the pathetic caverns - music by artist - David Cross
eclectic reviews and opinions
Shut Up, You Fucking Baby
(Sub Pop, 2002)
One of the best things about David (Mr. Show) Cross' new spoken-word/comedy CD is simply that it exists. Sub-Pop either thinks they can make money on it or that it's worth losing money on, and given that they're not a terribly marginal entity, that's pretty cool. You can pay cash for it, and, assuming no informers see you do so, you can enjoy it in the comfort of your own home with no fear of being branded a dissident. (As for me, Citizen Policeman, I am just a humble reviewer, plying my trade, conscientiously warning people of the evil thoughts they might inadvertently encounter.) And what that means is that things really aren't as bad -- at least not yet -- as they could be, or even as bad as some folks think they are.
Even in an age in which the White House press secretary can warn ominously that people should "watch what they say," and worse, attempt to expunge it from the public record afterwards, you can, apparently, still get away with criticizing the government. On this double-disc effort Cross criticizes the government quite a lot, along with Jews, Christians, rednecks, loud morning DJs, venal flag merchants, and stupid people throughout time and space. He does so with scatological and vitriolic vigor, and I'm genuinely heartened -- I'm being serious here -- that such thoughts can still be aired, that such performances are still cheered. It's also delightful to hear some of the latest sacred cows being skewered; I especially appreciated Cross's riff on the degree to which flag-displaying has become a gesture devoid of real meaning in the post-September eleventh world. Perhaps the best part of this set is when he describes life in downtown Manhattan in the days after the terrorist attack, and discusses the ways in which it did, and didn't, impact and change lives.
Unfortunately, it may not be the sort of comedy that will stand up to repeated listenings. Cross is clearly intelligent, but he repeatedly opts for the easy targets: his bit about Attorney General John Ashcroft is principally about the man's penchant for ordering revealing bits of statuary draped and his reported aversion to calico cats. Depending on who you believe, that cat thing may have been a joke, if not a very funny one; the statue thing could (arguably) be a hypersensitivity toward offending people as well as absurd prudishness. What's no joke, though, is the unilateral assault being mounted on much of the Bill of Rights, which Cross mentions only passing. Well, maybe eliminating protections against unlawful searches and detainments is too subtle to make for good comedy.
And this is pretty good comedy -- maybe it made me wince more often than it made me laugh out loud, but it certainly provoked plenty of reactions. But it's probably not so incisive or so side-splitting that it's likely to have high replay value for any but Cross's most ardent fans. Check it out of the library -- while you can still do so without leaving too much of a paper trail.
Disc one has a short clip from a forthcoming DVD documenting the tour that produced "Shut Up..."; I didn't think there was anything terribly non-essential in it (though it does feature a soundtrack with a swell band, The Glands, and the scenes of Cross confronting an irate club owner were cute). Also perhaps of note: the titles given the tracks on the disc ("Lunch with Frankenstein," "Monica Lewinsky and the Three Bears" ...) bear virtually no resemblance to their contents.
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