2NU
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2NU

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


There's a category of popular music small enough that it is rarely recognized as a unique form and even more rarely receives popular airplay. It's a distinctive approach to music that pays homage to the ancient art of storytelling. This form features words spoken with instrumental accompaniment. Its history extends back in time to when travelling bards carried the news, speaking and singing it from town to town. It has been with us since humans first began to speak and make music.

If you think about it, you'll realize you've heard more songs of this sort than you ever realized. Usually, you will have heard these spoken word performances called something else. It has been recorded since we started to record music. Do you remember these? Jimmy Dean performing "To a Sleeping Beauty," "Big John," and others. Walter Brennan's classic "Old Rivers." C. W. McCall's "Convoy," "Roses for Mama," "Rubber Duck," "Wolf Creek Pass," and others. "Teddy Bear" and "Phantom 309" and "Giddy-Up Go," just three of Red Sovine's many spoken hits. And this is just some of many in country music. The phenomenon spans jazz, blues, rock, and every other genre and sub genre. Today, a very high proportion of hip hop and pop songs are either partially or wholly spoken.

The word "poetry" is anathema to music purists and often to the music-buying public. As can be seen by the songs I've listed, spoken word releases most often pretend to be something else. The artists choose to categorize themselves by the style of their backup music or sung chorus sections rather than admit out loud that their work is spoken word, is storytelling. There is a small group of artists doing something they narrowly define as spoken word performance, but they tend to be at the very "artistic" end of the spectrum. Their esoteric performances tend to further remove spoken works from accessibility and acceptance by the public. If it wants acceptance, it must be called jazz [or some other musical genre] but never spoken word and certainly not poetry.

That's a shame. This is a very ancient and very exciting form of the art and the artists who write and perform it should receive greater recognition. Even so, once in a while one of these pieces will break through and receive popular airplay. Two prime examples are Les Crane's recording of "Desiderata" released almost thirty years ago and the more recent "Everyone's free to wear Sunscreen." Most, however, receive little airplay and the artists tend to have smaller, if appreciative audiences. Perhaps if the industry would recognize spoken word performance as a separate and very powerful art form rather than attempt to lump it into various musical genres, it would get the exposure and recognition it deserves.

Why would I take up my space and your time with such a lecture? Because so many of the releases that cross my desk these days include spoken word pieces, and excellent ones at that. Most pretend to be something else. Worse, reviewers indulge this pretense. I recently read a review of a release on which, of fifteen tracks, seven are spoken word pieces and only two blues numbers, yet the writer reviewed this release not as spoken word (or perhaps mixed) but as a blues release.

The group 2NU makes spoken word performance. This is not hip hop. The music behind the words ranges from jazz and blues to reggae to rock to something electronic and experimental. Where there is a sung chorus, it is clearly intended as a transition and not the main song. The spoken vocals are powerful and emotive. It is they which carry the songs. 2NU has been making this music since at least 1991, when their song "This is Ponderous" rose to number 46 in the Billboard top 100. 2NU2.COM features twelve well-conceived contemporary spoken word pieces, fourteen if you count two transitional pieces also included. Will this release get the airplay it deserves? It's hard to tell, since the group is very open in saying what they do is storytelling, spoken word.

Those interested in hearing the best spoken word performance being done today will want to hear this release. From beginning to end, 2NU2.COM epitomizes the quality of which this form is capable. Jock Blaney's voice is rich and powerful, his readings evocative and at times moving. The music, spanning and sometimes mixing several genres, is an interesting blend of real instruments and electronics.

"Stalker Valentine" is a bizarre, frightening yet very humourous song that also rocks along, carried by a solid slow blues background. The performance, both spoken and sung, has that not always subtle but very wry Lyle Lovett edge to it, providing a strange counterpoint to the dark content of the piece. Here's just one example: "I have to move now because I've written your name all over the walls in red paint and it won't come off...." I can imagine this song being played on campus radio stations all across North America. I have my doubts it will get that airplay.

More than forty y - Sound Bytes Music


2NU2 - 2NU2.COM & COMMAND Z
Heard Magazine
Way back in 1990, a virtually unknown band called 2NU2 (Two New Two), hit the charts with a quirky, yet unbelievably cool song called This Is Ponderous. That track is still getting a surprising amount of airplay nearly 10 years later, as all the classic tracks always do & in this case, it’s well justified. Imagine my surprise recently when an email arrived asking if hEARd would review the band’s forthcoming album. Of course you already knew the answer to that before the question was even asked. The forerunner to the album, which is called 2NU2.Com, is the 4 track ep Command Z, which features a reincarnation of that famous track "This Is Ponderous", which is pretty cool in itself, but the original for some reason still remains an enigma by itself, all things falling into the right place at the right time. The focus for this ep should be on the newer material, especially the lushly constructed opener "Crossroads" & "The End Of The World", which again both take an eclectic look through the band’s eyes at the world outside. Similarly, the album sports some superb production & wonderfully unusual effects on both music & vocals. The ironically titled "Zen’d Lullaby" opens up & shows that the band are still ahead of their time. People adventurous enough to take a step into the musical unknown will truly appreciate the album. On the other hand, many mainstream music listeners should also find the whole album accessible. Probably the most fascinating track here is "Swansrok", which although a little bizarre in the beginning, with it’s car accident sound effects, is an inspired number which draws you to it, in similar fashion to some Tom Waits excerpts. Once again, "The End Of The World" is another standout, a serenely soothing yet disturbing
narrative set again to a backdrop of cool sounds. Nearing the end of the album, another couple of standouts happen easily along, with "Stalker Valentine" again a little eccentric, in the same way that King Missile can be, here presenting another slightly disturbing story set to extraordinary blues backdrops, as is "Then Again". Again, 2NU2 show with both releases, that they will be a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps in another 10 years, we’ll all be hearing songs from this album as well as This Is Ponderous.

hEARd Magazine - Heard Magazine


earBuzz Review
earBuzz
2NU2 is one of the most original, fresh, professional sounding, ahead of the curve bands we’ve heard. They combine musical rap lines with accomplished singing and perfect storytelling speaking lines, all supported by hip-hop dance tracks and impeccable musicianship throughout several musical styles. The message is profound and direct. In "Zen’d Lullaby" the words go by, ’Jimmy Killed Bobby, Cuz Bobby Killed Mim, Now Mim’s Momma’s Gonna Kill Him. Bepop. Hiphop. Cockadoodle Do. Soon Mim’s Mamma’s Gonna Die Too. Gonna Hate Our Fate Til We Suffocate, And Daddy Won’t Tell Us Why." "Mad Man’s Fit", the fourth track, has more of an alternative rock groove riff going for it - and the groove is behind the beat and wicked - the lyrics chronicle putting up with a metal band on the next apartment floor, ’Metal Freaks, Jeez How Can They Live With All That Noise? I’m Calling The Manager. Wait....I Can’t. I Haven’t Paid My Rent." There’s a gem in "The Submarine" - as the speaking story of how our hero finds beer cans, turns them into a submarine and begins his own language - hilarious and mesmerizing. Finally, "The Island" pushes a calypso/reggae groove with words that speak of a woman who ’can burp her own name.’ Tongue in cheek, much of it, but the overall impression of 2NU2 is fascinating. This is truly a musical project/band with a foot ahead of today’s sound. The combine elements of some of the finest music genres and put them out with brilliance, while the voices and singers compel the listener to memorize and enjoy. Great, great record.

earBuzz review
http://www.earBuzz.com
- earBuzz


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

In 1990, several Seattle bands were just waiting to burst into the consciousness of America, and they did a mere year later. However, one artist, for one hesitates to call this group a "band", appeared on the music scene at this time, releasing their only album, PONDEROUS, on ATLANTIC RECORDS. They called themselves 2NU and their debut album was filled with pop-hooks, witticism, out-there references, surrealistic story-telling and far more sound effects and spoken-word passages than most other music that had broken the top 100 before that time. This may help explain why they weren't lumped and packaged with their successful Seattle brethren, who ironically were seen as more "alternative."
2NU has always been about redefining new music, trends and perceptions, and continues to do so which is not surprising. Especially to those who have followed the Seattle based band since they exploded on to the national scene with their eclectic and critically acclaimed 1991 Atlantic Records debut THIS IS PONDEROUS. 2NU scored
a hit (number 46 on Billboard Top 100 Singles, Feb. 1991) with the single THIS IS PONDEROUS.

Perhaps their music was a concept before its time. Successes such as Shawn Mullin's "LULLABY" and the SUNSCREEN SONG might indicate that such was the case. However, the two founding members of 2NU had already reached the conclusion in 1997 that the time had come for them to bring back that delightfully, eclectic brand of music that launched them into the national scene in 1991.

In February of 1999 they released COMMAND Z, a four song EP that features a remake of the 1991 hit THIS IS PONDEROUS and a brand new feature single titled THE ISLAND, followed by the recent release of the full length LP titled 2NU2.COM.

The 12 song LP presents the far broader range of this unique group. Still present are the surrealistic story telling, spoken-word songs such as THE SUBMARINE, THE LEGEND and THE ISLAND. However this highly produced work introduces a more serious side of 2NU with songs such as ZEN'D LULLABY, a sobering statement in light of tragedies such as the school shootings in Arkansas, Colorado and Atlanta or the reflective nature of A FATHER'S DAY and 32. And just when you thought you had them all figured out, 2NU reaches right out and grabs you with STALKER VALENTINE and a blues song titled THEN AGAIN that leaves you wondering "just exactly where are these guys coming from."

The album comes with the following warning: " Listening to this album over and over and over again may become habit forming. It could cause your mind to wander uncontrollably. It may even convince you that you know something that no one else does. Something about the wind, perhaps. Or a special place at the end of a long, lonely road that only you and one other person know about. Something that may take you to a different place. In a different time. In a different car. If it does affect you in any of these ways, just turn it off for an hour. And please return the car".

Their inspiration? Lives filled with "life." And if you wanted, you could spend a lifetime trying to find all the
hidden meanings, but the songs are more about what they mean to the listener, then what they mean to 2NU.

2NU and their new music is being released by NU MUSIC and is available at www.2nu2.com, www.cdbaby.com and PlanetCD.com or by phone at 1-888-467-4888.

For more information or promotional copies of this outstanding work, send your request to Michael Nealy at michaeln@nealyinc.com.

Who are your major influences?

Our major influences musically are Tom Waits, Robbie Robertson, Chris Issak, Eric Clapton, just to name a few. Other major influences are industry greats like commercial writer and voice man Ken Nordine, great spoken word collections like Celestial Navigations. Jock and I both have a great diversity in musical tastes, and that diversity becomes very evident in the music of 2NU.

How did the band form?

Jock and I first met in Seattle in 1987. I was the creative director at a local advertising agency and Jock was the production director at a Seattle Top 40 radio station (KPLZ). In 1989, Jock produced a sixty second radio commercial for one of my clients that won a prestigious regional advertising award called a Soundie and was also nominated for a national CLIO, the advertising industry's equivalent of a Grammy or Oscar. The success of that commercial led Jock and I to expand it to a three or four minute spoken word musical concept to market to dentists offices. We brought in a few local artists, booked a local studio and recorded our first four songs for the project. Pretty good pieces of music. A really stupid idea.

In January of 1990, Jock was putting the finishing touches to the four minute piece that had been titled THIS IS PONDEROUS in the production room at KPLZ when the music director at that time (Mark Allan) heard the tune and liked it so well he asked if he could play it on his new