Davenport

There are some bands you get interested in way before you actually get to hear them.

For me, Davenport are one of these bands.

I first came across them via an excellent online extended article in The Unbroken Circle. This advised that the band are a loose collective of artists and freaks based in Wisconsin and led by Clay Ruby who make Animal Collective sound like Peter, Paul & Mary.

Elsewhere, I read that the band name comes from the name Ruby’s grandmother used instead of ‘couch’. Ruby liked the word because it seemed belong to another age and lifestyle.

I connected with the band name but my associations were different .

‘Davenports’ was a popular brand of bottled beer in the English Midlands where I grew up. The brewery that made it has since closed down (although it has recently be revived by Highgate brewery in Walsall ).

The tag line for their commercials was ‘Beer At Home Means Davenports’ and there was something very quaint and homely about the image they used of an ageing suited gent in the commercials who looked a lot like my Grandad.

Grandad lookalike

The ditty that went with the ads went like this:

That’s the beer!
Lots of cheer!
The finest malt with hops and yeast,
Turns a snack into a feast.
Straight from breweries to your home,
Why collect?
We’ll deliver!

Soon you’ll know why folks all say:
Beer at home means DAVENPORTS “!


All this doesn’t seem completely off topic because since much of the avant-psych-drone-folk (whatever you want to call it) of the New Weird America derives from this inter-generational blending of sound and imagery.

Old-timey instruments and d-i-y methodology are mixed up with a more modern improvisational approach giving the music a loose, unpredictable quality. As a result more traditional, structured instrumental compositions sound pretty stilted or straight-laced by comparison.

In the true spirit of the movement, the band have preferred to release numerous limited edition CDRs, avoiding the compromises faced with even the hippest record labels. In this respect, and in the tribal, ritualistic quality of their music they have certain similarities with Sunburned Hand Of The Man (recently abbreviated to the snappier, but less interesting sounding, Sunburned).

Their music of the Davenport family was mainly accessible to the fortunate few who could attend their gigs but while the original vinyl, cassettes or CDs are now extinct the wonder of P2P music sharing means they are resurrected in cyberspace.

‘Free Country’ can be got via e-music while the music-blog wehavenozen has made others available.

I’m pleased to say they sound every bit as skewed and twisted as I hoped and imagined – dip your toe into a very big pool with the relatively accessible Free County and see if you like what you hear.

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