The San Diego music scene is notorious for being incestuous. Everybody’s in each other’s bands, everybody’s on each other’s records. There was even once a website dedicated to the genealogy of San Diego bands, and unsurprisingly, the connections make a graph like a honeycomb. The Black Heart Procession, alone, is one degree from Rocket From the Crypt, The Album Leaf, Tristeza, The Magic Magicians and even Modest Mouse (not a San Diego band, for the record). So seeing Paulo Zappoli (a.k.a. BHP’s Pall Jenkins) on a record with other members of the Black Heart Procession and Manuok with art designed by The Hot Snakes’ Rick Froberg, comes as little surprise. However, Zappoli’s new project, Mr. Tube and the Flying Objects is a unique one, with quite an interesting story behind its birth.
The legend goes that Zappoli met Freddie Dillinger (a.k.a. Mr. Tube) at a run down TV shop in National City (just south of San Diego) when he brought his own TV in for repairs. The two had gotten to talking and as it turns out, Dillinger wrote and recorded songs under the name Freddie Feelgood and the Real Good Feelings in the ’60s and ’70s, later changing his name to Mr. Tube. None of the recordings were ever released, and thus, Zappoli wanted to record them and give them the proper release they deserved. Listen Up is the result of the recordings that ensued thereafter.
Considering Zappoli was at the helm on this one, and every song features his unmistakable voice, it does bear some resemblance to The Black Heart Procession at times. Yet Mr. Tube’s songwriting is something akin to Southwest science fiction funk. As all of the songs were written between 1956 and 2004, there is a scattered nature to them. “Put Me Back on Your Side,” the opening track, is laid back, jazzy noir rock, sonically similar to BHP or even Calexico. “Brothers in a Bind” is solid, four-on-the-floor funk-rock, with heavy-assed drum thwacks and some awesome horns. “Lost Days” is shuffling garage rock, while “Todos Los Noches” rides a drum machine beat into a synth-flavored pop track that sounds a little bit like Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You.”
There are some weirder tracks, like the horns with distorted voice trippiness of “Jesus Was a Vato,” and “Mexican Remix,” which repeats Mr. Tube’s mantra, “I only drink Mexican beer.” Even the most peculiar tracks on the album don’t distract from the overall mood of the album, though, only adding a bit of experimental charm to the haunting layers of soulful, dark pop music. Listen Up is not just a good record, or a unique one (though it is both), but also a uniquely San Diego album, combining the talents of many of the city’s best musicians with the nearby Mexican influence, while unearthing obscure, yet soon-to-be legendary music in the process.
The Black Heart Procession – The Spell
Calexico – Feast of Wire
Ugly Casanova – Sharpen Your Teeth
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.