When Nature Calls

8 May

Charles Schneider stands as one of the unsung greats to lurk at the periphery of the American collective artistic unconscious for past 3+ decades. Never heard of him, you say? Don’t worry, you’re not alone – and I’d reckon Charles prefers shadows to direct lighting anyway. But do consider some highlights from Charles’ lengthy resume:

– debuted in 1979 as the ghoulish teenager who discovers the joys of eating himself alive in the film short It Took Guts, which once played regularly at Max’s Kansas City and was appropriated by Screaming Mad George and THE MAD as part of their gruesome stage revue (Eyeball! Eyeball! Beautiful eyeball!)

– directed eerie little videos by 17 PYGMIES (“Crossing the River“, 1988) and THE CENTIMETERS (“Help Is On The Way“, 2000) which get the hair on the back of my neck standing up every goddamn viewing

– outdid Crispin Glover in the weirdo cameo dept. by appearing in everything from Beetle Juice (as the Hanging Man) to Ghost World (as unfunny comic Joey McCobb), not to mention many of the recent splatter mockbusters of director Eric Forsberg

– scripted a grip of Tom & Jerry cartoons a few years back I haven’t yet seen, but which will no doubt lead infuriated viewers – that darn mouse! – to tear their hair out in bloody, sticky clumps

And I won’t even mention his fine art career! Friends, in the waning years of western civilization, a lifetime of achievements like these should get you thinking modern day renaissance man. It should therefore come as no surprise that a man with such artistic breadth eventually trained his googly eyeballs on art statements of a musical kind, too.

Rube Ruben wasn’t actually an irritating schmuck, but rather Charles Schneider’s foray into recorded comedy/music back in the early 90’s. On one side of his lone 7″ 45, Rube passed the sort of deadpan comedic gas one imagines might’ve emanated from a particularly vicious, embittered Catskill drunk at the shitcan end of early 60’s. It forged the template that later gave rise to the likes of Neil Hamburger. And like Neil, Rube could kind of sing too.

So sing he did! All over the other side of this rec. Rube himself acknowledges his voice sounds “like a knife caught in a garbage disposal” but I think he’s just being coy – to these ears he sounds like Jim Dandy Mangrum imitating Colonel Sanders. Either way, the musical meat of this rec comes squarely from Mr Tim Hensley aka VICTOR BANANA, whose accordion-led pap shanties make any mangled utensils worth the visit.

Oh and did I mention somebody named Daniel Clowes was responsible for the irresponsible cover art? Talk about a meeting of minds: this is perfect example of how someone with no innate musical talent whatsoever can concoct something pretty freakin’ wonderful, especially when the musical/artistic backing props him up just right. The shadows have been good to you, Charles. But we at Pig State Recon would love to see you take it to the spotlight!

———- RUBE RUBEN – “Shmendrick” & “The Ballad of the Terlit” (Sympathy For the Record Industry, 1991)

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2 Responses to “When Nature Calls”

  1. D May 24, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    That Centimeters video is nightmarishly good.

  2. rich lawrence May 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    We all loved the late Bob Moss.. R.I.P. oh and including Schneider’s music vids of Bob.

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