After three albums full of tracks that skewer various celebrities and their many pitfalls, Edie Sedgwick has a new angle: children’s music. The drag act of the reincarnated Warhol superstar fronted by Justin Moyer, City Paper contributor and father of a nine-month-old, recently recorded Songs for Isadora, a 10-song cassette of songs to keep the little ones entertained and/or sedated. It’s out on Sockets Records next month.
For anyone who still owns a boombox or cassette player, the first half of the album should be familiar to Edie Sedgwick fans. While not as electronic as previous albums like Things Are Getting Sinister and Sinisterer or Her Love Is Real…But She Is Not, the opening tracks on Songs for Isadora are plenty frenetic and jumpy. But in place of, say, visceral descriptions of Sissy Spacek‘s early career, is infant-friendly gibberish. On the opening track, “Boom Boom Baby,” Moyer simply repeats the title over a high-octane surf-rock rhythm, defining verses by shifting the “oo” in “boom” to another vowel. His partner Alicia Koundakjian provides backing vocals on loan from The Beach Boys‘ “I Get Around.”
“I guess I thought if I played Bo Diddley or NWA for my daughter she would like whatever I liked,” Moyer says. Turns out that wasn’t the case. Having received a lot of children’s music when his daughter was born, Moyer realized soon enough that even if those songs were “repetitive and recorded badly,” his daughter liked them. “For some reason it never occurred to me that a nine-month-old isn’t ready to listen to Jimi Hendrix.”
As a two-sided cassette, Songs for Isadora is split between catchy, repetitive tracks like “Boom Boom Baby” and an ethereal, somnambulant B-side designed to put a child to sleep. Other songs on the opening side include the instructive “You Gotta Crawl” and “Baby Talk,” in which Moyer’s dissection of the sounds voiced by newborns gets downright scatological. But the first five tracks are sunny and memorable, suited for a young child’s more playful waking hours.
The back end of Songs for Isadora brings back Edie Sedgwick’s more electronic notions, but in spacey, drawn-out tones intended to lull the listener to sleep. Nautical themes abound; in “The Ocean,” the peppiest of the tape’s nocturnal side with a cast that includes a jellyfish, an octopus, and a “crabby” crab making their way around the seabed. The album’s longest track, the 7-minute-39-second “Sigh,” revisits aquatic life through its composition of long sighs and groans by Moyer and Koundakjian over blurry white noise, creating the sonic equivalent of a whale colony. The closer, “Sleep Tight Little Angel,” is a flat-out lullaby sung by Koundakjian without accompaniment.
Songs for Isadora is the first in Sockets Records’ series of cassette releases. Though it’s an all-but-dead format, Moyer thinks audiotape is perfect for the songs he wrote for his daughter. “It was designed to be one side for playtime, one side for sleep time,” he says. Moyer also notes the durability of tape shielded in hard plastic. Whether they’re dropped in a sink or chewed on by a curious child, cassettes are sturdy. “If anyone has a boombox lying around they can use the tape. Kids and vinyl don’t mix.”
Moyer also reports that while he and Koundakjian haven’t played the tape for their daughter yet, she did give some positive feedback during the writing process. “We’ve sung a lot of [the songs] to her in her room,” Moyer says. “She seems to like it. But she also seems to like eating pistachio shells.”
Songs for Isadora is available on Sockets on April 16. Edie Sedgwick performs with Appleseed Cast, A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Pianos Become the Teeth Saturday, April 30 at 8 p.m. at Rock & Roll Hotel, 1353 H Street NE. $15. (202) 388-7625.