The latest in a continuing series of reviews from the innards of My Space Music (which has become the www equivalent of Siberia)
What do Ant Farmers do after the ants come home? In the case of Carl Petersen and Jon Little they make music. When the band broke-up in 1999, diehard fans found themselves without closure and hungry for more. Nonetheless, for the former Farmers it was time to move on. Both Jon and Carl have posted a number of tracks on My Space Music. Carl's uses The Clampett Report or his other nom de plume, Reporto Clampini to post his music. Jon has multiple pages, each one is essentially an extended play (ep) release (Jon Forrest Little, Radio Serenata, The Suicide Kit, The Before Photos and Space Pants)
Presently, Carl stays busy as the general manager of Albuquerque's alternative print publication, The Weekly Alibi. However, when the workday ends, he hunkers down to compose captivating little ditties. He's always been a prolific songwriter, and it's a trend that continues with Clampett Report, his post-Ant Farmers musical project. Jon Little took a different path, following his unceremonious departure from the Farmers he made his home in El Paso. While living there, he published two books of poetry and recorded the bulk of his solo material. Jon has since relocated to Denver, where he occasionally performs his music live.
The World According to Carl
Carl Petersen is our secret weapon in the ongoing battle to fend off boredom and complacency. His songs are cryptic observations of routine affairs. "Top Grocery Guys" opens with muted brass and lazy strumming, it's a glance at life, love and success before big box enterprise. "And when your neighbor drives by you'll be top grocery guy." "The World's Smallest Man" "Lives inside a paper cup drives a little garbage truck" He isn't necessarily small in stature, but as people say; It's not the size of the dog in the fight that counts. "Push a guy around enough he turns into a powder puff, he'll do anything that people say.. you don't want to live this way"
"Maybe they're just stronger than Douglas pines and businessmen and.....me"
A banjo plays through the broken glass as Carl spins a dry yarn about a "Cherry Tree".. "Soil is hard and alkaline, people listen half the time they need to" it's a wind swept landscape "Cherry trees do well out here spite the arid atmosphere, they breath" stark gothic imagery gives the song its depth "The hole you dug to plant it in was deeper than a grave again and creepy ... when you dug that tree it's hole, ghosts reached out and took your soul completely"
"There's an old pick-up trick, makes the girls think that you're sick"
"Dance" is propelled by a dissonant mix of cheezy organ and rumbling bass and guitar. "At the big dance tonight, you were wrong and I was right" Some frat boy is determined to maintain his wall flower status "I wouldn't dance but said I might to please you" excuses and pick-up lines "What she didn't tell... she was sick and can't get well and wandering in a worthless hellish dorm room." "The Middle" swirls around a wheezy organ riff "Everything starts out right, starts in the middle with an empty mind, everybody's gonna die in the middle" As folks around here like to say: You're born, you eat shit and you die.
"They just seem glad to dance with other guys"
"Lumberjacks" takes a voyeuristic look at gay men "Sometimes they whisper in the rest rooms, some might conceal colored handkerchiefs ... no one remembers what they signify." Keep in mind that yellow is the universal color for piss. "For all we know they might be lumberjacks or maybe criminals or diplomats." "Throw Like a Girl" covers a similar theme "She hits drinks with a drill sergeant's throat, but I think that you throw like a girl." don't ask, don't tell "You go where the truck drivers go, but I think that you throw like a girl." I'm sure she has enough arm to sling a trucker bomb out the window while doing seventy?
The Virtuous Dixie Deer
Jon's voice resonates like that of a dear old friend, and he has a wicked sense of humor. "Measly" glides along on a synthesizer groove "I am a weakling your suitcase is difficult to hold... your tip is so measly, it seems like you barely tip at all " baggage from the past? "And your girlfriend is making fun of me" let's see her carry these bags "And that girlfriend ... is girl to me"
"You took them on a snipe hunt and drove them insane"
"Scouting" tells the tale of a sick minded Scoutmaster "After 35 years of scouting you turn into an eagle, and the things you did to the children were illegal" which is why I avoided the Scouts like the plague "Taking little shortcuts with cheese and macaroni and I never will forgive you for what you did to Tony"... sick bastard.
"Tell the doctors taking care of me that that I'm planning a partial recovery"
Mental health is a common thread: "Partial Recovery" .. "Now that they have seen me, I don't see me getting higher, but if I do, I swear to you by the next day I'll get fired." pickin' up the pieces, again. "Pill" has its John Lennon moments, "Pill... take an extra pill tonight.. Sill... hope the window sill is fastened tight." Jon takes inventory of his thoughts: "Fight... heard you're going to fight tonight ... why?" Just leave your thoughts under the pillow at night "Mentally, you're ill... do you think the fairies will bring you change?" and we'll leave a light on for you. "Science Fiction" takes us beyond gravity "It takes a wicked heart of blackish wood" being a space cadet is no fun "Stuck in a capsule just like a canary... a spaceman's life is so ordinary" prepare for re-entry. "I don't wanna play science fiction, no more"
"I compensate for my own deficits by attacking the Ruling Class"
Jon describes himself as a "semi-serious activist, thus his protest songs tend to be tongue in cheek. "This crane is beyond belief it picks up these pieces and places them out of reach." The song "This Crane" was accompanied by a video, on which Jon elaborates "The overall intent of the video was to mock the war profiteers, the captains of industry and to simultaneously empower the little dreamers" Why? "Because our dreams are just as significant as any. My crane (a stick that Jon fastened a hook to) symbolizes our dreams, delusions & abilities. Their crane symbolizes the powerful people and forces in our world."
"They Were So Stupid Then, Their Heavy Tools and Their Wicked Ways."
And of course, I would be derelict in my duties, if I didn't mention a few Ant Farmers' Songs. Carl would usually fly solo on "Asshole" while the rest of the band hit the bar. "Have another drink, drink, asshole, asshole.. if it's the only way to drag yourself onstage" There's a live version of "Wheaty Back Penny" on 94 Rock, with T.J. Trout doing the intro. There's two versions of "Riverdale College Anthem", Carl's is leaner and faster paced...but I prefer the Farmer's version. "Oh Riverdale!, we've taken all our classes, we've kicked alot of asses ... never will we fail" I've always suspected that UNM and fictional Riverdale College had lots in common.
"Show us some team spirit, so quiet I can't hear it..."
Carl works out of his home studio, (the shed in his back yard) while Jon embraces studio quality production. They have similar voices, and share similiar songwriting traits. Jon is the better vocalist, and he's never sounded better. Jon gets help on some of his songs, Christina Kennedy sings lead on the version of "Never Win" engineered by Brett Sparks. Jon also recorded a version of "Never Win" where he sings in the style of a depression era crooner. Heather Trost plays violin on "Partial Recovery" & "All the Moose are Hiding". Brett Sparks plays pedal steel on "Farm Debt" I believe it's Christina Kennedy singing lead on "Movie Scene" I don't know who plays on Carl's songs other than Carl. You can take any song by either musician and endlessly peel back the layers with repeated listens. Music that tugs at your heartstrings or simply a balm to ease our daily pain, you be the judge.