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Sleepytime Gorilla Museum 
Live  
(Sickroom Records) 

review by Kurt Gottschalk
2003-10-10

Dig if you will a picture: a darkwood conference room at UMG/EMI/AOL. Around the table sit several men in business casual, and a kind-eyed tribe dressed all in white, or black, some perhaps in bloomers, one with the head of a donkey. They are playing their new recording for the record execs, who aren’t pleased. There’s too much talking on it, they say, and the sound quality isn’t good enough. They only reprise one of their “hits,” the only obvious single, “Baby Doctor,” is too long, and they’re not, they say, releasing a record where audience is told to kill the president. “Besides,” says the skinny one, trying to exude confidence, “you can’t do a live record until your fourth release.”

Even in an imaginary world, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum don’t get to release their new record on a major label, because even in an imaginary world Live is an odd record. And not just odd in the sense that if you know anything about Sleepytime of course it is. Live is more like a fan club release. While their previous disc, Grand Opening and Closing (Seeland) was designed to be a head-turner, this disc is more for the indoctrinated. It’s culled from audience tapes, so the sound quality while acceptable throughout varies from track to track. But moreso, it’s filled with odd, one-off moments. It’s not the best of the last three records plus a surprise cover thrown in (pity on the latter, since it probably would have been This Heat’s “S.P.Q.R.”), rather it’s a collection of the sort of moments that you wish you had on tape after a show, or with which you can sympathize anyway if you’ve seen them live.

Like a good fan club release, John, Paul, George and Ringo each get their moment. Moe! covers Cheer Accident, Dan Rathbun tells a story, Nils Frykdayh banters and Frykdahl and Carla Kihlstedt are great on a version of what is here called “Sleep is Rong (finally)” from the first record. Since departed donkey-headed drummer Frank Grau propels them along well.

Still, if Grand Opening and Closing was a touring exhibit, this is more something from the museum gift shop, a souvenir to remind you of the time you were there. You had a good time. You don’t want to forget it. And if that’s a lackluster endorsement, well, another new disc is expected by the end of the year.





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