DIARY OF A GENIUS
By: Bernadette "Bitchy Spice" Giacomazzo
Rating: ***1/2(out of ****)
Depending on which side of the Atlantic you grew up on -- or, how much access you had to some of the offerings of the late 1980s Brit-pop music scene(and trust me, o little ones, there was more to Britpop than what Ye Olde Spice Girls will have you believe. Boy George's lesbian stage was perhaps the most creative thing offered to the thankfully-cancelled SOLID GOLD since the Thomspon Twins lip-synched "Hold Me Now" with a bunch of scantily-clad dancers in sequined tube-tops and matching leg-warmers flailing around them)--you either know the name Tex Axile(and it invokes memories of things you DON'T want to remember -- the clothes you wore, for instance(no comment from this side), or the coke you snorted. Hey, who knew cocaine made your sinuses the size of Chicago(which is why I never did it)? ) or you don't. You either remember Transvision Vamp and the music they brought you, or you don't.
For the benefit of the poor dears who are from the same side of the Atlantic as I am(I grew up in NY)but who never got to experience the tour-de-force that was Transvision Vamp(and as such, the name Tex Axile doesn't register in their heads): Headed by buxom-blonde Wendy James, now in British TV, the band first made their mark in 1988 with the release of their debut album POP ART. The album produced many remarkable songs which climbed their way up the charts in Britian and other parts of Europe, but the two songs we Yanks might remember best are "I Want Your Love" and "Tell That Girl to Shut Up," a remake of the old Holly and the Italians song. They went on to make two more albums -- VELVETEEN, the noisy, spectacular album that gave the world "Baby I Don't Care"(which I believe lent more inspiration to the American hair-band craze than the band intended), and LITTLE MAGNETS VERSUS THE BUBBLE OF BABBLE -- before going their separate ways in 1992.
The rest of the Young Yanks of the world have only gotten the pleasure of experiencing the T-Vamp aftermath. It's doubtful, for instance, that anyone under 20 would know the name Dave Parsons -- that'd be the band's former bassist -- from anywhere other than Bush(and who would even know the name then? Only the half-way coherent ones -- the rest are too busy stalking the lead singer). But it is my honest opinion(and as anyone who reads this magazine knows, I'm not one who shies away from giving my honest opinion) that the name Tex Axile -- that'd be the band's former keyboardist(and eventually, the drummer -- the best rock and roll stories, you know...) -- should become an even BIGGER household name.
I stumbled upon this album upon one of my many treks back to my home-city(New York, in case I completely lost the grammatically challenged among you), at the hands of a friend of mine, who stumbled on the album by accident(it wasn't hers, actually -- she knows someone who knows someone...you know...). And, well, WOW. It's definitely not what you would expect. I mean -- if we could be completely honest for a minute here -- how many KEYBOARDISTS of bands exhibit enough talent on their own, away from the band which made them famous?(Anyone remember what happened when Ray Manzarek took over the Doors' vocals when Jim Morrison passed? Didn't think so. Anyone remember the name Roy Hay? Didn't think so. And let's be real -- no disrespect intended towards Fleetwood Mac, but by show of hands, how many people REALLY think Christine McVie has a better voice than Stevie Nicks? Didn't think so.)
But Axile is more than a keyboardist for a now defunked(pun intended) pop-punk band. He plays all his own instruments. He sings all his own songs(though written by someone else). And it's all VERY remarkable.
The first song "This Lovely World" hearkens back to a younger day of music, a time when we didn't take a damn word of what anyone said seriously(how could we, anyway?). It has a sort of an artsy tinge -- a strum of the guitar here, a bang of the drum there -- but don't call it art-rock. This isn't your coffee-shop-poet sort of thing -- it's suffused with irony, topped with a British accent, and all rolled into simple lyrics such as "This lovely world/this lovely feeling/is it just love/That gives it meaning". Who the hell needs bombast these days? This song delivers all.
My other favorites include "It's So Hard" -- which has Axile singing so sweetly in a God-take-me-now! falsetto that you forget he's being a (lovable but) arrogant bastard in the song; it's hard, all right, but it's hard to be such a great and wonderful guy like he is -- "I Love", where the tempo is sweet and the lyrics are sweeter, and of course, my personal favorite, "A.B.F.C. and P." But that's my sense of humor talking -- listen to the song if you want to know what the letters stand for. And *BELIEVE ME*, it's not, "Apples, Berries, Fruit Cocktail and Punch", as one other companion so naively suggested before hearing it.
There's one low point, though -- and all good albums have them -- and that's the song "Cut Throat". Even a sense of humor as warped as mine has its limits. I wasn't offended so much as I was disappointed -- domestic violence, however ironic in its intent, is the fodder for some powerful, in-your-face songs. But this one sounds too Dylan-y. Jakob, not Bob.
But even in this tiny shortcoming, Axile takes lyrics that would otherwise be flopped up against some synthesizer and sung by a group of one-hit wonders and transforms them into ear candy for the masses. The greater evil here is not what he once was -- there's more to life than T-Vamp, and even the die hard fans(or at least those who can function in society without the help of Prozac to curb their obsessions) should have more than one CD in their collection -- but that so many more don't know who he is NOW. But they should. After all, if one can consider even THINKING of playing some of the autoingestive, Svengali-created, poorly-sung shit that's being put out ad nauseum these days, shouldn't one be willing to at LEAST have a listen at some of the most intelligent music the 1990s have offered since Soul Coughing?
Check out his web page at
to find out how to buy the album. (As a tech-head, though, I should warn you that the web site is NOT encrypted, so if you want to buy the album, I recommend that you send the check directly to the address, not the credit card # over the web site.)