What do you do when there's nothing left to do? When you rocket from dayjob tedium to tabloid fodder in Real World time? When you record a 28-minute masterpiece unsigned, on the cheap - in Fathead's garage, no less - that goes multi-platinum, with no promotion and less airplay; with no nod to trend and yet not a note less than timeless?
When that same album - Sgt. Jack's Pepper Mill (Chapter 7 Records), to be exact - causes the New York Times to recall "a time when the best music was also the most popular"? When it earns 4 Â½ stars in Rolling Stone - the coveted fifth star causing a fierce internal battle, you're told, involving Jan Wenner, two interns, and a shuck-sigh ken that maybe this train has amscrayed. When it garners spit-take praise from the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and USA Today (National Edition)?
What, exactly, do you do?
The Donuts don't know.
Frontstud J. Bearclaw doesn't know; axeangel-avenger Johnny Taint doesn't know; timekeeper Fathead doesn't have a clue; and bassist Peter Extravaganza can't be reached for comment. Ever.
But dig this: The 'Nuts dropped Sgt. Jack's in February 2004 and already it's the best-selling album in Chapter 7 Records' storied 15-year history. Jack's has been reviewed in seven languages, aired to exhaustion on three continents, and been universally accused of propagating literately obscure but occasionally recognizable dick jokes. Australia's Alt Country proclaimed "[t]he Donuts hebben paar geode momenten."
They're not called the 'Nuts for nothing.
And now the Kings of Pirate radio return with Buckley (Chapter 7), an album of the moment and for all time; an album of outrageous proportions, intimate moments, unforgettable interludes, and poorly drawn cover art; an album with more hooks than the Bunny Ranch and not nearly as legal. The best Elvis Costello album since Elvis stopped making 'em; the most blatant Beatles nod since their solo careers. And unless you've already sold the enclosed copy, the sweet little gem that's humping your stack right now.
The 'Nuts know value: Buckley boasts two more songs than Sgt. Jack's - that's 2 Â½ more total minutes to you and me - for the same low, low price. And always conscious of the consumer, the 'Nuts have trimmed Taint's sole contribution (called this time, by George Harrison, "Liberty Bell") by two minutes.
And so Buckley, the album.
And what about it? There's this: Five of its fourteen tunes clock-in at under two minutes, only two break three, and the remaining eight fall somewhere in between. The cover art has a matte finish. No expense was taken, none was spared.
But that's just objective fact, not the stuff of great journalism. How does one capture the backstory pathos, the triumph and discovery, the formative moments that became Buckley? You could interview the 'Nuts, or you could just wing-it. They don't care, their lawyers don't care, and their label can't be reached for comment. Ever.
"We almost signed with Columbia," says Fathead. "They offered us a twelve album deal, but when our lawyers read the small print we discovered it was really only a seven album deal and you had to buy a full-priced CD to get the other five albums. We were so outta there."
"Plus," ejaculates Bearclaw, "they wanted to pigeon-hole us. We had to elect 'Rock & Pop' or 'Adult Contemporary.' But what if we changed our minds? Would they still send our old choices? We had to protect our artistic integrity, and so we resigned with Chapter 7. Plus they were willing to sign us."
Don't get lost in the hype. Listen to "Shake" and try not to; listen to "Let Jones Go" and try not to; listen to "Hey John What" and try not to ask yourself, hey John, what? The Donuts have that effect. Maybe you eeked an existence without "Don't Let Her Fly Away." But now everything depends on your ability to hear all 32 Â½ minutes of sweet airy confection perfection.
This is a new phase Donuts album, essential to the content of the film and remarkable in the fact that there is no film. Dig? In your stores, on the Net, and for those of you lucky enough to find one, at any Donuts gig worldwide.
Check out the artist's website:
1. hey john what
2. let jones go
4. don't let her fly away
5. marry you
7. nice to you
9. nice little kid
10. liberty bell
11. leave her alone
12. you lied
13. hallowed halls
14. it don't go thru