Some boys just can’t go near a cliff without jumpin’ off, although without daredevils, "what an endlessly unfolding tedium life would then become." You take pliable minds, bombard them with tales of sick twisted deeds, and it's easy to see how necrophilia and misogyny become mere fodder for folk songs. Seemingly, Carlos Trujillo pens his songs with blood stained hands. He could write a break-up song where the girl doesn't get shot in a lung and blood sprays out with each dying breath. However if he did, he would be selling himself and his fans short. Carlos Trujillo and Levi Sainz are the heart and soul of Janos. Named after former band mate, Trent Janos who came to his senses and left while he still had hope for a normal life. Carlos & Levi started out as a duo in their hometown of Truth or Consequences, high school buds with a dream, "three chords and the truth." However, something was missing from their lives, besides pussy & free beer, so they added Trent on drums and became The Bends. Trent brought the beer, but they still got no pussy, they did however start playing gigs and working on the songs that would make up their first album. Then like the hitchhiker that doesn't get picked up by a serial killer, they got a break.
While attending a basketball game at Hot Springs H.S. (Go Tigers!) they ran into folk singer Dan Bern. Let's stop here for a minute, I understand why Carlos & Levi were at the game, that's what folks in small New Mexico towns do, but what the fuck was Dan Bern doing there? Anyway, this chance meeting would lead The Bends into a Las Cruces studio where they recorded their first album "Moods" they also set out across the Southwest as the opening act for Dan Bern. Their man crush soon spun off into a side project involving Bern: Claaes Haardwig & the Bendables 5, that resulted in the classic "The Day Ralph Edwards came to Town" which the T. or C. Chamber of Commerce promptly paid them not to play, ever! The Bends became regulars on the Las Cruces club circuit (two motel bars and a bowling alley) but as Carlos knows, you go without pussy long enough and even Levi starts to look good. So, they figured the best thing to do would be to pile a bunch of guys into a car and drive a thousand or so miles up the coast to Northern California. The trip was a success, they didn't die, Levi got lucky with an old hooker and they got to play a show in San Francisco. Once back in New Mexico, Trent as I alluded to earlier, left the group and was replaced by Daniel Witherspoon Beene, who not only plays the drums, but banjo and lap steel as well. The band then settled in to wait for opportunity to come-a-knockin' and while they wait, let's listen to some of their music:
Let's start with the obvious, "Thank You Danielle" I don't know if it's autobiographical or just bullshit, but either way it's a fucking stroke of genius. The subject matter (kissing & fucking a dead girl) is a bit much. I cannot condone necrophilia, that's just fucking wrong, anywhere other than T. or C. a cold one would normally mean...a beer. Levi shoots off a stream of cascading guitar riffs, the drums plod along, "I was eight years old at my parents mortuary, when i saw her there, she looked like a dream" Carlos now has your attention "I kissed a dead girl, she let me hold her hand while she slept, I wrote my name on her eyelids" at some point you find yourself thinking "Naw, he didn't really do that, did he? "my parents disapproved, tried to keep us apart, they took her body but I stole her heart" If being a social leper suits you, just hum a few lines of this around your co-workers. "Underwater Radio" is a study in contradiction, the dark languid lyrics counter the trot of the guitar strum. "Shot my friend in a bar the other night, she got up to dance, I took out my gun and I fired" it kills him to think of her with another man "Stole my friends car and I drove into a lake, windows were down the water came rushing in, I waited until the lights and radio died then I swam away" a crime of passion is still murder "Her cheeks are red, you can see her breath in the air, i'm the one she loved the most" love lies bleeding in the arms of another man.
"Tom Petty" is a soft beautiful ballad, Carlos is blunt as a hammer "You'll never know what it means to me, every month when you start to bleed, I know I'm still free." he sings the songs that remind him of the good times "Our parents smile when we come home drunk, remembering the times they had when they were young." it's a happy song although, I think the girl in question dies of an illness, dumps him or kills herself. Neil Young is a big influence on these fellas, as on "The Music" Carlos sings "I think the music is freedom" he's either contemplating suicide or just leaving town "Was it Neil Young or maybe Kurt Cobain who said, take it how you will, better to burn out than to fade away." I bet my money on suicide. They channel Neil again on "Judgment Day" Carlos meets up with the wrong older woman, she wants to smoke a joint and tell him a story. "I came home early one afternoon someone else had been in my bedroom, I could smell the sex on his breath." She kills her husband and then cuts Carlos' throat just because he's a man and shit out of luck. "Jane Doe" takes an upbeat Spanish folk rhythm and laces it with the arsenic lyrics of a madman "I looked around blood on my hands, can't understand why you're not moving yet." it's a rollicking little ditty "wait till tonight when they've all gone to sleep, rocks in your mouth and cement to weigh you down." as the blood soaks into his back seat he gets the last dig in "Guess I was wrong, chopped in a bag, you're still a bitch."
The music they recorded as Carlos & Levi is acoustic sans drums, it's also minus the lurid snuff film narratives of their later music. "I-25" has Carlos thinking about his first kiss "She was 16 I was 9, behind the gym at the middle school, one bit of whiskey washed down the strawberry lip gloss when she kissed me" sixteen year old girls kissing nine year old boys and giving them whiskey? only in T. or C. "Coyotes" is a guns-a-blazing saga of murder, revenge and murder all in that order, "There's a hallway where a picture hangs, splintered wood and twisted frames" A man done murdered Papa "Three bullets to the chest and vein, the fourth one kissed his neck and brain, he struggled for a way to numb the pain, the fifth one found his heart." the singer finds the killer and makes him eat his gun. Carlos & Levi's collaboration with Dan Bern produced "Fiesta Time" a snappy western number that should be the theme music for T. or C.'s annual Fiesta. "It's fiesta time downtown again, grab the mayor, grab a cop, then just dance until you drop" There's a hint of Bob Dylan in "The Day Ralph Edwards Came to Town" I had no idea Ralph was such a wild man "He came by car, but he left on a horse, he walked up the mountain and ran all the way down, he jumped in the lake and almost drowned." Carlos Trujillo and Janos is not everyone's cup of tea, if it suits you, enjoy the ride through the funhouse, if you're offended you could help your delicate sensibilities by turning away.
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