Greetings From Timbuk3

(IRS, MCA 1986)

01) Future’s So
Bright I Gotta Wear Shades
02) Life is Hard
03) Hairstyles and Attitudes
04) Facts About Cats
05) I Need You
06) Just Another Movie
07) Friction
08) Cheap Black and White
09) Shame On You
10) I Love You in the Strangest Way

Pat and Barbara K. MacDonald are wry, rueful observers of society's ills while their dry, dusty voices have a down-home charm . Using a rhythm box for backing, they burst out of the Austin, Texas, scene with the peppy, corrosively sarcastic hit "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades," only to see, like Randy Newman and Elvis Costello before them, how irony is typically ignored or misunderstood by mainstream audiences.

Anyone digging into their excellent debut album, however, could hardly misconstrue the MacDonalds' intent. Greetings From Timbuk 3, surely one of the darkest albums ever to have yielded a hit single, collects some rueful snapshots of Americana ("Life Is Hard," "Just Another Movie") alongside enjoyable lighter fare ("Facts About Cats," "Hairstyles and Attitudes") with impressive results


Eden Alley

(IRS, MCA 1987)

01) Tarzan Was A Bluesman
02) Easy
03) Reckless Driver
04) Dance Fever
05) Sample The Dog
06) Too Much Sex, Not Enough Affection
07) Welcome To The Human Race
08) Eden Alley
09) Reverend Jack & His Roamin’ Cadillac Church
10) A Sinful Life
11) Little People Make Big Mistakes
12) Reprise (Don’t Stop Now)

Eden Alley trades much of that album's country twang for a more varied recording approach (e.g., "Sample the Dog" does just that). Stylistic eclecticism comes in handy on Pat's mini-morality-plays (the title track, "Dance Fever," "Rev. Jack & His Roamin' Cadillac Church"). Barbara, meanwhile, shines on her two featured cuts, "Welcome to the Human Race" and "Easy."


Edge of Allegience

(IRS, MCA 1989)

01) National Holiday
02) Waves of Grain
03) Dirty Dirty Rice
05) Pass It On
06) Standard White Jesus
07) Grand Old Party
08) Count To Ten
09) B-Side of Life
10) Acid Rain
11) Daddy’s Down in the Mine
12) Don’t Give Up On Me
13) Wheel of Fortune

Oozing sardonic desperation, Edge of Allegiance (co-produced by drummer Denardo Coleman, Ornette's son) is yet another small triumph of sane, thoughtful songcraft — occasionally labored ("Standard White Jesus") but more often right on the money. The chipper "National Holiday" provides a facetiously optimistic opening to an album that paints a bemused but bleak view of an America ruled by economic inequity ("Dirty Dirty Rice"), environmental horror ("Acid Rain") and an atrophied democratic process ("Count to Ten")


Big Shot In The Dark

(IRS, EMI 1991)

01) God Made An Angel
02) Sunshine
03) Two Medicines
04) The Border Crossing
05) Big Shot in the Dark

06) Mudflap Girl
07) Dis***land (Was Made For You & Me)
08) Wake Up Little Darlin’
09) ‘49 Plymouth
10) The Little Things
11) Sunshine (Instrumental)

Big Shot in the Dark presents Timbuk 3 as a bona fide quartet (with drummer Wally Ingram and bassist/etc. Courtney Audain), offering looser, more soulful grooves in sharp contrast to the increasingly embittered content. Mocking power-seekers in the title track, social horror in "Dis***land (Was Made for You & Me)," aimless youth in "God Made an Angel" and other sources of stress, the MacDonalds almost seem overwhelmed by their moral outrage.

Espace Ornano
(Watermelon 1992)

01) Dirty Dirty Rice
02) Too Much Sex (Not Enough Affection)
03) Daddy’s Down In The Mine

04) Acid Rain
05) Rage Of Angels

06) Tarzan Was A Bluesman
07) A Sinful Life

08) Throw Down Gun
09) The Border Crossing

10) Big Shot In The Dark
11) Bleeding Heart

12) Sample The Dog
13) Reckless Driver

Recorded in 1991 in Paris, Espace Ornano (the name of the venue) is a nifty live set highlighted by snappy renditions of "Throw Down Gun" (a warning about police frameups), "Tarzan Was a Bluesman" and "Dirty Dirty Rice." "The Future's So Bright" is

conspicuous by its absence.


Some Of The Best Of Tmbuk3: Field Guide

(Capitol 1992)

1. The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades 3:23
2. Life Is Hard 4:11
3. Just Another Movie 4:17
4. Rev. Jack & His Roamin' Cadillac Church 4:13
5. Too Much Sex, Not Enough Affection 3:15
6. Welcome To The Human Race 3:18
7. National Holiday 4:01
8. Acid Rain 3:42
9. Standard White Jesus 4:46
10. Sunshine 4:12
11. Mudflap Girl 4:52
12. Assholes On Parade 3:28
13. Hairstyles And Attitudes 2:51
14. Big Shot In The Dark 6:32

Some of the Best of Timbuk3: Field Guide is a straightforward thirteen-track compression of the first four albums, with a 1989 B-side ("Assholes on Parade") added for collectability.


Looks Like Dark To Me

(High Street, BMG 1994)

01) Born To Be Wild
02) Cynical (alternate version)
03) The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades (new version)
04) Sunshine Is Dangerous (acoustic version)
05) Bank Robber
06) Looks Like Dark To Me

"The Future's So Bright" resurfaces in a newly deconstructed but still scathing version on the six-track Looks Like Dark to Me. In addition to an agreeably footloose reading of "Born to Be Wild," the EP provides a stunning companion piece to "The Future's So Bright" in the form of the brooding title track, wherein Pat MacDonald accurately describes himself as a "hopeful cynic."


A Hundred Lovers

(High Street, BMG 1995)

01) Sunshine is Dangerous
02) A Hundred Lovers
03) Just Wanna Funk With Your Mind
04) Legalize Our Love
05) Cynical
06) Not Yet Gone
07) Prey
08) Shotgun Wedding
09) Kitchen Fire
10) Inside Out

A Hundred Lovers finds the MacDonalds in fine form, rockin' in a steadier fashion as they allow the superior rhythm section of Audain and Ingram more room to maneuver. Irritation at the state of the world remains the order of the day, but messages come wrapped in vibrant, funky sounds. Highlights include the driving "Not Yet Gone" (with faux ZZ Top guitar), "Legalize Our Love" (a rousing assault on homophobia) and the sly, sexy "Just Wanna Funk With Your Mind," featuring Barbara K's unsettling offer to "attempt a little amateur brain surgery." Yipes!

ALL REVIEWS FROM TROUSER PRESS - [Jon Young / Scott Schinder]