Primal Urges

Electric Bonsai Band

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Primal Urges Review

by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

As Andrew Ratshin points out, the Electric Bonsai Band is neither electric nor a band. Instead, it is Ratshin's solo project, an offshoot of Seattle-based Uncle Bonsai. Primal Urges is a generous two-CD collection of old and new material, recorded live in 1998 and 1999. The title cut cleverly connects the desire of kids to own a cool car with the primal sexual urges that come part and parcel with being a teenager. Lyrics like "I got a poster of Farrah/and an urge to compete/I got a Schwinn with a buzzer/and a big banana seat" suggest quite a lot without actually saying anything. "I Am My Dad" covers the joy of losing one's hair and gaining weight on the way to becoming one's father, while the ditty "Buddha Boy" suggests that it may be easier to start a religion than to lose weight. Songs like "If a Tree Falls" and "Doug's First Job" take a more serious turn, presenting slice-of-life stories about bad days and discovering one's identity. The philosophical bent of these songs is thoughtful and solemn, placing Ratshin side-by-side songwriters like Ellis Paul and Christine Lavin. Still, one cannot get too comfortable with the "serious" mode because titles like "If God Went to My High School" and "Drunken Paul Revere" keep popping up. Ratshin is in good voice, there's pleasant banter in between songs, and it's nice to have new versions of these songs performed live. For fans and those who enjoy clever, thoughtful lyrics, Primal Urges offers an hour and a half of nicely performed live music.

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