Combustible Edison – live at the National Gallery Amphiteatre – July 20, 1996 – CBC Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
And now for something completely different. Combustible Edison, live at The National Gallery Amphiteatre in Ottawa on July 20, 1996 fo CBC Radio Canada. Maybe not a concert in the weekend-raise-hell-bounce-off-the-walls mode, but an homage to Lounge, Exotica, Retro and downright Cocktail.
If you remember the resurgence in Lounge/Bachelor Pad/Exotica which came about in the 90s, Combustible Edison looms high on the list of major practitioners – many say that, had it not been for Combustible Edison, there might not have been a resurgence in Space-age Exotica. I’m sure people digging up those Esquivel albums at thrift shops and garage sales had something to do with it too. Music for your Stereo, when Stereos were a new thing and gimmicks to enhance your listening experience were many and varied and bordering on the odd.
Combustible Edison got started in 1991 and signed to Sub Pop Records and released their debut album, I, Swinger, in 1994. A live review by Los Angeles Times critic Chuck Crisafulli noted that the album “perfectly duplicates the ’50s cool and hi-fi exotica of such lounge icons as Martin Denny”, while Trouser Press said, “I, Swinger is a faithful replication of bargain-bin exotica, right down to a sleeve festooned with cocktail recipes and calculatedly dated hep-cat liner notes”. The group performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on December 23, 1994.
Around this time the band relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada.
In 1995, Combustible Edison recorded the soundtrack to the film Four Rooms, produced by Mark Mothersbaugh. “Vertigogo”, the film’s main theme, was submitted for consideration for an Academy Award, but was ultimately disqualified from consideration because of its incomprehensible lyrical content, despite the fact that the band submitted a lyric sheet with their best written approximation of the lyrics.
Unlike other bands with a more ironic take on the lounge scene, Combustible Edison took the music seriously and strove to add to what its members saw as a canon of works by Esquivel, Henry Mancini and Martin Denny. Said Trouser Press, “As the band that poured the first shot in the Cocktail Revolution, this Boston-area combo brought lounge music into the ’90s—or, more accurately, transported tastemakers back to the suburbia of the ’50s—with strikingly authentic interpretations of some of the most unauthentic sounds known to mankind”.
The band ended in 1999.
If you missed them the first time around, here’s a second chance to hear them in a rare live concert setting. Thanks to the venerable CBC in Ottawa, Combustible Edison have been immortalized for future musical archeologists to ponder over.
You don’t have to wait that long – hit the play button and whip up a Mai-Tai – with or without Parasol.