The Special Pillow Meets the Space Monster | Premiere
Exclusive EP premiere of ‘Meets the Space Monster’ by The Special Pillow, out February 16 2024.
Discerning listeners may be aware of The Special Pillow, esteemed purveyors of a full-spectrum, string-driven sound encompassing concise ’60s-flavored pop gems, dreamy hallucinogenic reveries, and pulse-pounding propulsion redolent of your favorite antipodean indie upstarts of the ’80s. Since 1995, the Hoboken, NJ, band have trafficked in catchy and confounding songcraft that has earned them notable fans such as Yo La Tengo, who have covered the group’s classic ‘Automatic Doom’
But what of the Space Monster? Some malevolent entity from the cosmic beyond or the void itself? Are we talking about outer or inner space? And is the monstrosity manifested as too much space or too little?
‘The Special Pillow Meets the Space Monster’ is the latest in a series of acclaimed EPs, following in the wake of ‘Mind Wipe’ (2022) and ‘World’s Finest’ (2020). It is named in honor of the 1965 science-fiction potboiler, ‘Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster,’ the soundtrack of that cinematic milestone being the source of the featured cover song, ‘That’s the Way It’s Got to Be,’ originally performed by Scotland’s beat titans The Poets and an underground hit for The Special Pillow in the summer of 2023.
Daniel Cuddy talks about the tracks.
‘Three on a Sundial’
The Special Pillow Meets the Space Monster is the second project the band has recorded at Deep Dive, the Brooklyn studio run by Mitch Rackin, an audio engineer extraordinaire who we’ve worked with frequently over the past fifteen years. Deep Dive is certainly a repository of groovy accoutrements, including a thumb piano with a built-in pickup. Hence the electrified kalimba break. This snappy number was inspired by multiple crossword puzzle clues: “Three on a sundial,” “East of nine,” and “Right on the clock.” The answer to all three is III. That answer triggered the notion of a self-absorbed timepiece. But one with a potential weakness: How can a sundial function on a cloudy day?
‘A Certain Level of Uncertainty’
As students of economics are probably well aware, the age of uncertainty has been with us for some time. But if I had googled John Kenneth Galbraith before now, would the theme of this delightful, psyched-out tune be any more cogent and self-assured? Possibly not. I don’t really know, but who among us does? I will let that mystery be and instead focus on the interweaving vocal lines (courtesy of Peter Stuart, Eric Marc Cohen, Katie Gentile, and Debby Schwartz) that float and slither in and out of the mix during the climactic rock maelstrom like phantasmal sea creatures.
‘Fond and Foggy’
This wintry rumination on the comforts and limitations of nostalgia is propelled by the inimitable horn playing of Steve Levi (cornet and valve trombone) and Cheryl Kingan (baritone saxophone), who we’ve worked with on a few prior Special Pillow tracks: ‘Hudson River Dreamboat’ the first single from the Sleeping Weird album, the title track of World’s Finest, and two songs from Mind Wipe, ‘Access Denied’ and ‘Organic Panic’. They’re consummate professionals, and it’s always a joy to hear the new tones they bring to the music. This song was released to streaming services as a single on the 2023 Winter Solstice, which may not have been commercially optimal but seemed important to do. The lyrics feature the incredible true story of discovering a castaway My Bloody Valentine EP lying on the ground.
‘Give Up the Ghost’
Many of us have experienced memories, scenarios, and paradigms in our lives that linger on well past their sell-by date. Conversations and even arguments with entities that will never hear one’s perspective and may not even exist.
The Special Pillow’s repertoire has been rife with paranormal investigation from the get-go. One side of our 1995 7-inch vinyl debut (on Really Fast Racecar Records) was ‘Paranormal,’ and we went on to unleash ‘Please Come to Our Séance’ and ‘Ghosts Are Real’ upon a ghost-hungry public. ‘Give Up the Ghost’ is the latest and possibly greatest entry in this select (and admittedly sub-sub-sub) genre. Katie and Debby welcome us into the netherworld in vocal tandem, Eric displays a downright uncanny sense of interdimensional pulsations, Peter has an epic guitar battle with himself and wins, and yours truly (Dan Cuddy) dramatically intones the title of the song and deeply appreciates his collaborators in this occult endeavor.
‘That’s the Way It’s Got to Be’
An extra freaked-out interpolation and extrapolation of a classic number by Scotland’s beat titans The Poets. The original version was famously creature featured (twice!) in the 1965 science fiction milestone Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. We put this out as a standalone single last summer to tie in with a couple of live shows: at Mama Tried in Brooklyn with the Sloppy Heads and Dump, and at Monty Hall in Jersey City with the reconstituted Das Damen. Old friends all. Those were our band’s first gigs in almost five years, and they seemed to go quite well. If you were there, congratulations. And if not, maybe we’ll see you next time. I’d wager that we’ll play this song.
‘Nowhere to Go but Home’
And plenty of people don’t even have a home to go to. Understood. The chorus of this tearjerker was inspired by a down-and-out passage from Tsuge Tadao’s Slum Wolf. The second verse’s geodesic dome shout-out arrived before I heard ‘New Alchemy’ by my former bandmates Sleepyhead (Boston-via-NYC indie legends), but together they surely constitute a collective-unconscious microtrend. Dome, dome on the range. It might be confusing to note that the sorta “Christmassy” passage toward the end began as a fermented extract of ‘I Found a Reason’ by way of the Swingle Singers. It didn’t even make sense at the time, but occasionally you may try to do something that doesn’t quite work out as intended but ends up turning into something else even better. God rest ye!
Once again, the group recorded at Brooklyn’s Deep Dive studio with longtime engineer Mitch Rackin. The band consists of bassist and songwriter Dan Cuddy (ex-Hypnolovewheel); Katie Gentile (Run On) on violin and viola; Peter Stuart (Headless Horsemen, Tryfles) on a remarkable selection of guitars; and Eric Marc Cohen (Fly Ashtray, Autobody) on drums and percussion. That creative core is augmented by vocals from Debby Schwartz and, on ‘Fond and Foggy,’ the dynamic and distinctive horn work courtesy of Steven Levi (The Scene Is Now) and Cheryl Kingan (TSIN, 75 Dollar Bill).
Headline photo: Mitch Rackin