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Postmodern Village
est. 1999
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The Acids: “Ace of Base Are Belong to Us”
by Shemp Denk

The iconoclastic rock band takes on pop music ca. 1995 in this album, with its single, the south-Asian-inspired “The Singh” reminiscent of George Harrison’s 1960s flirtation with the sitar combined with the mating of jet airliners plus the ironic addition of a hip-hop beat. This is pop downforce at its finest, the smarm degraded only by the driving guitar work, like Big Country having a minor tiff with Slade.

It all works out in the end, of course, and many pints of beer are, of course, consumed. I’d give it four out of five stars if I gave stars, which I don’t. But for this album I might start. It’s that good.

The Acids phenomenon can be traced back, as all things, to the Thatcher era in early 1980s Great Britain. Frontman Nigel Wallinsfordcottingsdale was standing in the same unemployment line as Mac Stump, later to become bassist and sometime rhythm guitarist. They got to talking post-Marxist economics and indeterminacy theory, retired to a pub after receiving their share of the dole, and, after sufficiently adequate inebriation, decided to start a band.

“We spent the next six weeks drunk” explained Wallinsfordcottingsdale in a 1998 interview with VH-1 that never aired. “But that gave us just enough courage to form a band with Pete [Wombat, lead guitar and a distant relative of EWR’s own P.B. Wombat] and Hank [Frishbrine, the drummer and lone American in the band]. Hank was here on a Rouges Scholarship and was studying particle physics at the time. You can believe the scholarship people were upset to find out he’d dropped out and joined a post-punk band.”

Hank’s indirect influence on Nigel’s lyrics has been postulated as the origin for such classic anti-establishment anthems as “Quarks 4-ever” and “Bozons Run the Country (And I Don’t Feel So Well Myself)”.

“He was always bugging us to chat up Stephen Hawking for a spot on an album,” recounts Stump on Frishbrine in an interview with the author, “but you gotta be Pink Floyd to get that kind of treatment.”

“We got close to naming the band the Feynmen,” adds Wombat, “but we eventually all agreed nobody’d get it.”

In their first tour of the U.S. they opened for the Ramones.

“It was a tour of Brooklyn pubs, basically,” recalls Wallinsfordcottingsdale. “It was great, but we Brits kept asking ‘Where’s all the cowboys?’ while Hank just shook his head. Little did we know they were all at Studio 54 in plastic chaps.”

What distinguishes The Acids to this day is their ever-budding punk intellectualism.

“It’s an intellectual anti-intellectualism,” explains Wombat, “like maybe Shaw on a bender, only not as good,” and represents the inevitable trend in all punk, the trend that eventually killed it, when overdoses and the synthesizer didn’t.

“We didn’t feel trapped in a specific punk modality,” according to Stump. “I mean, we weren’t really a punk band at all, other than that we played really loud and badly and were impossible to understand.” Which is why the band began, early in its career, to project song lyrics an a screen above the stage during live performances with a bouncing ball that followed the lines being delivered. In a purely po-mo audience interaction, this inspired fans to sing along.

“It was bizarre,” recalls Wombat.

“It was quantum,” rejoins Frishbrine.

And it may very well have been. Quantum mechanics postulates, among other things, that the velocity and the position of a photon cannot be known simultaneously, that, in fact, the act of observation itself imposes a static state on a normally quantum one. In the very act of revealing their lyrics, in essence, of measuring them, The Acids revealed the quantum state of live performance. The audience, in turn, by singing along, revealed themselves to have been participants in the quantum state to begin with.

“It’s in the dissertation I’m still writing,” notes Frishbrine. “I’m almost done. I’ve only been ABD for two decades, so I figure I can squeeze out a few more years while we finish this world tour and put out a follow-up record.”

The Acids join the Patio Girls Reunion Tour and Side Show this summer as they swing through the upper Midwest. They’ll play Mishawaka, Indiana on September 13.

“The Amish love us,” notes Stump “but we’ve got to play live shows because, you know, no CD players.”