Haves & Thirds, ‘It’s Mostly Guesswork / It’ll Clean You Out But It’ll Leave You Hollow Inside’
Tampa’s underground scene produces a lot of choice music. Diverse, too. I count no less than 10 titles from the “Big Guava” in my heavy-rotation stacks, and each one is delightfully distinct from the other. SPQR’s Black Diamonds In The Nite (bedroom-house strung out on neon sunsets and mesh tank tops, White Zin and HOT-7) couldn’t be more different from Craow’s recent tour-only tape for More Records (a sacrificial stone stained with the blood of futurepop night freaks). Likewise, the technoid bleepage comprising Outmode’s IV stands in radical contrast to the slop-fi art song found on Russian Tsarlag’s Midnight At Mary’s House. And then there’s Father Finger (now residing in Rhode Island, admittedly); the phantom-queen elegance of her self-titled collection of DIY dance-pop is an apt tonic to the Romper-Room-as-ketamine-den weirdness marking Twisting Signals Of Light, i_like_dog_face’s brand new joint for scene linchpin Cephia’s Treat Recordings. But maybe the most idiosyncratic of the many Tampa jams I’ve yet acquired is It’s Mostly Guesswork / It’ll Clean You Out But It’ll Leave You Hollow Inside, from niqab-clad Haves & Thirds. Alias for one Todd Lynne, who also runs Cephia’s Treat, he has numerous tapes and CD-Rs to his name, yet this pair of EPs (packaged as a single 12-inch via Hot Releases) is his first slab of wax.
I’ve owned the thing for three months now, and it sounds no less alien than the first time I dropped the needle. It’s odd, since the music isn’t an over-the-top mind-fuck (not like Russian Tsarlag or i_like_dog_face, anyhow). Plus, it’s fairly basic on the schematic level, consisting of little more than Mesmer-grade guitar chime, brontosaurus hip-hop beats (we’re talking formidable low-end), fuzzy synths and samples of dialog from the respective filmographies of River Phoenix and Leslie Nielsen. And yes, you read correctly: snaking through the music’s queer hypnotics is everything from Stand By Me’s famed “Sick Balls!” bit (transformed into cough-syrup mantra on “Make The Stand”) to the cockpit banter from Airplane!, including the timeless “I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley” and “It’s an entirely different kind of flying, altogether” (both of which help anchor “Digging For Air”). On “Schooled For The 33 1/3 Time” Lynne even demonstrates the ability to go deep-reference on us by incorporating the “Hey! You call this slop?” outburst from franchise retread Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.
Such a description certainly promises a novelty record, right? But you see, that’s what makes this music so alien: it isn’t terribly comical. I mean, sure, there’s a certain gettin-yer-yucks aspect to the very existence of a twin-EP tribute to these Hollywood icons (especially one featuring their mugs plastered to either side of the sleeve). And let’s face it, Airplane! and The Naked Gun quotes never cease making us giggle. But as it sucks you in, the record gradually takes on the trappings of something significantly more intimate and introspective. I get the sense that Lynne approached the making of this music as if he were constructing his own personal time capsule, and all the jumbled and scrambled dialog is in fact the wistful recollections of a pop-culture junkie who meditates upon his childhood the only way he knows how: through the movies and big-screen heroes of his youth. It’s something that really comes through on the side dedicated to Phoenix (“It’s Mostly Guesswork”). Not surprisingly, this is in large part attributable to the dramatic nature of the samples employed, as well as the actor’s legacy as a young, brooding artist. Stand By Me, for example, might contain plenty of laughs, yet the scenes spotlighting the friendship between the actor’s street-tough character Chris Chambers and innocent Gordie Lachance (a couple of which Lynne deftly transforms into subliminal chatter nestled deep in the mix) lend the music a moody earnestness. This is also the case with the soporific “Feel My Own Magic,” and how the piece pivots oh so sullenly on select lines from My Own Private Idaho.
But having said all that, it’s not the dialog in and of itself that’s solely responsible for such qualities, but also how Lynne craftily frames it. The reverb that most of his samples come soaked in intentionally mimics the stock vocal treatment Hollywood has long employed whenever a character in a movie is seen reminiscing about the past (not unlike how in Airplane! Ted Stryker’s recollections of Macho Grande are smeared in echo). Moreover, a lot of them are buried underneath a striking style of minimal guitar work that never, ever shifts out of its wondrously woozy, liminal groove. It’s not propulsive enough to be considered jangly, yet not sufficiently gooey to be tagged ambient. Rather, it just creeps and crawls, all ghostly and fourth-dimensional and narcotic-like. Indeed, Lynne’s playing possesses a flawless balance of repetition, melody and tempo, one that slips minds into deep reverie with a potency that’s uncanny. That’s exactly what’s required: once his listeners have been fully lulled, Lynne can then take them on a journey not just through the great movies of his childhood, but his childhood itself.