Cuba Street is a record by the St. Louis power pop band The Love Experts. Their e.p. was recommended to me the other day by a tomato farmer in Bishop, California. I looked her up to tell her, "Look! I used your picture! Your picture of that grungy keg bunghole from that brewery in Belgium!"
I directed her, whom I thought was a him, to my little story about smuggling encrypted secret messages in kegs of beer, as a method of treasonous entrapment in Renaissance England.
She wrote back, via MySpace:
"The messages in the bungholes. Brilliant. I thought Mary Queen of Scots was in Carlisle Castle, maybe she was only caught there. Okay, here's a stranger question still. Any chance you know Steve Carosello, who sings for the St. Louis band The Love Experts? He is a dear penfriend of mine. We are mutual fans of the New Zealand bands, the Mutton Birds and the Phoenix Foundation. All the best from the hot, hot desert. .... Tricia - Matt is having a beer."
I thanked her for writing back charitably and told her I was in possession of The Love Experts' debut e.p. However, though her penfriend Steve and I know many of the same people and know of one another, she knows him much better than I do, all the way out there in the deserts of Bishop, California.
Rene Saller (one person who knows both Steve and me) had promoted Cuba Street to me for Undertow Music. Rene knows her music, especially her adventurous rock music, and I didn't take her glowing praise of The Love Experts lightly. At any rate, I was prepared to like anything with Steve Scariano on the bass guitar. I remember walking into some club some night Steve was on electric bass and thinking I was in the presence of the warmest bass tone and most confident electric bass playing I had ever heard in my life. (Mike Prokopf's acoustic bass work has the same impact on me.)
Now I can't figure out why Cuba Street didn't overpower me on first listen, when it came out back in 2005. I can't figure out why it didn't immediately wipe me out. I can't figure out why it didn't immediately enter that elite rank of regular-rotation records, along with Soda and The Wu-Tang Clan and Meat Puppets and Astor Piazolla.
As of this morning, after one thrilling drive-time spin, it's in that upper echelon. This is bright, smart, throbbing pop music, with wicked hooks, urgent vocals, and an unexpected guitar departure on the sixth and final track that is worthy - I don't drop the R.T. bomb lightly, not at all! - of Richard Thompson.
Really, I'd go on, but the liner notes on the Undertow site (penned, no doubt, by Rene) say it so well. And there are always those $0.99 downloads on the MySpace page.
Really, I just wrote this bit to give a belated thanks to Rene (who lends a leg to the cover image on the great Michael Friedman CD Cool of the Coming Dark) and to Tricia in the California desert, with her yen for beer, tomatoes, and New Zealand rock music. (Cuba Street, I now know, is the name of a centrally located shopping area in Wellington, New Zealand, which must have something to do with the Mutton Birds and the Phoenix Foundation and all that.)
To bring it back to beer, I wanted to know from Tricia what kind of beer Matt (her man, I presume) was enjoying?
She wrote back, "Matt was drinking Firestone Pale 31. The Firestone Union Jack IPA keg just blew. :( Rumors of a keg of Cantillon wending its way across the States to our house have been flying from the local grocer who gets us our kegs."
It was the bunghole of a Cantillon keg, snapped by a tomato farmer from California, that instigated my reinvestigation of this important rock record, Cuba Street, made in my own damn town, St. Louis, by people I almost know, The Love Experts. That sounds like Confluence City to me!
Picture of Tricia lifted from the same picture page where I got the bunghole.