Talking With You

from by Penelope Houston

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Essential to the folk revival in late 1980s San Francisco--a mini-movement that sourced JA's "Surrealistic Pillow" and the musical terroir of the city--the fogs, the quiet, the Pacific light--was this beautiful album by the distinguished once and future punk rocker. The dozen love songs and other forms of songs here are closer to Judy Henski than classic punk. Still, Penelope addresses her rough and tumble past in "Full of Wonder" and the album is a kind of series of musical bouquets for a dead movement, and perhaps a few fallen musicians ( Phil "Snakefinger" Lithman gets the dedication; he plays bells on the song "Summers of War" ). Mostly, this recording shows that punkers and the alternative types who'd come to SF in the 1960s were more closely related than they seemed. Only fashions and manners separated their similar desire to escape the American Empire.
Houston's version of the Scots folk tune "Wild Mountain Thyme" is, I know, going to ornament some movie soundtrack someday; "Talking With You," another thing of beauty and a joy forever, is a piercing song of miscommunication, and "Waiting Room"...well, a particular summing up of the doldrums of the late 1980s. The Birdboys here include Steven Strauss, a talented multi instrumentalist still visible to lucky Berkeleyites; Mel Peppas's mandolin emphasizes the eastern Mediterranean sadness in some of these tunes; regular Houston collaborator Pat Johnson keeps it together. During this era, I once saw Houston play at a place in San Francisco and the crowd did something I've never seen since: they sat on the floor of the bar as if around a campfire to listen to her. I'm glad Penelope's still writing and performing--and I hope someday this key San Francisco album gets the audience it deserves.

lyrics

You and me baby, are a word apart
and that word is branded, letters tattooed on my heart
Maybe someday we can call ourselves friends

And now you're trying to tell me something
I think you're trying to tell me something
I really wish you'd tell me something
But you've got nothing, nothing to tell me at all

Talking with you is a dejevu
of things I thought before and never bothered to say
if there's nothing about me that you can love
than I don't think we'll ever get along anyway

Now you're trying to tell me something
I think you're trying to tell me something
I really wish you'd tell me something
But you've got nothing, nothing to tell me at all

like a vine crawling up your wall
starts out big but it ends up small
tell me something, tell me nothing at all
Talking with you is a dejevu
of things I thought before and never bothered to say
if there's nothing about me that you can love
than I don't think we'll ever get along anyway

Now you're trying to tell me something
I think you're trying to tell me something
I really wish you'd tell me something
But you've got nothing, nothing to tell me at all

like a vine crawling up your wall
starts out big but it ends up small
tell me something, tell me nothing at all

Oh, I'm talking to you

credits

from Birdboys, released October 10, 1988

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Penelope Houston Oakland, California

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