M.O.T.O Redux


Take a sip

Of my love

You know it

Tastes just like a milkshake, baby

Tastes just like a milkshake, baby…

The song bursts out of the speakers. Unapologetically Ramones-styled guitars rumble; the singing–the lilt in the singer’s voice on “take a sip,” the wild wail on “tastes just like a milkshake”–is perfect; the production, rudimentary even in this lo-fi age, is coarse but thrilling. The performance is vintage Paul Caporino, aka M.O.T.O., the unchallenged master of the ineffable pop song about almost anything below the waist. “It Tastes Just Like a Milkshake” is the star track on M.O.T.O.’s new release, a 45 entitled, with time-honored Caporino sophomoricism, Jacuzzi for the Dead. The record–which includes “Milkshake,” “In and Around the Neighborhood,” “Schmuck Factor,” and a keening ballad called “Around Every Corner”–is just one of many indications that the fabled M.O.T.O., silent for years, is coming back to life. A newly configured live operation–including drummer Art Kubin and bassist Dennis Spaag–has been playing out (the band opens for the Mekons Saturday at Lounge Ax). And finally, the first-ever release of Hoboken’s Haircut Records, helmed by Chicago expatriate David Rothblatt, will be a M.O.T.O. retrospective titled Golden Hour that should be the band’s first nationally dis-tributed release in CD form.

In the mid-80s Caporino was one of the hundreds who purveyed home-made tapes through the pages of the fanzine Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll. One of his correspondents was Chicagoan Ken Kurson, bassist at the time for the band Green. On a tour through Boston, Kurson played one of Caporino’s tapes for a college concert booker named Beck Dudley; she began corresponding with Caporino too, and eventually convinced him to move to Boston. Dudley became the drummer in a two-person band they called M.O.T.O., for “masters of the obvious.” While the band didn’t plan not to have a bass player, they got on fine without one; and in 1989 the pair came to Chicago, where they developed a tiny but devoted cult following wowed by Caporino’s utterly adolescent brilliance on rousing compositions like “It’s So Big It’s Fluorescent.”

But then M.O.T.O. dropped out of sight: Caporino got canned from his job in the mailroom of the Sears Tower (the reason being “attendance,” he says); both he and Dudley got married. She’s now studying architecture at UIC; he works unenthusiastically in a copy shop in the IBM building, though he notes that it does allow him sufficient songwriting time in the bathroom. His recording technique remains assertively imperfect: for his latest tape release, E Pluribus M.O.T.O., he recorded his few instruments–vocals, pounding guitar, drum machine, and piercing organ–directly into a home four-track. While Caporino is capable of penning the (relatively) sincere love song, his most audacious and tuneful work tends to come when he finds more inspiring subject matter–such as things scatological, sexual, or genital, as in “Fate Takes a Stool,” “Infected,” “Cancer in My Dick,” and “Knee to the Groin.” He insists that he writes about a wide variety of subjects–the vulgar stuff, he says, “is just a garnish”–and notes that it could be worse. “I mean, they’re not songs about people playing with their feces,” he says. Opening for the Coctails at the Bop Shop two weeks ago, he charmed a packed house with hits old and new, and should do the same Saturday.


Exactly one year after its release, the Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream has sold 2.7 million copies, according to the latest SoundScan figures. The album debuted at number ten a year ago and has hovered in the high teens and low 20s ever since, long after releases like Nirvana’s In Utero and U2’s Zooropa have come and gone. The sales figures suggest that about three million have been shipped, qualifying the record for triple platinum; with the band’s Lollapalooza stint continuing through early September, sales shouldn’t be dropping anytime soon. After that the band will take a rest, manager Andy Gershon says. The current “Rocket” will be the last video from the album, says Gershon; still to come, however,

is an Incesticide-style collection of European cuts and rarities, Pisces Iscariot, out October 4, and a long-form video, Vieuphoria….Time magazine recently reported, and Trib magazine columnist James Warren picked up, the big news that high-flying opera stars like Pavarotti and Placido Domingo can’t hold a candle, incomewise, to turn-of-the-century greats like Enrico Caruso or John McCormack. Both the magazine’s premise and its math are wrong. First of all, these singers were the pop stars of their day: it makes more sense to compare McCormack’s income (the equivalent of $75 million, the magazine said, over more than a decade) to that of Michael Jackson or Madonna, who of course can pull down close to that in a single year. Secondly, while traditional opera performances don’t pay much, today’s perfervidly profitable arena shows do; Pavarotti recently grossed $850,000 for a single appearance. It wouldn’t take too many shows like that to put him in Caruso or McCormack territory….Opening Friday night for the Mekons will be Cynthia Plaster Caster, reading excerpts from her personal diaries from the 1960s….A few weeks back Hitsville identified Doyle Bramhall, who was playing at FitzGerald’s that weekend, as a member of the Arc Angels; the Arc Angel, however, was Doyle II, Bramhall’s son. Sorry.