Thursday, November 25, 2010

14 Songs by Bob Forrest

The strangest aspect of Bob Forrest's career trajectory - from leader of the anarchic Thelonious Monster to semi-celeb counselor on Dr. Drew's rehab series - is just how perfect he's been in both roles. As a counselor he emanates empathy and a hard-won wisdom that has little tolerance for bullshit, while in his previous career as a band leader/songwriter he'd turned those same traits on himself, minus the empathy, which resulted in a sort of public self-flagellation for all his perceived failings as a human being. That probably contributed to a difficult existence for Mr. Forrest, but it made for some astounding music.

Thelonious Monster debuted in 1986 with the album Baby... You're Bumming Me Out In A Supreme Fashion on the then fledgling Epitaph label. Their following two albums, Next Saturday Afternoon and Stormy Weather, saw the band refining their sound, with Forrest's lyrics transcending mere cynicism by mining his own psyche with an unflinching, near-masochistic honesty. The band's major label debut in 1992, the aptly titled Beautiful Mess, was predictably a commercial disappointment. That was the height of the grunge era, and even if Forrest's sensibility wasn't far removed from Kurt Cobain's, the music certainly was - the album incorporated whimsical folk rock, Joan Armatrading covers, and a barroom lament featuring Tom Waits.

That was the end of Thelonious Monster... sort of. They reunited 12 years later and released the awesome California Clam Chowder album, consisting entirely of songs titled after bands that influenced the sound of each particular song (ie: "The Elton John Song", "The Joy Division Song", "The Beck Song" - there was even one called "The Thelonious Monster Song"). Naturally, that album didn't make a dent anywhere. I'm sure I'm probably on some F.B.I. watch list for buying it.

In between go-rounds with the Monster, Forrest formed the short-lived band The Bicycle Thief and put out the excellent You Come And Go Like A Pop Song (first released in 1999, but more widely re-released with different tracks in 2001). It's included on this blog's Best Of the 00's mix and is arguably the finest release of Forrest's career, featuring a selection of uniformly strong songs and (finally) a sympathetic production.

Since then, he put out a single solo album in 2006 called Modern Folk and Blues: Wednesday, which is mostly acoustic cover versions of unlikely songs, such as Guns 'n' Roses "Welcome to the Jungle" and Springsteen's "Born To Run". The few original songs are typically excellent. He also had a song featured on the I'm Not There soundtrack, and he continues to release music on his website (you'll find piles of Forrest solo stuff there as well as Thelonious Monster tracks).

And, lastly, I've got to add that Forrest's appearance on those Dr. Drew shows represents, to me, the triumph of the underdog. He has been an artist I've always followed, always respected and supported, and the fact that he can probably pay rent these days means we can score one more for the good guys.

This Is Not A Song For the Clear-Skinned Blondes

1. So What If I Did
2. Sammy Hagar Weekend
3. Anymore
4. I Live In A Nice House
5. Adios Lounge (w/ Tom Waits)
6. Bus With No Driver
7. Max, Jill Called
8. It's Rainin' (4 am)
9. Cereal Song
10. The Bob Dylan Song
11. The Rolling Stones '77 Song
12. The Curtis Mayfield Song
13. Memphis
14. I'm Going Republican

Tracks 1, 2 by Thelonious Monster from Stormy Weather (1989)
Track 3 by Thelonious Monster from Next Saturday Afternoon (1987)
Tracks 4, 5, 6 by Thelonious Monster from Beautiful Mess (1992)
Tracks 7, 8, 9 by The Bicycle Thief from You Come And Go Like A Pop Song (2001)
Tracks 10, 11, 12 by Thelonious Monster from California Clam Chowder (2004)
Tracks 13, 14 by Bob Forrest from Modern Folk And Blues: Wednesday (2006)


Kuchar Kuzma said...

Nice job, can't wait to hear it. SPIN did a nice write-up of him last month:

Anonymous said...

MAN, how could you not put Looking to the West on here?!?

Just kidding (although it's probably my fave T Monster song.) Thanks for posting this, haven't heard probably anything since the late 80's from him.

Saw those guys open for Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers in Madison WI in, uh, '87 maybe? Course, Fishbone blew everybody else the fuck off the stage, but Thelonious Monster were pretty danged good too. Looking forward to hearing this stuff.

Roy Pearl said...

lol! Fishbone killed everybody who weren't the Beat Farmers back in those days. Hope you like the mix - let me know what you think of the latterday BF stuff. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

That "Cereal Song" is a motherfucker, wow. "I'm Going Republican" is pretty funny, too. Thanks for turning me on to this stuff!

Anonymous said...

can you please post something fro baby you're bummin' my life out in a supreme fashion?i'm from argentina i can't find that album anywhere.thank you so much

Bruce Lee Jr said...

I saw that tour in a muddy field at UMASS Amherst. There were about 200 people in attendance and only a dozen or so in front of the stage. It was my first time seeing Fishbone and they blew my mind! There was a long wait for the next band which was TM. Someone from the crew said they were on there way to Amherst, NY before they realized it was the one in Massachusetts. So they were very late and scrambling to get set up. Bob was pacing back and fourth saying, "When the chips are down" over and over again until the rest of the band was ready. They ripped through a cover of "Hocus Pocus" by Focus as a soundcheck, did three songs and then fell apart and quit. I wasn't quite sure what had just happened. I had never heard of them before but of course I was fascinated and searched for their records. I was surprised at how great they were after taking in that wreck of a performance. It was the only time I saw them live.

Roy Pearl said...

Awesome story, Bruce! Thanks for sharing it!