“Taking the piss” out of folks ain’t easy, unless you’re English. But if the US ever needed to airlift someone to the frontlines of music’s battle of wits, East Bay homeslice Tim Quirk would be an ideal leader — in some ways, he already is. While fronting late-’80s/early-’90s college rockers Too Much Joy, Quirk defended the First Amendment on a Miami stage by covering the same 2 Live Crew songs that got Luther Campbell and Co. arrested. Quirk and TMJ wanted to see if the Man would put away some meddling white kids for singing the same songs that got a band of booty-bass brothers arrested on bullshit obscenity charges. Alas, Johnny Law busted TMJ as well.
Although his free-speech activist days may be behind him, Quirk and TMJ coconspirator Jay Blumenfield both know that once the music is in your blood, it stays in there like a Catholic upbringing. After recording some demos together under the Wonderlick moniker for their own private pleasure, the two thirtysomethings discovered that they could give away the fruits of these new recordings as free downloads and make some pocket change from fan donations. Now, $12,000 later, Wonderlick signed a deal with SF’s Future Farmer Recordings, proving once again that some of the best art comes from beautiful accidents.
Like Beck’s Midnite Vultures, this album sounds like it was dangerously fun to record. With some gossamer vocal help from the Court & Spark’s Wendy Allen, and rolling bass rips by comedic magician Penn Jillette, Wonderlick delivers an aural party-punch spiked with sardonicism and barbed melodies, cranked auto-tuners that come off as turbo-vocoders, guitars that seem borrowed from various Pete Townshend windmills, and dashboard-pounding drum loops. They even cover Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart with an honest alt-staple love conviction. Wonderlick’s songs still take the piss out of many subjects (including themselves), but unlike TMJ’s contagious high jinks, this album should find them adored rather than arrested.