Beulah, Gene Autry, Emma Blowgun's Last Stand, Ballad of the Lonely Agronaut

Beulah was formed in a mail room in San Fransisco when Miles Kurosky and Bill Swan decided they both liked the same music, well mostly.  This is the kind of story yours truly can get behind due to own desire to hatch great ideas when I worked in a mail room.  Robert Schneider of the Apples in Stereo hooked them into Elephant 6 when he heard their first demo, and before you knew it, Beulah was one of E6’s shining stars of indie rock.  The thing I love about the Elephant 6 Collective was how they all intermingled with each other and helped out other bands when they recorded and went on tour.  The “collective” part of the moniker was no bullshit, as this was a band of boys and girls who all loved the same music, and all dreamed of becoming rock stars.  They remind me of the way certain underground comedy teams were forming around this time in the mid 90s like Upright Citizens Brigade and the State.  Creative young people in the 90s all saw the value in sharing, working together, and having fun, despite rivalries, which were never too serious.  Beulah is that band, constantly swapping members with Of Montreal, Olivia Tremor Control, and the Apples.  Musically, Beulah has a gorgeous storytelling quality to their songs.  Most of them begin somewhere in the middle, and the music is so energetic and uplifting, that you just go along for the ride, no matter how out of context the lyrical content seems.  The only thing I know about “Gene Autry” is that it was released on 9/11/01, bestowing it’s sweet sadness with even more mysticism.  “Emma Blowgun’s Last Stand” has some of the greatest lyrics you’ll find in an indie rock song.  Lastly, my favorite, “Ballad of the Lonely Agronaut,” I’ve played 1000 times.  I always kept swept up in its tale of American exploration, and its ceaselessly catchy structure.  The song bursts out the gate with an enthusiastic melody that just hooks you instantly.  Also, the line, “gold is coated with gold on the languid hills, where they wait for hours and hours, cool grey ladies from Shirley’s loan us cheer, as they sat for hours and hours,” is so wonderful, and I have no idea what it means, but its been stuck in my head forever.  Beulah broke up in 2004 because their last record, Yoko, despite the best reviews of their career, failed to go gold, a huge goal for the band never reached.  The recording of that album, which featured the breakup of Miles and his long term girlfriend, and three other band member divorces, was dark and difficult, and took its toll on the group’s psyche.  It was a bit of a burnout for one of the most unique and creative bands of the late 90s/early 00’s, but they certainly left a legacy as one of America’s best underground bands with one of the most devoted fan bases.


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