• Cream of The Crate: CD's #21 - 2nu: Ponderous


      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      "This album has a loose through-line involving the character of Nardo Polo, which isnít his real name. He goes on quite a few adventures through this album, beginning with a dream where he takes the day off work because nobody remembers who he is."


      CD Cover

      This is number twenty one in the series of retro-reviews of Cd albums in my collection.

      The series is called,
      "Cream of The Crate (CD's)", and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.


      CD review #21 sees me return to the more bizarre, certainly humorous, part of my collection. 2nu fit pretty comfortably alongside the Village Fugs (reviewed) and Captain Beefheart (yet to be reviewed) whilst retaining a definite distinction in regard to these artists.

      Released by Atlantic Records (82229-2) in 1991, this single CD was the first release by what could loosely be described as a group - 2nu. This is a strange and eclectic collection of tracks that has a loose through-line involving the character of Nardo Polo, which isnít his real name. He goes on quite a few adventures through this album, beginning with a dream where he takes the day off work because nobody remembers who he is. From there as he dreams and relates his adventures - both 1st hand and third party, we go along with him.


      2nu was not a band when the track This is Ponderous was first played. According to the group, "We hadn't formally formed as a band when our first song was getting airplay in 1990. When one of the jocks introduced our song, THIS IS PONDEROUS, he said it was from a band too new to even have a name. Thus came the moniker...2NU."

      In fact even 23 years after the track "Ponderous" hit the airwaves, information and certainly pictures of the group, let alone the individuals, are incredibly hard to find.

      Martin, DeVault, Nealy & Blaney

      Members

      Michael Nealy (lyrics)
      Jock Blaney (lyrics)
      Phil DeVault (keyboard, synclaver, guitar)
      Tom Martin (bass)
      Victor Little (bass)
      Dean Mochizuki (saxophone)
      Mike Mines (trumpet)
      Dan Haek (trombone)


      Michael Nealy & Jock Blaney - Producers



      Rear of CD cover

      It seems as though no one is really certain as to why and how the track came into being, and those that are certain aren't saying! One story is that there was a request from a dentist to produce a track that he could use when his patients were under gas, which would entertain them.

      Another is that it was simply an experiment that was overheard by another producer who took an immediate liking to it and encouraged that the track be released.

      2nu is four strange, yet gifted individuals, with Blaney & Nealy the driving forces: Jock Blaney - A writer and voice talent who possesses the uncanny ability to become the characters he is portraying; also known to his friends as a bad, bad man.

      Nealy & Blaney

      Tom Martin - Studio owner, engineer, musician, and graduate of the Lydia E. Pinkham Superior Orchestra, whose reaction when Atlantic signed 2nu was to say "It takes a big dog to weigh a ton."

      Michael Nealy - Writer, producer, creative director and owner of his own little ad agency in Seattle, a living illustration of the old saying "The warped child is father to the warped man."


      Track listing

      The CD has ten tracks and runs at around 43 minutes. All the tracks were written by Nealy & Blaney with the exception of "Spill the Wine". The first track wears the album title, or is it the other way around?. Well, this is the track the started 2nu on their way.

      The track, which was basically a spoken-word piece of story-telling over a dancey beat and sound effects, reached number 46 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album soon followed, and though the songs varied in musical style, one thing kept them all together, and that was the narration of Jock Blaney. His voice is reminiscent of Brian the dog from Family Guy, and the stories range from odd and funny to surprisingly touching. There are elements of jazz, reggae, soul, funk, rock, and just about every other genre throughout the album, and it was certainly unique, eSpecially in the 1990s.

      It's hard not to smile when his 'sand-shoe' squeaks!

      This is ponderous, man
      Really ponderous

      I had this dream the other night
      I went to work one day
      And nobody remembered who I was
      So, I decided to take the day off

      On my way out
      I run into my boss and he says
      Hey, you look familiar
      I said, thanks, people say that
      A lot in these dreams

      Then the horns kicked in
      And my shoes started to squeak

      Then all of a sudden
      I'm standing on a beach
      In some tropical part of the world
      And there's this sign that says

      Aren't you supposed to be at work
      Sort of screamed out at me

      Then I remembered
      I'd been here in other dreams
      But usually there was a water polo game
      And a girl who could talk with her eyes

      And she'd say
      Can you see what I'm saying
      Then the horn kicked in
      And my shoes started to squeak

      Before I knew it
      I was walking near a lake
      When a phone rings
      And the operator speaks to me
      In a language I don't understand

      Oom papachucka maka nanu singow
      Meling kapalana wani domo chingpow
      Heddy kapalua cuma jenising tea
      Oomama chucka pana one is now three

      Then the horns kicked in
      And my shoes started to squeak

      Before long, I was coming up
      On this really weird part of my dream
      You know, the part where
      I know how to tap dance
      But I can only do it
      While wearing golf shoes

      Now, I'm back on the beach
      Walking with this girl
      Who talks with her eyes
      This time she says
      I think you see what I'm saying

      Then just before I woke up
      It started to rain in Southern California

      Oom papachucka maka nanu singow
      Meling kapalana wani domo chingpow
      Heddy kapalua cuma jenising tea
      Oomama chucka pana one is now three

      A girl who could talk with her eyes
      Can you see what I'm saying
      Aren't you supposed to be at work

      This is ponderous, man

      Really ponderous (ooh)


      Ponderous

      The next track worthy of examination is track # 4 - Count 'Em Up Queek. Although the music styles criss cross and flow in and over each other, the reggae feel in this track is impossible to miss, and to ignore. Jock Blaney's ability to alter his voice and take multiple roles is one of the key factors of why this music is so enjoyable. This is not to say that the rest of the 'band' are not working hard. They are and while this style of spoken word 'rap' is now passe, do not forget that the period is 1990/91, and at this time the approach used by these boys was quite novel indeed.

      On any other album, adding 'corny' sound effects to supplement the (crazy) story lines would be enough to turn the listener off - but not with what these guys are doing. I love the piano accordion refrain.

      I needed a vacation . . .
      You know . . . somewhere exotic . . . where beautiful full bodied native girls reek of coconut scented suntan lotion, a place where I could drink the water . . . and all for 49-95!

      So, call Clive Dinky's . . . the home of the 'no splinter' 'full woody' tropical dream vacation and spa saloon.

      Two hours later . . . there I am . . . lookin' straight into the eyes of Mona 'the Monkey Woman', when all of a sudden . . . my Ziggy Marley accent kicks in . . .

      Mona had this crazy laugh and was extremely short for her weight . . . I figure about seven feet . . . and all of a sudden she points to a sign that says . . . "Welcome to our sa . . . Mr Polo.

      Huh! Sa? So I say to her . . . 'hey Mona, there's no 'P' in the Spa' . . .and she say's . . ."yeah, and we'd like to keep it that way". . .


      Count 'Em Up Queek

      Track # 5 - Frank's Chair really stands out. Ok, so Ponderous is the very amusing, heavy with the effects, let's 'light another joint' and listen again track, but, Franks' Chair stands out from Ponderous and the other tracks by virtue of the well developed story line, that is most excellently delivered.


      It is really a 'bitter/sweet' adventure that starts and finishes with 'Frank's Chair', and cleverly embarks on an aural odyssey the like of an 'Indiana Jones adventure - smaller scale of course.

      It still has it sound effects, but these are far more subtly used, and the opening is quite evocative. All in all this is a beautiful track in both story and music and although it is only a tad under 6:00 minutes, it never becomes boring!

      [Opening verse]
      Dusk is a very different experience in the pastoral, unblemished surroundings of the Mountains.
      I truly believe that there is no such thing as dusk in the city. Think about it. After spending most of your day within a society 'whose' philosophy is 'Fix the blame, and not the problem', you must navigate your way home behind the same population using the same philosophy in their driving.
      No, there is no such thing as dusk in the city.


      [Final verse]
      Well, here I am. A few years later. A few years older.
      I'm romancing another beautiful dusk in the mountains on the porch of an old, familiar cabin.
      There is no chair this time. It was replaced by a note. She simply wrote, Love is a rare opportunity and when that love is somehow parted, it's something deep, down inside that wants just a reminder, a slice of a memory, a possession.
      I thought you might want to know why I came for Frank's favorite chair. Now you understand.
      There is no such thing as dusk in the city.


      Personally, I couldn't read this without wanting to hear the track. What about you?


      Frank's Chair

      The final track by which i think I can give you a final glimpse into the world of 2nu, is track #8 - Spill the Wine. As indicated earlier this track was the only one on the CD not written by the two producers, and interestingly, in a later re-release of their material, this track was left off for copyright reasons!!! ???

      Of course the track was made very popular some 21 years previously. It was also covered by the Isley Brothers and Michael Hutchence.

      So, at this point, "Nardo" narrates his own way through a cover of Eric Burdonís ďSpill the WineĒ making it very much his own, without showing any disrespect for the original version. It's funny, because if I hadn't been bought up on Burden's most excellent version, and had only heard it done by 2nu, I would have sworn it was made for them.

      It kicks of with a really nice percussive piece and female chorus - very much a party/dance track.


      Spill That Wine

      This is not a 'mind-blowing' album. It does not boast a plethora of big names from the music biz - hell, you have probably not heard of any of the folk on this album.


      Recent picture of the group

      The track Ponderous while attracting massive attention in and around Seattle, had to settle for #46 in the Billboard top 100 in 1991 - mind you that's still an admirable effort. The group bought out a follow-up album in 1999 - Command (an EP), and in the year 2000, changed their name to 2nu2.com, to reflect the changes around them, and the changes they were going through.

      In regard to the tracks, well the nest way to sum up is that the compositions are clever. The music is good and the lyrics are spoken, rather than sung, and often recount dreams or stories ranging from the seemingly odd to the obviously odd, but never the banal

      So 2nu have not been a prolific in releasing their music, but in fact that makes this first CD even more collectable.

      What I didn't realise until actually putting this retro-review together, is that there is a real cult following for the group around the world.

      The original CD is apparently very hard to get. A quick check on Ebay Australia revealed a cassette copy, and when I punched in worldwide search, I found a CD copy (one copy) in Germany for only $3.00!! Yet in some on-line record stores there is a waiting list, and several times I found records that indicated it was selling (when available) for around $45.00Au.

      This is a shame because many of you reading this might want to add the CD to your collection. Well, start hitting Google, and or the Specialist music stores - you might get lucky!



      VIDEOS - For the first time in over 70 album reviews, I have been unable to locate a video of an artist (in this case 2nu), playing live, or at least having a 'classy' picture collage attached to a video of the soundtrack. So we let the tracks in the review do the talking!

      [In fact, even pictures of 2nu are difficult to find!]



      Previous Cream of the Crate Albums

      If you are interested in checking out the first fifty vinyl albums reviewed, just click HERE





      Cream of The Crate CD Reviews

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