erasing clouds

The Incontinentals Goodbye

by Dave heaton

Every day, all over the world, new rock bands form and old ones fall apart. Most of these bands will write some songs together, play some shows to small groups of people in their city or maybe some nearby ones, make a recording or two, and decide to quit, without most of the world ever knowing they existed. Sure, these bands have fans. Every band has at least one person who thinks they're the greatest thing that he or she has ever heard. ....

The Incontinentals was one of these bands. "Was," because, on Cinco de Mayo 2000, in a city called Columbia, Missouri, at a club known as Shattered, this band called The Incontinentals played their final show, ever. It was an interesting experience for those of us who have loved their music for years, who swear that their best songs are as good as those by nationally recognized, "known" bands. I have conflicting emotions about the "unknown" bands that I love. One part of me thinks that, if I ever won the lottery I would make sure every household in the world has a copy of The Incontinentals' Yacht Club Favorites next to their stereo, that every passing car saw had a grinning driver blaring "Do the Disappointment" or "Go-Getter" or some other rock tune that they've left behind. But another part of me thinks it's perfectly fine, and maybe even a good thing, that every good band isn't hugely successful. There's something nice about going to the local bar, or to somebody's basement, and seeing a fantastic band rock their brains out with no regard to PR and MTV and SoundScan and whatnot.

For about seven years, The Incontinentals played their own style of rock music, flittered with some traditional country, pretty melodies, some recurring lyrical themes (appliances, human biology, small town living, etc.) and all sorts of other things. They played fantastic live shows to small crowds, in basements or in clubs that felt like basements, and they sold a bunch of tapes and CDs to people who took those suckers home and listened to them again and again. And maybe that's enough.

In some college general-requirement class I remember reading an essay arguing that the the invention of recording devices ruined music, that there was more wonder and mystery around music when you just heard a piece of music live once every few years. I don't agree with that at all. Maybe it's just because I can't rely on my memory. Really, though, there's a better reason. Recordings, whether they're vinyl, CD, cassette, 8-track or whatever, keep music alive. Listening to a song on a tape is as much an "experience" as hearing it live. It's a different kind of experience, yeah, but is it worse? I don't believe for a second that music loses it's soul once it's made permanent. Songs that will never be played again by their creators gain a new life when recorded. I can take a cassette or CD and give it to friends and they can hear it and understand.

The Incontinentals have left behind a bunch of music that anybody can hear. Wonderful albums with great names like 5 Incontinentals Fans Can't Be Wrong and The Secrets to Successful Varmint Calling. Before they called it quits, they put out one last full-length called Beg Your Pardon, and it's a beauty, a multidimensional rock album with moments of optimism and cynicism, straightahead rock and experimentation, ballads and rockers. And all I can do is what I endlessly do with all music I love: encourage people to check them out, dub their music on mixed tapes to force it on the uninitiated, and write articles like this, with the hope that someone somewhere will not only read this, but also think "hey, maybe I should check them out," and then follow the link to their Web site , and to sound clips and listen to them, enjoying them enough to decide that they need to add this to their collection.

Issue 2, July 2000 | next article

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