Record Review: The Cosmopolitans: Wild Moose Party US CD

the cosmopolitans - wild moose party cover art
Bacchus Archives | US | CD | 2006 | BA11106

The Cosmopolitans: Wild Moose Party – US – CD [2006]

  1. [How to Keep Your] Husband Happy
  2. Wild Moose Party
  3. Chevy Baby
  4. Psychic Joan
  5. Party Boy
  6. Talkin’ Bout You
  7. Siam
  8. Dancin’ Lesson
  9. Doug
  10. pH Factor
  11. Sophisticated Boom Boom

Gloryoski! Just three weeks ago we were discussing Bush Tetras, and NYC-dweller of yore Echorich mentioned The Cosmopolitans in his kickoff comment on that thread. The name seemed familiar… at the time I responded, “I sort of remember The Cosmopolitans. Did I hear them on WPRK-FM or just read about them in Trouser Press?” Well, I just looked at the Trouser Press Index, and betchabygollywow, their single was reviewed in TP #61; the very first issue of the magazine that I had bought! So there are parts of my memory that are still razor sharp in my dotage.

Then things got very interesting when commenter Schwenko PM’d me with the kind offer offer of two CDs we’d been hovering around on PPM of late that he happened to have multiple copiess of. He discovered this when he had been entering his collection into his Discogs account; a highly noble effort! One of these discs [which have since arrived at my Record Cell] was The Cosmopolitans disc compiled 26 years after their lone 7″ sparked their notoriety, so this morning I listened to in on the commute to work. The band and disc were weirdly astonishing, for reasons we’ll get to next.

The Cosmopolitans began as a pair of UNC-Chapel Hill students [Jamie K. Sims and Nel Moore] who didn’t know one another at their campus. Ms. Sims had formed a terpsichorean group named the “North Carolina Progressive Dance Troop.” Once Ms. Sims moved to New York City, her now rebranded “Cosmopolitan Dance Troop” got a new member with Ms. Moore joining. Ironically, they had not know each other while attending UNC-Chapel Hill! They would link up with the dB’s or The Fleshtones, and provide go-go dancing for their gigs, but their own efforts weren’t well accepted in the NYC dance scene, so they eventually found more favor by becoming a band themselves and getting booked into rock clubs. They linked up with fellow Chapel Hillian [?] Mitch Easter at his famed Drive-In Studio in Chapel Hill and he produced their first single, “[How to Keep Your] Husband Happy.” And the story began there.

the cosmppolitans - how to keep your husband happy coverr art“[How to Keep Your] Husband Happy” was cited by Echorich as a track that the B-52’s never got around to writing. Jamie and Nel [Ms. Sims played the minimal Acetone organ fills coursing through this Garage Rock spectacle] took inspiration not from some article in Cosmopolitan Magazine from the 1950s [though the bitingly satirical lyrics would seem to indicate that] but from a Debbie Drake exercise record that Jaime’s mom had. The chorus was “shape up, firm up, tone up…with Debbie” while the women would dryly intone a laundry list of other things you could be doing to “keep your husband happy.”

debbie drake how to keep your husband happy cover art
Epic | US | LP | 1964 | BN 26102

And boy did it ever sound like the B-52’s. Which is not surprising since the singers spawned just hours away from Athens, Georgia in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They effortlessly had the kind of Deep South singing voices not a hundred yards from the sound of Kate and Cindy, but the harmonies they hit were definitely skewed towards the sort of minor key dissonance that The B-52’s made their stock-in-trade. So they must have been trying hard for that feel. I’ll say they succeeded wildly.

The title cut was the kind of bonkers material that The B-52’s never really seemed to write after the first two albums with minimal organ riffing that got the most out of the one chord they had between them. It was dedicated to Jamie’s cat which got stuck with the moniker “Moose” when it wouldn’t stop growing. Moose was depicted on the CD’s front cover.

“Chevy Baby” was an insane song based on a New York Post tabloid story about a couple who traded their baby for a Corvette Stingray! The minimal, psychotic Garage riffing was mainly an excuse for Jamie to act out the story with guitarist David Itch taking the part of the hapless baby. Ms. Moore’s hellish harmonica almost took the song into nightmare territory.

“Psychic Joan” can’t help but remind me of a radio skit that chasinvictoria once wrote for his mom called “Psychic Betty!” but the differences were vast. Betty could only see the future and wasn’t the sort of psychokinetic mutant that Joan turned out to be in this song.

“Dancin’ Lesson” was the band’s stab at a “new dance” song where steps like the “dB’s Stomp” and the “Fleshtones Flank Step” mercilessly dropped their buddies’ band names. But the comparison between The Fleshtones and The Cosmopolitans stopped at the appearance of cheesy organ and the definite article in their respective names. When not enhanced by Mitch Easter playing everything other than organ and harmonica on their first single, the results were more quirky attitude than the non-stop party groove of The Fleshtones or The B-52’s. Jamie K. Sims sounded almost exactly like Cindy Wilson, but the songs here were more stripped down…and far odder. That she write chamber music today is a testament to the unpredictable nature of reality.

The minimal music was the framework for their satirical observations [in the case of their 7″ A-side] and mostly an unending stream of nutzoid lyrical goofs based on hipster junk culture catnip like stories in the New York Post. The one single that they managed back in the day was probably their raison dêtre. Eleven tracks [nine on iTunes, sans the Chuck Berry, and Shadow Morton covers] was possibly more than they ever expected to see on disc, but if you ever wanted to hear the B-52’s in a lo-fi Garage Rock framework, look no further than this disc!


About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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