Thursday, June 18, 2015
DAVID KAUFFMAN AND ERIC CABOOR - Songs From Suicide Bridge LP
Those folks at Light In The Attic - who have recently reissued this obscure gem from 1984 - sure know a thing or two about a thing or two. Sure, they've got all that Rodriguez cash flowing in and keeping things steady (I always say that every successful label needs a Koln Concert in their repertoire for steady cash flow: LITA have found their Koln Concert. That remark may mean absolutely nothing to you), but such a predicament allows them to indulge themselves with this rather deluxe 2LP edition (it was originally a longish - 50 minutes or thereabouts - single LP) of a long-lost self-released singer-songwriter platter. Which matters.
David Kauffman and Eric Caboor aren't exactly household names and never will be. Their collectives careers stalled (but didn't die) pretty much upon the release of this very album, and frankly I'm mystified by its failure. Well, not mystified, as many great albums sunk like a stone for eternity, but its complete and total marketplace failure was indeed a tragedy. Some background... Kauffman was originally from New Jersey and moved to California in the late '70s, hoping to make it as a singer-songwriter in the LA scene like his heroes Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Jackson Browne et al. Caboor was from Burbank. They met in 1982 and played regularly around the fLA olk/coffeehouse circuit at the time. No double bills with The Stains or Saccharine Trust have been confirmed (nor ever suggested).
'Kiss Another Day Goodbye': one of the most awesomely depressing songs ever penned
They amassed a collection of songs, made demos, shopped them around to big-time labels and were promptly rejected by all and sundry. Reagan-era America wasn't in the mood for their feel-bad vibes. Bummed out by their rejections and feeling shut out by The Biz, they decided to record a collection of their most downer tunes on 4-track and release it themselves, if only to say Fuck You, of sorts. Thus Songs From Suicide Bridge. They pressed up 500 copies, gave a stack of them to radio stations and watched it fail. It's a glorious failure. Kauffman and Caboor were no Jandeks: homepsun heroes keeping the DIY spirit alive. They wanted to be stars. They would have signed to Elektra or Geffen in a heartbeat - it just didn't happen. But somewhere it that bitter failure lies the beauty of this release.
Both Caboor and kaufman share songwriting duties, mainly alternating tracks and singing lead vocals on their respective numbers. Their songwriting styles perfectly complement each other; until I checked the liner notes I assumed there were co-writing credits on all tracks. Musically, it's sparse and downbeat, but with a smart, crisp and lyrical musicianship. It's raw, but never sloppy. These dudes could play - it's just that no one gave a shit. One of the obvious comparisons is Springsteen's Nebraska, and it's in that ballpark, for sure, although both members have never suggested having been influenced by it. It remains its own beast, and a very LA one at that, with a maudlin feel gleaned from late nights studying early Tom Waits and Randy Newman sides. Kauffman and Caboor continued to write and record throughout the rest of the '80s and beyond under the name The Drovers, and I can make no judgments on this era of their music. I do know that Songs From Suicide Bridge is the sound of beautiful losers.