Skeleton Crew

Learn to Talk

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An extension of the anti-Reagan imperialist songs on Fred Frith's Cheap at Half the Price, Skeleton Crew's debut appeared at the height of the president's popularity. But as with a lot of Frith projects, it wears it anger on the same sleeve as its mordant humor. There's a bitter dissection of Sousa's "Washington Post" and the tongue-in-cheek "Learn to Talk" ("Your friends will be amazed," Frith sings, "so just complain about what you don't know"). Similar use is made with the American bomber pilot narrator of "We're Still Free" and the anthropomorphic factory of "Factory Song." Tom Cora fleshes out the sound with home made drums and "contraptions" and soaring, jagged, stuttering cello work. The whole things ends on a happy calypso jam, sending us out smiling, though we don't know if we should.