Daddy Music, Volume 1 – French Frith Kaiser Thompson, “Disposable Thoughts”

If you’re going to do something, you have to commit and do it all the way. The Boy and I decided that the way to pick the music for this series was to hit “shuffle” on my iTunes collection and go with whatever came up. (I still retain a veto if I think a track is unsuitable or unlistenable.)

But this is how we got to French Frith Kaiser, Thompson. And as odd as it seems, I’m going to discuss 1980’s experimental rock music with an 8-year-old. Here’s the track:

A little background: French Frith Kaiser Thompson were John French, Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, and Richard Thompson. All were accomplished musicians with a lot of avant-garde cred – John “Drumbo” French had played drums with Captain Beefheart, notably on the classic Trout Mask ReplicaFred Frith was an experimental guitarist/bassist/just-about-everything-ist who co-founded experimental rock band Henry Cow, collaborated with a wide range of musicians and released several solo albums; Henry Kaiser was a guitarist and one of the earliest free improvisers; and Richard Thompson was a guitarist/singer/songrwiter who had been part of the pioneering English folk rock band Fairport Convention (who are apparently back touring now, though without Thompson). The four of them got together for two albums: 1987’s Live, Love, Larf, & Loaf, whence this track comes; and 1990’s Invisible Means. I own both (though I have yet to rip Invisible Means. Note to self….)

I have always enjoyed FFKT’s music, even if I haven’t always understood it. It is by turns, funky, quirky, and often mesmerizing. (This track manages to hit all three.) Some of their stuff is pretty funny – a twisted cover of “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” for instance – and some of it is deeply weird. I haven’t listened to much of it lately, so I’m glad this came up, because it’s a reminder that I should go back and revisit these guys.

So, without further ado, here is the first entry in Daddy Music. I decided to go with a Q&A format to start. The Boy is a little tentative, but I think once we get used to doing this, he’ll loosen up.

Daddy: So, what is your first impression of the music?

The Boy: The music seemed off-rhythm. It just didn’t seem to come together right away. It seemed like it was made entirely on computer equipment.

D: What if I told you that there were no computers or synthesizers involved?

B: Then I would just be completely amazed.

D: Well, they were all talented musicians. They used guitars, drums, bass. (No vocals in this one, but they did also sing on other songs.) What did the music make you think of?

B: It made me think of some commercial I saw once. I can’t think of where.

D: Does it put you in any particular mood?

B: [Listening again] Energetic. I feel all hyper. … Now calm. And relaxed. … Funky!

D: I almost wish we had this on video so people could see you bopping in your chair.  Now, just tell me anything you want to say about this piece of music.

B: Well, I really did like it. I liked the way it seems off at first, like I said earlier, and then comes together. I like how I can feel different emotions at different times during that song.

D: How does it compare to other music you’ve listened to? Does it sound like anything else you’ve heard?

B: Some yes, some no. I can’t really put my finger on it.

D: What do you think the title means – “Disposable Thoughts”? Or what does it make you think of?

B: Kind of futuristic and… It kind of does remind me of Harry Potter and the Pensieve.

D: Anything else you want to say about it?

B: I don’t know why, but I wish it were a little bit longer.

D: Do you think you’d like to listen to other French Frith Kaiser Thompson music?

B: Definitely. Definitely.

D: One last question: Do you like doing this feature this way – listening to a track and then doing a little interview?

B: Yeah, I think it’s fun. And I like it because I get to learn new music that I might like.

D: OK, so we’ll do it again. Thanks!

B: See you next time, folks! [Cackles maniacally]

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