Standout Track: No. 2, “A Gaggle of Swans,” which sounds like what you’d get if the Danielson Famile gave up on Jesus and started worshipping horn charts and glam rock instead. It seems to have required the services of about 70 singers, whose passionate “ch-ch-ch-ch-cherrr-reh-aaahhh!” chant evokes Bowie’s “ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.” Even the guitar that opens the song stutters.
Musical Motivation: Rude Staircase mastermind L. Skell says the song “was a fairly conscious attempt to fuse Moondog/Louis Hardin and Tom Zé—the long, melodic ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ rounds of Moondog’s contrapuntal vocal pieces and the instrumental ping-pong-iness and big female choruses in some of Zé’s stuff.” Skell deems the end result “something else entirely.” Believe him.
Band Name: “Doesn’t mean anything,” says the District-based multi-instrumentalist. “I plucked it out of Pale Fire by Nabokov.” And it’s not the example of literary surrealism it appears to be. “Most people,” says Skell, “assume ‘rude’ has the more commonly used meaning of ‘socially ill-mannered.’ But…‘rude staircase’ is actually a fairly common phrase…in the 19th century, or in British literature. Like, ‘I descended a steep bank, winding by a kind of rude staircase…’ ‘Rude’ equals ‘crude,’ ‘primitive.’”
Tour Schedule: You won’t be hearing “Swans” played at the Black Cat any time soon. When asked about the future, Skell says, “There is no band. I started it, and, after the album was finished, I broke it up. I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. Time to move on to the next thing.” —Michael Little