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The Inessential Uncle Bonsai (Live)

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Album Review

In his liner notes to this live compilation, Uncle Bonsai singer/songwriter/guitarist Andrew Ratshin says that the group "achieved some notoriety for songs like "Penis Envy" and "Fat Boys," but we liked to remind people of the balance between the serious and the humorous songs we were performing." That it was necessary to remind people, however, is some indication of the imbalance in quality between the two types of songs. The serious ones often had good points to make, such as the description of the frustrations of domestic family life found in "In It for the Children." But Uncle Bonsai will be remembered for its quirky examinations of pop ephemera such as "Isaac's Lament," which concerns the suicide of a fan of Love Boat when the show was canceled, and comic comments on the foibles of relationships, such as "Boys Want Sex in the Morning." Since Ratshin sang in a high tenor or falsetto and was accompanied by two women, Arni Adler and Ashley Kristen, Uncle Bonsai always sounded like a female trio, and Ratshin was able to take advantage of that by writing songs from the female perspective. (Adler also contributed lyrics, notably "Cheerleaders on Drugs.") The results could be hilarious, if perhaps too outrageous for mainstream consumption, which may have been one reason why the group called it quits after three albums in 1989. This compilation repeats the best songs from those three, though, except in one case, not in the same versions as heard on those albums. All of the group's favorites are included, making this the ideal first purchase for folk fans with a sense of humor who may have missed Uncle Bonsai the first time around.


Formed: 1981

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Bizarre and outrageous, Uncle Bonsai were formed in Seattle in 1981 by three former Bennington College students: Andrew Ratshin, Ashley Kristin, and Arni Adler. Uncle Bonsai were a guitar and three-part vocal outfit who specialized in singing the weirdest songs -- "Penis Envy," "Cheerleaders on Drugs" -- with sublimely angelic voices. During their initial eight-year existence, Uncle Bonsai released three albums, A Lonely Grain of Corn, Boys Wants Sex in the Morning, and Myn Ynd Wymyn, the last two...
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The Inessential Uncle Bonsai (Live), Uncle Bonsai
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