Brian Troutman Land

Basket Case – The Moog Cookbook

by on Mar.01, 2005, under The Greatest

The Moog Cookbook

The Moog Cookbook

If anyone ever holds a contest for “Most Mispronounced Name,” Bob Moog would have to fight it out with Wilkes-Barre for the grand prize. Moog, whose name rhymes with rogue, invented the analog synthesizer around 1964, and his instrument brought a very new and very unique sound to the music world. While its sound was considered unearthly and futuristic at first, the Moog synthesizer matured into a regular fixture of popular music by the 1970s.

Two decades later, Roger Manning, then part of a retro rock band called Jellyfish, was not finding any market for his style of music. The early ’90s music-buying crumb crunchers were busy spending their entertainment dollars on “alternative” rock from groups like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Jellyfish folded in 1994, but Manning partnered with Brian Kehew to form a new group, the Moog Cookbook two years later.

The duo created a self-titled debut album using the Moog synthesizer to parody some alternative rock hits of the early to mid ’90s. While all of the tracks have a distinct Moog sound, the remakes are all as different as you could imagine. In one instance, Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” is outfitted as an electronic cowboy hoedown, while on another track, R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” is upholstered with a plush funk worthy of Shaft.

Without question, the album’s finest track is a remake of Green Day’s how-many-times-is-the-radio-station-going-to-play-this hit from 1994, “Basket Case.” (In fact, “Basket Case” represents Green Day’s high water mark, as far as charts are concerned.) The Moog-ified version that appears on the Moog Cookbook album is probably the CD’s least ridiculous-sounding remake and features a pretty standard mid-’70s pop music sound. The song’s most obvious and infectious hook is a couple bars of accompaniment that sound like they were lifted directly out of Robbie Dupree’s lone claim to fame, “Steal Away.” The piece recurs throughout “Basket Case” as a response to the melody and is certain to bring a smile to the face of anyone who is familiar with ’70s music. About two-thirds of the way through the song, you can hear some muskrat-like sounds followed by two decadent measures taken from the Captain and Tennille’s 1975 #1 song, “Love Will Keep Us Together.” Everything wraps up in an ending so neat and tidy, it feels like the closing credits of a lighthearted coming of age flick.

What makes the Moog Cookbook’s “Basket Case” so wonderful is its ability to create nostalgia for two very different periods of time—all at once. Green Day’s “Basket Case” was a fixture in the world of adolescence at a time when I was on my way into the asylum’s front door. While the original Green Day record has never been a favorite of mine, it is like an indelible mark in my mind’s recollections of growing up in the ’90s. The Moog remake, however, sounds like it was packed in a time capsule during one of ’76’s big Bicentennial celebrations and has not seen the light of day until now. Though I was not born until the ’70s had been dead and gone for a few years, the various unusual and interesting facets of the decade live on in my mind through reruns of CHiPs and Match Game, albums from artists ranging from C.W. McCall to Steely Dan, and recordings of radio DJs like Don Imus from his days on WNBC radio in New York.

Listening to the Moog Cookbook play “Basket Case,” the song’s ’70s synthesizer sound immediately recalls images from that era, but in a strange way, the Moog’s slow and almost mournful whining of Green Day’s suburban ’90s teenage anthem brings that period of time to the forefront of my mind. The two actually create an interesting contrast. The background elements, including the Dupree-styled lick, are the most reminiscent of the ’70s and have a sort of upbeat and happy feel. The melody, which directly recalls the original version and is most evocative of the ’90s, has sort of a discontented and morose air to it. Perhaps this is appropriate. After all, “Basket Case” did come from the days of teen angst. In any case, the Moog Cookbook’s remake is a fine example of music from different eras being combined to produce an endearing result.

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