The artist known as Wammo (the artist formerly known as Mr. Wammo), figures
that if you're enough of a bonehead not to get the dripping irony in the songs
on his album Fat Headed Stranger you're just a "jarhead" anyway. "If
they really don't get it, then there's nothing I can do for them," is exactly
how he feels about it.
And, he's got a point. If you can't cut the irony
in a song like "There Is Too Much Light In This Bar," a cautionary tale about
all things Generation X, then maybe you shouldn't be allowed out in public
until you watch a few dozen episodes of the old Batman TV show. Wammo spends a
lot of time talking about the generation known as X, but as in "Too Much
Light," he wants to remind pepole that he's old enough to remember when the
phrase referred to "Billy Idol's first band."
Wammo is 35, a veteran of
"tons of bands" in his hometown of Austin, Texas and an 11-year vet of the
spoken word/poetry slam scene who says that his "bands went nowhere, but my
His words won him the slam crown at the Nuyorican poetry slam
in 1992, where he beat out 20 of the Big Apples' finest, which in turn got him
hooked up with Nuyorican honcho and poetry legend Bob Holman and his new
Mercury Records-distributed label, Mouth Almighty.
Before that, Wammo plied
his trade in bands and slam competitions for years until he was asked to
perform in the PBS project United States of Poetry, which then got him a
gig in the word tent at the 1994 Lollapalooza, followed by a few dates on an
MTV-sponsored spoken word tour with contemporaries Reggie Gaines and Maggie
Estep, which led to his new album.
Which isn't really like most rock
records, but more like an eye-bulging rant set to music from a seriously
defective victim of a fast-food, "do-I-have-to-read-the-whole-thing?" society.
Wammo starts off paying homage to the Ramones on "Homage to the Ramones," leaps
into a flamenco rail about the life-changing possibilities of the cheesy Batman
TV show in "Batman," and takes one of many stabs at the X generation in the
hokey country "I was flannel when flannel wasn't cool" shuffle "Children of the
Corn Nuts," about a guy trying to shed his grunge image by any means
And while Wammo puts on a number of guises: redneck,
hipster, righteously indignant hipster, he knew the music had to be good enough
to get people to listen to tunes like the dead-on alternarock Breeders spoof
"Salty," or else Stranger might end up in the pile in the corner with
the other, good-for-one-listen comedy/spoken word albums.
"Music is the
best way to get them to listen to poetry," says Wammo about finding a path to
make his words more palatable for today's attention-defecit audiences. "All day
long people are talking to you and telling you this and that and the last thing
you want to do is put on a record and hear someone talking to you. So, let's
say you have a record with JFK, MLK, Jesus, God and Hitler all doing rants. How
many times will you really listen to it? Eventually you'll know all the words
and even those will get boring. With the music it's always different, you
always catch something new each time around."
Check out "Open Letter '92"
a poem/letter to a deceased Kurt Cobain with a spaghetti western backing track
of acoustic guitar, eerie whistles and harmonica that is essentially a "you're
not missing anything down here" missive.
The album features instrumental
help from one of Wammo's many other side projects, the 10-piece Austin-based
band Asylum Street Spankers, an all-acoustic band with whom he gigs around town
playing 20's style jump blues music with no microphones, amps or electricity.
In keeping with his contrarian nature, the music on Stranger strays
pretty far from that of the Spankers jump boogie, seguing from the overheated
guitars and manic riffs of songs like "There is Too Much Light In This Bar" and
the Alice In Chains-like scrunge of "Do I Look Fat In This?," a catalogue of
disjointed scenes and machine-gun images, to the Laurie Anderson-mocking sound
collage "This May Sound Kind of Weird."
"I used to play some drums in Poi
Dog Pondering," says Wammo about his rock roots, adding, "and my poetry has
always been affected by rock and I'm an aggressive person, which is why the
poetry seems aggressive."
The high-blood pressure troubadour comes to his
beyond-it-all anti-everything attitude by being a "cusper," too young for a
yuppie, too old to squeeze into the busters. "I grew up with the whole
Generation X thing and when you grow up on the cusp, it's a hard place to be.
I've always leaned towards punk rock and when 'alternative music' came out, I
was caught right in the middle of it. I really was flannel when flannel wasn't
cool, but not be design. The only way to make fun of it is from the inside
looking out. How else could I be so embittered and humorous at same