BEST LOCAL ALBUM OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS
There's an easy way to weed out the musical heavyweights from the merely mediocre. Regular songwriters craft works about love, loss, and universal experiences. Boring. True visionaries turn their attention to more pressing matters: their own trials in the spotlight. Witness the navel-gazing tunes of Van Morrison ("The Story of Them"), the Beatles ("The Ballad of John and Yoko"), and, of course, that pop titan Ricky Nelson ("Garden Party"). To those illustrious ranks add the Trash Monkeys, who have not just one song dealing with the ongoing tribulations of, well, Trash Monkey-dom, but a half-dozen. Of course the band's concerns are a little more downmarket than hordes of groupies, intrusive TV cameras, and piles of cash. As singer Lloyd Johnson croons over a stumbling acoustic lurch, if you enter the "Casa de Trash," be sure to mind the exposed wiring and don't forget to carefully hide your stash. Oh yeah, try not to step on the blow-up doll either. "Casa de Trash" is just one of the many country-inflected odes the group recorded back in the late Eighties, only now rescued from samizdat cassette editions and enshrined on the Pass Out CD. Elsewhere there's the cowpunk dirge "Puppies, Puppies, Puppies" (delivered in a milk-curdling faux-Scottish accent, of course), the fuzzed-out jauntiness of "Clairvoyant Housewife" (the bouncily twee theme song to one of the many bizarre sitcoms that seem to exist only in the band's collective mind), and the Merle Haggard-on-ludes ballad "Hamburger Girl" (a heartfelt tribute to the greasy spoons of South Florida). Finally compiled for a public audience, Pass Out stands as a gloriously whacked tribute to creative genius left out in the Miami sun a little too long. It's also thankfully still a work in progress; the second half of the CD contains new songs from the recently reformed Trash Monkeys. If anything they seem even more deranged with the passage of time. Long may they stagger.