As someone who has mostly created music on my own, I admire anyone who takes that route of making almost all of their sounds into their songs. In the case of Tom Dyer, who runs Green Monkey Records, he had time not only to supervise some of the artists he would end up releasing, but he would take the time to make music along the way. Songs From Academia Vol 1: Songs With Singing, 1981-2009 (Green Monkey) is a personal diary of one man’s journey towards creating sounds which simply suited him, as most of these have not been heard by anyone but his closest friends. Some of them have not been heard anyone but by its creator, so consider it a lucky chance to listen to the talent of someone who’s goal is to simply create for the sake of being creative.
Dyer is the core of each of these songs, with him taking various roles, whether it’s a singer, guitarist, programmer of drum loops, or as credited on the CD itself, “whatever”. The time range of these songs is 28 years, and yet the Seattle sound most people associate with the city is not what you’ll hear here. For me, this is a slice of a very diverse Seattle sound, where one will hear hints of Frank Zappa, >The Waitresses, Cheap Trick, Pink Floyd, or Quarterflash. 1984’s “Little Sally Walker” had the potential to become a hit had it had a cool video in the days when MTV was becoming the lord of music, Move two years earlier and you have “(Half The World Is Made Of) Women”, which sounds like what David Byrne would sound like if The Residents were his backing band. It’s bizarre and trippy, just as a lot of music from 1982 sounded like, Improvements in synths, electroncis, and technology helped create 2007’s “The Question Asked”, where Dyer plays guitar over a programmed soundscape and while it sounds different in comparison to “(Half The World Is Made Of) Women”, you can also hear the similarities. Then move to 1983’s “Cars Keep Moving” and despite the 26 year span, one could easily hear a group like Gnarls Barkley or N*E*R*D reinterpret it and turn it into a hit. Dyer picks up the guitar and moves into the country with “The Ballad Of Jeffrey and Susanne”, which sounds as if there’s no low-end, as if someone at a Dairy Queen wanted you to hear a song before you were to take your order. It has a Flaming Lips feel to it, even though in 1988 the Lips weren’t doing anything like this.
Anyone who expects to hear the roots of the Seattle sound may feel they’re not getting it upon listening to Songs From Academia Vol. 1, but this is indeed a sound that was pushed to the side by volume, sarcasm, and a glimpse of the spotlight. While Dyer didn’t become a massive success, hearing this proves that it wasn’t about gold records, fashion lines, or making a statement. Yet in the end, they do make clear statements about the drive to not only create new music and sounds, but to create something that maybe, just maybe, could’ve been bigger and better, and a conquerer of lands and fields towards world dominance. If anything, it’s the Dyer sound, and the world (or at least the Pacific Northwest) is grateful for his output.