What was Emitt Rhodes doing in his parents' house in Hawthorne? Same as Matt Adams (performing always as the Blank Tapes) would do in his own parents' house in Costa Mesa. They both could sit down and make teenage symphonies in a garage and they both came out with a couple of perfect songs hot in their hands. Emitt fooled radio DJs into thinking the Beatles had made up some playful "Emitt Rhodes" character to camouflage their post-break-up releases and Matt fooled me into thinking he had put some lost Kinks song—even though I have spent years hunting and trapping every lost Kinks song there is, particularly the Dave Davies ones recorded only as home demos, which I could fool you into thinking were lost Matt Adams songs—or some George Harrison or something from the first Lou Reed self-titled VU-hangover record into his set because he seems like the kind of nice guy who'd nod back to rock's most revered grampas.
But they were his songs—new Blank Tapes songs, some of the hundred some songs he has in the corral, written so far ahead he's already got another twenty-three track album roughed out for after the new twenty-three track album he'll be releasing in a few months—and they had so much unmistakable life in them that you could just about watch the flowers sprout. I don't know most of the names but I have them to listen to—a lot of them recorded before Matt moved back from San Francisco to Costa Mesa, in a room as big as a mattress but as tall as about two mattresses on end, intended for that third and probably best-yet Blank Tapes record this spring.
Melody, said old friend Jason Medina, when I asked what Matt did best. He's friendly, said old friend Matt McCluer when I asked him what Matt did best. They were all rehearsing together in that Costa Mesa garage, and they would take breaks one by one to talk and you could hear the rest of them shaking songs around in the background. He's a home away from home for a lot of people, said McCluer, and that just about did all my work for me. There's an old quote from a TV guy (told to a music guy) that I circle constantly and slightly squashed it says: when you do a thing right in pop, you make people feel less alone. But McCluer said it better.
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And I had seen it happen so I knew what he meant. It was a Blank Tapes show in a bookstore—never have I seen so many people drunk in a bookstore, though Matt probably saw more when he was living in San Francisco—and ladies present were so moved as the Blank Tapes played that they began to sing happy girl-group ooooooooooooh-la-la-las to songs I know for a fact they had never heard before in their entire lady lives. Matt's songs are so put together that the la-la-las fit along perfect.
Poor bands that only get people to sing along the songs they know—it's something again to get them singing because they just can't help it. Blank Tapes (at this show Adams and a Costa Mesa all-star backing band, with D.A. from Flying Saucers turning out to play the organ!) shuffled up looking like they'd just rolled out of the holding tank and played about six songs unsullied by miscalculation, dishonesty or ego and probably some of them didn't even have their shoes fully tied as they did it, and I will pick here one of the ones I liked best.
It was called "In The Light"—not the Led Zeppelin one and Matt never says, "Oooooh, baby!"—and it was hymn by pop combo, and I thought it was "Ode To Joy," which is music I heard before I even had any light in my head. Be embraced, you millions! says the original and similar sentiment says Matt's, too—a real friendly kind of melody. I could see people might think it was the Beatles but it was Blank Tapes.
THE BLANK TAPES PERFORM WITH MATT MCCLUER AND SLINGS AT THE PROSPECTOR, 2400 E. 7TH ST., LONG BEACH, (562) 438-3839. TUES., 9 PM. $3. 21+. AND WITH RED GIANTS, WHISKEY CHANGE AND BENJAMIN JAMES AT EVOCAL, 814 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-4548. WED., CALL FOR TIME, COVER AND AGE RESTRICTIONS.