Did you know Blondie and Joan Jett had a baby? I didn’t, either. They raised her on hot dogs and DaDa and they named her Karen Meat.
In what may or may not be her final form, Karen Meat is Arin Eaton and usually Dana Telcrow and also sometimes some other dudes. Yeah, she’s complicated, and that’s just the beginning.
Karen Meat has been through town before, but this upcoming tour is extra special: it’s promoting their LP You’re an Ugly Person, which is much more delightful than it sounds. Every track makes me smile even as it tells harsh truths.
The April 20th record release show is at the Hideout Inn of Chicago. Then, they’ll head back toward home with performances at Rozz-Tox (April 28th), Gabe’s Oasis (May 12th), and the GT Race Car Bar in Des Moines (May 26th).
Other states on the tour include Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.
Last year when they played Davenport’s Village Theatre, I decided Karen Meat was what happens when you replace the characters at the pajama party in Grease with the cast of Rocky Horror. You’re an Ugly Person slides down the drain pipe, shoves Kenickie out of the driver’s seat, and takes the whole party to the nearest 24-hour trucker counter for coffee and hash browns.
The album’s smarmy tone is equal parts playful and sneering, both taking inspiration from and taking the piss out of ‘70s-era punk rock pioneers like MC5 and ‘80s Billboard lovelies like Annie Lennox and Duran Duran. It’s a blessing in The Cruelest Month, and also appropriate because, as KarenMeat.com puts it, “pop music should be fun AND sad.”
And it is. “A is 4 Asshole,” which might be my favorite song on the record, contains the lyrics, “And I started reading books/And I started wearing black/And I started bleaching my hair/Hoping it would never grow back.” Regardless of fashion choices, you can’t help but think of that time you reactively reinvented yourself in youth. We remember those choices with a mixture of pride and embarrassment: we survived and maybe even conquered, but now our yearbook pictures look like… well, you’ve seen them.
“I think the world is sad, dark, and depressing,” Arin says, “and to get by you need to find a small joy that keeps you moving forward.”
There is an element of joy in every song, regardless of how serious the subject matter may be. Arin is the primary songwriter and about as close to the titular Karen Meat as can be.
“I write all the songs and make demos of them and Dana takes them and makes them into what he thinks I’m trying to interpret to everyone while also having fun.”
How does that work, Dana?
“When I’m working on the arrangements,” he says, “I’m looking for something that surprises me and supports the subject matter of the song as wholly as possible. At times this creates some stark contrasts… my goal is to use the arrangement to connect the listener with the inexplicable and visceral aspects of the human experience.”
While Dana rocks a six-string on stage, he also likes to play with electronica backdrops highlighted with a vibraphone. His most recent musical experiments involve the recently acquired analog synth and drum machine, although he says, “Arin and I keep each other in balance, so I don’t think this project specifically will ever become very experimental.”
He did mention the possibility of a future free jazz record (though it was followed by “HA. HA.” so…), which we get a peek of in songs like “Why,” which starts out with an almost ethereal duet of lengthy longing tones and segues into a funk beat that we would have begged to cover in high school jazz band.
And that particular track flows right into “I Thought We Were Okay,” which is not only the most 8-bit sounding song on the record, but is also the most likely to make you cry unexpectedly. While dancing.
I am so very excited for them to stop in at Rozz-Tox on the 28th in matching outfits and makeup. Check out their tour schedule for the show nearest you and GO. And in the meantime, listen to You’re an Ugly Person, available for preorder.