welcome to cicada campfire, old and new music by ted houghton, timeless sounds and lots of words, sure to intrigue and alienate in equal measure. long-playing albums with songs that sound different from each other, and have too many singers. music that never repeats itself, from punk to pop, to rock, to folk, to the psychedelic and back again. albums worth a listen.
a founding member of the famously obscure punk rock band alice donut, ted helped shape the band’s signature sound until 1991, when he gave up playing music altogether – his high-water mark with the group the song tiny ugly world, an underground hit about celebrity culture still remembered because so much of it has become all too true since then.
while others rode the alt music wave of the early ‘90s, ted spent the next few years trying to end mass homelessness – and attempting not to play. he returned to the stage in 1995 with the very different-sounding power pop band 44, a promising and memorable collaboration that turned out to be new york city’s next big thing that never was. out of the ashes of 44, ted recorded smalltime, a jewel of an album heard and universally acclaimed by a few hundred people puzzled by his lack of follow-through.
his 44 bandmates played on in other, more successful outfits like luna, nada surf, champale and maplewood, while ted continued his efforts to solve intractable social ills. he fell back into music just long enough to play a couple gigs and make a gorgeous album with short-lived brooklyn curiosity, underbirds. the record’s glossy pop sheen concealed piercing words ahead of their time, perfect for today’s conversation about income inequality, dead-end jobs and lying. but instead of providing the soundtrack to a revolution, ted continued to push for social justice and affordable housing, and the album moldered on the shelf, unheard until now.
today, after a close to 15-year hiatus, ted has gathered old friends and new collaborators, known and obscure, to spend way too much time producing one more record, dusk, an album that will probably end up being another confusing collection of opaque pop songs about global warming, the surveillance state and love. it may be finished sometime soon.
not your typical, focused, boundary-observing pop oeuvre, and certainly not the way to conduct a successful music career, cicada campfire is what it is, a stew of infectious sounds and anxious thoughts worth a fall down the rabbit hole ... enjoy.
sam erickson, ellen labenski, tony woolgar, neve lyndside, helen pfeffer, ashlee temple, mindy weisberger, henry houghton