Faces is the name of the debut album from Newspoke, a New York-based duo who anonymously release music. The album falls like a crossbreed of unusual creatures. Artful, casual, independent, lo-fi-ish. With roots in Americana, chord progressions make it easy to sing along. The album sort of pretends it’s easy to listen to – it glides in with melodic phrasing, indie-sounding drums, perfectly pitched string-sections. It’s an album that shines, bouncing light from its surface like songs designed for college-radio play. But wait. Things aren’t as simple as all that.
There are depths in the worldview of Newspoke. What happens with the music is one thing. What happens with the lyrics is another thing. What happens with the videos is another thing. And then there’s the whole band-identity issue which adds complexity, and questions the process. Today we’re going to discuss “I Apologize For Dying On Your Shoes” – the latest video/track release from the seven-track album.
Quick point of reference: In 1989 the French gypsy-punk band Les Negresses Vertes released “Zobi La Mouche” The song detailed the exploits of a fly called ‘Dicky’. Dicky was an intrusive, vulgar creature. Flying into people’s mouths and out of their noses. Some critics suggested ‘Dicky’ was a metaphor, dealing in predatory sexual pursuits of the most vile kind. They may have had a point. Les Negresses Vertes were a band that enjoyed the kinds of mischief that put dirt and grime beneath the fingernails. They were great punk. Wait – maybe there’s also something a little subversive in the approach of Newspoke.
The video for “I Apologize For Dying On Your Shoes” focuses on the street level world of bugs. We see details of the comi-tragic lives of creatures before pest control is called. The anonymous band sing from the perspective of sarcastic, sardonic victims. But this isn’t a one-line joke, there’s real force here too. Karmically speaking the narrator is playing the hand he was dealt. He’s not the nuisance, or the metaphor celebrated by those French punks. Newspoke use this Kafkaesque approach to character to bring fun, but also the perspective of our impact on our world. There are victims everywhere – almost everything we do is at the expense of others. Our cultural subjugation of the weak is the target. Spirit is key. With a vocal track that echoes of some of Elvis Costello’s finer, breathier moments, we’re once again at the place where proper punk meets pop.
The anonymity of the band is the reason we’re using the word ‘punk’. There’s something about the reclaiming of self, when the identity is not given. They’re willful opposers to the commodity of fame. Newspoke retain their privacy, and in doing so they free themselves from any prejudice that the expecting audience may bring. The music, and the videos they produce are freed from the baggage of projection.
Previous track “Judas Tree” also had a video which toyed with perspective – a camera floated down from the heavens to enter a grave, dug in the neighborhood yard of two masked men. Probably the band. Being free of identity allows tracks like “Judas Tree” and now “I Apologize For Dying On Your Shoes” to occupy the same space. Humor and seriousness bleed through all things – much like they do in real life. The sequence of the album offered a pleasing journey through this surreal vision. Mixed identities and multiple personalities were delivered with a unified vision. It’s a deeply pleasing album.
“I Apologize For Dying On Your Shoes” is a good introduction to one aspect of Newspoke, but remember – it is only face of a multi-faceted project. To really get into this thing you really need to get into this thing.
HURRY – LISTEN – NEWSPOKE