cream of the crate cd review #21: 2nu – ponderous
cream of the crate cd review #21: 2nu – ponderous
2nu Ponderous Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

"Best known for their single "This Is Ponderous", which reached #46 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1991" - [Wikipedia] _ "This album has a loose through-line involving the character of Nardo Polo, which isn’t his real name. He goes on quite a few adventures through this album, beginning with a dream where he takes the day off work because nobody remembers who he is." - [This review]

Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews.  
The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50
and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.

This is number twenty one in the series of retro-reviews of Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

CD review #21 sees me return to the more bizarre, certainly humorous, part of my collection.

2nu fit pretty comfortably alongside the Village Fugs (reviewed) and Captain Beefheart (yet to be reviewed) whilst retaining a definite distinction in regard to these artists.

It was released by Atlantic Records (82229-2) in 1991.

cream of the crate cd review #21: 2nu – ponderous
CD Label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

This single CD was the first release by what could loosely be described as a group – 2nu – pronounced “2new”.

It is a strange and eclectic collection of tracks that has a loose through-line involving the character of Nardo Polo, which isn’t his real name.

He goes on quite a few adventures through this album, beginning with a dream where he takes the day off work because nobody remembers who he is. From there as he dreams and relates his adventures – both 1st hand and third party, we go along with him.

2nu was not a band when the track This is Ponderous was first played.

According to the group, “We hadn’t formally formed as a band when our first song was getting airplay in 1990. When one of the jocks introduced our song, THIS IS PONDEROUS, he said it was from a band too new to even have a name. Thus came the moniker…2NU.”

cream of the crate cd review #21: 2nu – ponderous
Martin, DeVault, Nealy & Blaney – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

In fact even 23 years after the track “Ponderous” hit the airwaves, information and certainly pictures of the group, let alone the individuals, are incredibly hard to find.


Members

Michael Nealy (lyrics)
Jock Blaney (lyrics)
Phil DeVault (keyboard, synclaver, guitar)
Tom Martin (bass)
Victor Little (bass)
Dean Mochizuki (saxophone)
Mike Mines (trumpet)
Dan Haek (trombone)
Michael Nealy & Jock Blaney – Producers

 

cream of the crate cd review #21: 2nu – ponderous
Album credits – [CLOCK to enlarge]

 

It seems as though no one is really certain as to why and how the track came into being, and those that are certain aren’t saying! One story is that there was a request from a dentist to produce a track that he could use when his patients were under gas, which would entertain them.

cream of the crate cd review #21: 2nu – ponderous
A young Jock Blaney – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Another is that it was simply an experiment that was overheard by another producer who took an immediate liking to it and encouraged that the track be released.

cream of the crate cd review #21: 2nu – ponderous
Nealy & Blaney – [CLICK to enlarge]
2nu is four strange, yet gifted individuals, with Blaney & Nealy the driving forces: Jock Blaney – A writer and voice talent who possesses the uncanny ability to become the characters he is portraying; also known to his friends as a bad, bad man.

Tom Martin – Studio owner, engineer, musician, and graduate of the Lydia E. Pinkham Superior Orchestra, whose reaction when Atlantic signed 2nu was to say “It takes a big dog to weigh a ton.

Michael Nealy – Writer, producer, creative director and owner of his own little ad agency in Seattle, a living illustration of the old saying “The warped child is father to the warped man.”

  1. This Is ponderous

    cream of the crate cd review #21: 2nu – ponderous
    Rear Cover – Track Listing – CLICK to expand]
  2. I Like That
  3. Why
  4. Count ‘Em Up Queek
  5. Frank’s Chair
  6. Spaz Attack
  7. Two Outta Three
  8. Spill The Wine
  9. Her Name
  10. DDS Blues

 

The CD has ten tracks and runs at around 43 minutes. All the tracks were written by Nealy & Blaney with the exception of “Spill the Wine“. The first track wears the album title, or is it the other way around?

Well, this is the track the started 2nu on their way.

The track, which was basically a spoken-word piece of story-telling over a dancey beat and sound effects, reached number 46 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The album soon followed and though the songs varied in musical style, one thing kept them all together, and that was the narration of Jock Blaney.

His voice is reminiscent of “Brian the dog from Family Guy”, and the stories range from odd and funny to surprisingly touching.

There are elements of jazz, reggae, soul, funk, rock, and just about every other genre throughout the album, and it was certainly unique, eSpecially in the 1990s.

It’s hard not to smile when his ‘sand-shoe’ squeaks!

This is ponderous, man
Really ponderous

I had this dream the other night
I went to work one day
And nobody remembered who I was
So, I decided to take the day off

On my way out
I run into my boss and he says
Hey, you look familiar
I said, thanks, people say that
A lot in these dreams

Then the horns kicked in
And my shoes started to squeak

Then all of a sudden
I’m standing on a beach
In some tropical part of the world
And there’s this sign that says

Aren’t you supposed to be at work
Sort of screamed out at me

Then I remembered
I’d been here in other dreams
But usually there was a water polo game
And a girl who could talk with her eyes

And she’d say
Can you see what I’m saying
Then the horn kicked in
And my shoes started to squeak

Before I knew it
I was walking near a lake
When a phone rings
And the operator speaks to me
In a language I don’t understand

Oom papachucka maka nanu singow
Meling kapalana wani domo chingpow
Heddy kapalua cuma jenising tea
Oomama chucka pana one is now three

Then the horns kicked in
And my shoes started to squeak

Before long, I was coming up
On this really weird part of my dream
You know, the part where
I know how to tap dance
But I can only do it
While wearing golf shoes

Now, I’m back on the beach
Walking with this girl
Who talks with her eyes
This time she says
I think you see what I’m saying

Then just before I woke up
It started to rain in Southern California

Oom papachucka maka nanu singow
Meling kapalana wani domo chingpow
Heddy kapalua cuma jenising tea
Oomama chucka pana one is now three

A girl who could talk with her eyes
Can you see what I’m saying
Aren’t you supposed to be at work

This is ponderous, man
Really ponderous (ooh)

This Is Ponderous

The next track worthy of examination is track # 4 – Count ‘Em Up Queek.

Although the music styles criss cross and flow in and over each other, the reggae feel in this track is impossible to miss, and to ignore.

Jock Blaney’s ability to alter his voice and take multiple roles is one of the key factors of why this music is so enjoyable. This is not to say that the rest of the ‘band’ are not working hard.

They are and while this style of spoken word ‘rap’ is now passe, do not forget that the period is 1990/91, and at this time the approach used by these boys was quite novel indeed.

On any other album, adding ‘corny’ sound effects to supplement the (crazy) story lines would be enough to turn the listener off – but not with what these guys are doing.

I love the piano accordion refrain.

I needed a vacation . . .

You know . . . somewhere exotic . . . where beautiful full bodied native girls reek of coconut scented suntan lotion, a place where I could drink the water . . . and all for 49-95!

So, call Clive Dinky’s . . . the home of the ‘no splinter’ ‘full woody’ tropical dream vacation and spa saloon.

Two hours later . . . there I am . . . lookin’ straight into the eyes of Mona ‘the Monkey Woman’, when all of a sudden . . . my Ziggy Marley accent kicks in . . .

Mona had this crazy laugh and was extremely short for her weight . . . I figure about seven feet . . . and all of a sudden she points to a sign that says . . . “Welcome to our sa . . . Mr Polo.

Huh! Sa? So I say to her . . . ‘hey Mona, there’s no ‘P’ in the Spa’ . . .and she say’s . . .”yeah, and we’d like to keep it that way”. . .

 

Count ‘Em Up Queek

Track # 5 Frank’s Chair really stands out.

Ok, so Ponderous is the very amusing, heavy with the effects, let’s ‘light another joint’ and listen again track, but, Franks’ Chair stands out from Ponderous and the other tracks by virtue of the well developed story line, that is most excellently delivered.

It is really a ‘bitter/sweet’ adventure that starts and finishes with ‘Frank’s Chair.

It cleverly embarks on an aural odyssey the like of an ‘Indiana Jones adventure – smaller scale of course.

It still has it sound effects, but these are far more subtly used, and the opening is quite evocative. All in all this is a beautiful track in both story and music and although it is only a tad under 6:00 minutes, it never becomes boring!

[Opening verse]
Dusk is a very different experience in the pastoral, unblemished surroundings of the Mountains.
I truly believe that there is no such thing as dusk in the city. Think about it. After spending most of your day within a society ‘whose’ philosophy is ‘Fix the blame, and not the problem’, you must navigate your way home behind the same population using the same philosophy in their driving.
No, there is no such thing as dusk in the city.

[Final verse]
Well, here I am. A few years later. A few years older.
I’m romancing another beautiful dusk in the mountains on the porch of an old, familiar cabin.
There is no chair this time. It was replaced by a note. She simply wrote, Love is a rare opportunity and when that love is somehow parted, it’s something deep, down inside that wants just a reminder, a slice of a memory, a possession.
I thought you might want to know why I came for Frank’s favorite chair. Now you understand.
There is no such thing as dusk in the city.

Personally, I couldn’t read this without wanting to hear the track. What about you?

Frank’s Chair

The final track by which i think I can give you a final glimpse into the world of 2nu, is track #8 Spill the Wine.

As indicated earlier this track was the only one on the CD not written by the two producers, and interestingly, in a later re-release of their material, this track was left off for copyright reasons!!! ???

Of course the track was made very popular some 21 years previously. It was also covered by Eric Burdon and the Isley Brothers and Michael Hutchence.

So, at this point, “Nardo” narrates his own way through a cover of Eric Burdon’s version of “Spill the Wine”.

Yet he very much makes it his own, without showing any disrespect for the original version. It’s funny, because if I hadn’t been bought up on Burden‘s most excellent version, and had only heard it done by 2nu, I would have sworn it was made for them.

It kicks off with a really nice percussive piece and female chorus – very much a party/dance track.

Spill That Wine

This is not a ‘mind-blowing’ album. It does not boast a plethora of big names from the music biz – hell, you have probably not heard of any of the artists on this album.

cream of the crate cd review #21: 2nu – ponderous
A more recent picture of 2nu – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The track Ponderous while attracting massive attention in and around Seattle, had to settle for #46 in the Billboard top 100 in 1991 – mind you that’s still an admirable effort.

The group bought out a follow-up album in 1999 – Command (an EP), and in the year 2000, changed their name to 2nu2.com, to reflect the changes around them and the changes they were going through.

In regard to the tracks, well the best way to sum up is that the compositions are clever.

The music is good and the lyrics are spoken, rather than sung, and often recount dreams or stories ranging from the seemingly odd to the obviously odd, but never the banal.

They still form from time to time and in 2017 released their third LP – “Raging Skies”

So 2nu have not been a prolific in releasing their music, but in fact that makes this first CD even more collectable.

What I didn’t realise until actually putting this retro-review together, is that there is a real cult following for the group around the world.

The original CD is apparently very hard to get. A quick check on Ebay Australia revealed a cassette copy, and when I punched in worldwide search, I found several available on Discogs for between Au$8.00 up to $48.00.

This would not be in the greatest 10 albums in your collection, but, if you like to have a good all-round collection that encompasses the “different”, the “obscure” – then you need this CD!


VIDEOS:

For the first time in over 70 album reviews, I have been unable to locate a video of an artist (in this case 2nu), playing live, or at least having a ‘classy’ picture collage attached to a video of the soundtrack. So we let the tracks in the review do the talking!

[In fact, even pictures of 2nu are difficult to find!]