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Cafeteria | Knee Deep (Backburner)
I think deeply about a great deal of stuff, both profound and trivial. Of late, I've been contemplating what elements comprise 'Americana', because the boundaries seem to be becoming a little blurry. Is it the music, the attitude, or a combo of both? Is it a lyrical thing or perhaps the core instrumentation? Anyway, it eats up the hours. Where I work, one of my duties is to decide which records to buy for the business to sell ‚?? a fine job. The company that sold Cafeteria's Knee Deep to me presented it, emphatically, as an 'Americana album'. Velvet Underground, Syd Barrett, Violent Femmes, Jonathan Richman, Bright Eyes, Neutral Milk Hotel: Could any of the above be considered of the genre? It wouldn't be where you'd find them displayed where I work, but I hear all of them with great clarity in Cafeteria. Musically then, Knee Deep is by turns cracked ballad or jaunty stomp. It's direct, simple and loose, and it would come as no surprise to learn it was recorded live. There's a mischievous bash at Exile‚??era Stones pool-hall swagger, called Stones, and the whole shebang is delivered with confidence and punch. Attitude? It's punky and honest, with soul presented for inspection. Lyrically, I think we may be talking autobiographical, dominant being tearful memories of absent friends, irrational jealousy, loves lost, and an awful lot of booze. Cafeteria is young Taylor Joiner's band, and he seems deeply concerned about the effects of alcohol on his life ‚?? "I used to get drunk to have a good time / But now I'm doing this most of the time / It's destroying me / It's destroying me," he wails on Drunk, and on At 24 there is more searching; "It's not supposed to be this way / At 24 / I've spent too much time crashed out on the bed or on the floor" (and too much time listening to Mark Kozelek? -MD) This is no hoedown, and we should be concerned for Taylor's welfare. If 'Americana' is in any way defined by instrumentation, then Knee Deep's vendor was bang on in his categorisation. The key is largely the insistent presence of any given combinations of banjo, pedal steel, and acoustic guitar, all of which are all over this record in spades. Upon hearing particularly the first two on most any record, a Country influence would normally spring to mind. Country being American Folk Music, let's settle on Knee Deep being a very good example of just that. File under, er...

Tom Sheriff
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001