Friday, July 18, 2008

The Cuba Five - am i your world?


The Cuba Five began as another emiLy side project, though the band really came into its own following the breakup of emiLy. I had a bunch of songs written which I never got to do with Spoonfed, so I started a new band. Chris C. (who also played in The Whiteout, Regular Size Monsters, and Ely Parker & the CIAs) played drums, and Brian G. (from decaf) was the original bassist. The band started in spring of 1996, and played a handful of shows in this format. Brian graduated that May, and Mike L. (from emiLy, The Mad Dogs, and a lot of other bands) took over on bass. The Cuba Five was around until March of 1997, when Chris moved across the country in mid March. He announced this on a weekend, we practiced on that Monday, recorded Tuesday and Wednesday, and played a final show on Thursday.

The album was recorded at Clifford the Big Red House by Ron G., at the beginning of a spring which featured at least four bands recording in the same basement (Obstruction, The Mad Dogs, and Cod in Salsa being three of the others).

The band name (occasionally misheard as "the cube of five") comes from the following historical bit: In 1872, seven Irish political prisoners were freed from jail on the condition that they leave Ireland and never return. Five of them sailed to New York on the steamship Cuba, where they were warmly welcomed by the Irish immigrant community and nicknamed 'The Cuba Five'. One of them, Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, earned the nickname "Dynamite Ro

ssa" (hence the song name) for his advocation of using bombing as a tactic to promote the cause of Irish independence. His granddaughter, Rosemary, is pictured on the cover of the tape at age 2. Rosemary is my grandmother.

As far as the music goes, I remember it being reviewed by a friend of ours in the ND campus newspaper. He said how you could hear Billy Bragg, Jawbreaker, and (most of all, in my opinion) Unwound. I can't argue with this. I think the strengths of the album are the instrumental tracks. "Beta Decay" once had lyrics, but they were tossed and we kept only the title. The song has a sample from the movie Swimming With Sharks, while "Dynamite Rossa" samples Walking & Talking, and "At Long Last Arriving" has a couple samples from rumblefish which get largely drowned out by guitar. Our sampling technique was quite primitive: hold a hand-held tape recorder in front of the television while the desired bit is playing. The title of "Saroyan" refers to the author William Saroyan, whose short story "Am I Your World?" provides both lyrics for part of the song and the title for the album. It's not an easy story to find, but it's worth reading if you get the chance. "Homesick" is worth skipping. Seriously. "Nation of Uselessness" was sited as the single bright point of the album in the HeartattaCk review, which was pretty vicious otherwise. People said "Does This Answer Your Question?" shamelessly riffed on Billy Bragg, but I always thought it was much more of a Chisel ripoff.

The second best complement I got about this album was having a friend of mine tell me that he and another friend were playing video games one day and the other guy started humming something. When he asked what he was humming, the guy started singing "Young American Skateboard Disaster".

The best complement I got about this tape was unexpectedly hearing it playing on the stereo in a friend's car. Because while it's cool to hear people say "Hey, I like your band", nothing beats knowing they're actively listening to it.

listen/download:


see also:
The Cuba Five on MySpace

9 comments:

ricardo cabeza said...

i liked this band. i am glad the 90s are over so no one cares about unwound and hal hartley anymore.

Mike L. said...

We should have tuned before recording, and I should have learned the songs better. Other than that, I love this album.

doug said...

I really should have tuned before doing the overdubs on "Homesick" and "St. Louis to Cleveland".

Ron said...

I should have learned how to record before recording...

Julie McCoy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie McCoy said...

ok, i've listened to this a few times. no surprise. i love "homesick". i like this compilation as a whole, and this makes me really happy in general. just bummed i never got to see you in person.

doug said...

Thanks, Julie.

Vinny said...

Of all of Doug's side projects, I think I got more hard-ons from The Cuba Five than any other. I was so psyched when he let us (The Butterfly Effect) cover one of their songs. I can't remember which one it was, but it was hard driving, kick ass rock n roll. Someday I'll listen to the album and remember the title.

doug said...

The Butterfly Effect covered "Saroyan".