(from) Out of time Matthew Duncan made an amazing record. Then he had no idea what to do with it. By Robert Wilonsky Published: December 24, 1998 Only days ago, the mysterious CD appeared on a colleague's desk here at the newspaper, buried beneath piles of publicists' releases and other kept detritus. No one knew how long it had been there, where it came from, what the hell it was. The cover, featuring a nattily clad monkey holding a lit cigarette, was intriguing; the band's name, M.C. Duncan's Dog and Pony Show, kind of funny. But the disc, titled Human Cannonball!, remained in it's shrink-wrapped condom, unopened for lack of interest, for God knows how long--a week, most likely a year (this colleague upon whose desk this disc was uncovered is not, well, the tidy sort). It was just one more lo-fi, low-rent CD abandoned to the crapheap. So it goes around a place where Billy Squier and Meat Loaf best-ofs arrive in the mail every week, not to mention dozens of releases by homemade nobodies who think theirs is a sound worth writing about (nope, sorry). Every now and then, a little bit of paradise goes ignored. So it went with this record, at least until the plastic was popped and the jewel case was opened up to reveal that this Dog and Pony Show was no animal farm. Indeed, the names listed in the credits were too familiar to ignore: Jon Cunningham, better known as Corn Mo, on vocals; Ian Bjornstadt of Dooms U.K. on vocals as well; Drew Phelps, long gone from Cafe Noir, on bass; and other prominent and lesser-known members of the Denton-Dallas-Farmers Branch rock-and-roll trifecta. Then there were the names of the producers: Matt Pence and Dave Willingham, two guys who lend their names only to quality product. A few of us looked at the roster and wondered aloud: What the hell is this damned thing? The question became even more pressing when we listened to the record, this splendid, hypnotic, oddball melange of cabaret sounds and circus echoes: accordions and saxophones, harmonicas and trumpets, banjos and electric guitars, pianos and trombones, all manner of penny-whistle contraptions coming together till it sounded like homeboy Little Jack Melody and His Young Turks. But not quite. There was more dead-on jazz (the big-band-esque bop-swing of 'The Bathosphere'), more melancholia ('Carolyn'), more whimsy (the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory sample on 'The Last Cha-Cha,' and indeed), and less sense to the whole proceedings. Hell, man--this was a record right up our alley, a made-in-Denton wet dream!
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