gentle horn arrangements Patty Hearst-like from this most traditional jazz form and brainwashes them relentlessly to the purposes of Travis's hyperactive, quirky, character-driven rock songs. Take, for example, the simply brilliant "Crab Napkin," which opens like a lost Rolling Stones track, all tight r&b chording and raunchy vocals, before adding a loopy, drunken Dixieland horn arrangement at the chorus. From there it just keeps picking up steam, the band's rock and Dixieland components virtually battling one another to a draw, with Travis egging them on the entire delirious way. Tunes like the bounding "Stay Like That" and the sassy, raucous "Nature Boy" explore the same outer reaches of musical vaudeville.

Nestled in between these forays are a couple of oddly compelling lounge ballads ("What'll It Be" and "Say When") that serve effectively as intermissions but not much else, bleeding away some of the manic energy that sustains the rest of the disc. It just isn't the same without the horn section, Travvy.

Of course it's hard to quibble with someone with the chutzpah to record a tune like the savagely satirical "Chandler Travis, King Of The World." "I wonder where Chandler is tonight," sings Chandler to an audibly rowdy nightclub crowd, "Probably in his private jet in France / Or maybe backstage right now / Having sex with one of these waitresses / Chandler Travis, Chandler Travis / So humble and good." Indeed…

Taken as a whole, Let's Have a Pancake (the first among this album's many, many non sequiters) is by turns witty, crude, wacky and sentimental, and never anything less than highly entertaining -- if you approach it with the proper mind-set. If your tastes don't range much beyond wholesome sitcoms, "important" movies, Volvo station wagons and Celine Dion ballads, you'd be better off picking up that new Michael Bolton tribute album. If, however, you have the capacity to enjoy bizarre and frequently inspired musical lunacy, this album will likely become a regular in your CD changer.

Go ahead, have a pancake. Frank would approve.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sonic Trout Records, and is used for informational purposes only.