don’t know anyone that can pronounce this band’s name. I talk to friends about them. I never realize until minutes into the conversation that we’re talking about the same band—this band from Texas called “Charalambides.” Sometimes they rush through the pronunciation and it comes out like half-chewed food. Other times they sound it out, like a kid recalling phonics and saying, “shar-AH-lom-BIDES.” And there are times when they just talk about the components of this unpronounceable duo: Tom and Christina Carter. Heather Leigh Murray, who used to be in Charalambides and who’s now just Heather Leigh, comes up, too. She and Christina have a duo called Scorces, which my friends don’t know how to pronounce either. Heather Leigh lives in Scotland now, so she doesn’t perform with Tom and Christina Carter much anymore, and her absence subtracts the possibility of people not knowing whether or not she goes by Heather Murray, Heather Leigh or Heather Leigh Murray. Most of my friends just call her “that Volcanic Tongue girl,” which is a reference to a record shop that she runs with that Wire writer and guitarist, David Keenan. I’ve heard several different pronunciations of his surname, by the way. Most of the time my friends just say “that Volcanic Tongue guy.” Heather and David also play in a duo together, and it has an odd name, too: Taurpis Tula. I’ve never heard any of my friends say this band’s name. I wonder if Jeff Eugenides has problems with people mispronouncing his name?
When people agree to mispronounce the band’s name and move beyond to the music, they start sounding the same. They say stuff like, this is beautiful, or this is gorgeous, or they add “achingly” to either beautiful or gorgeous or both. Sometimes they do things like I did years ago when I wrote up some CD-R that Tom Carter released and they get drunk on malt liquor and start typing up bullshit about essences and Hegel and prime substance. No sane person wants to read that about some CD-R that Tom Carter released. On better days, I consider myself as one who “participates” in what-it-is-to-be sane. I’ve heard people talk about Tom and Christina Carter and the music they make, and I’ve heard them say things about form and matter and instantiation. They all have close-cropped hair and glasses and gesticulate when they talk. They are always the loudest people in the room.
Tom and Christina Carter are quiet. They use cryptic titles for their recordings, and sometimes their song titles are direct descriptions of what’s contained therein. Christina Carter, who perhaps has trouble pronouncing words, often chooses to err on the side of caution and create her own “words.” She sings “wordlessly,” and I’ve heard the “loudest people in the room” saying things about “glossolalia” and “Derrida” when they talk about Carter’s wordless singing. Sometimes her sounds are reactions to Tom’s guitar sounds. Sometimes they are mimicry. And sometimes they remind me of my friends trying to pronounce Tom and Christina Carter’s band name. Charalambides’ Likeness is like all of this, but I don’t know if I could ever say that Hegel or essence or prime substance has anything to do with it. The cover art doesn’t seem to have anything to do at all with the music. It’s a figurative painting of a bird. Tom and Christina Carter could be suggesting that the bird and the music share a similar nature, or likeness, but that sounds like something “the loudest people in the room” would say.
Some of the songs on Likeness are annoying. “Uncloudy Day” is comprised of piano and wah-wah guitar and Christina’s [processed] voice. It’s too slow of an opener and reminds me of an empty, musty home with dirty windows and bright sunlight that breaks through sliding glass doors and shines on dead cockroaches on yellow kitchen linoleum. “Memory Takes Hold” is like “Uncloudy Day” but there’s no piano and I don’t think of dead cockroaches. I listened to “Memory Takes Hold” a lot. It reminds me of a story a friend told me about his high school girlfriend. He was on LSD and having a difficult time, and she took him into her room and undressed him. She sat behind him on the bed and he sat between her legs. She reached around him and jerked him off with her thumb and index finger. She did it so slowly and lightly that it took nearly an hour for him to climax. It took him nearly 15 minutes to realize that it was his prick sliding between her two fingers and that the feelings he was feeling felt like they were located somewhere in his parent’s basement, hundreds of miles away, and not in his body, which was right there on the bed.
He watched her fingers and looked at her nail polish, which was a strange pearly white, but riddled with earthy colors like an opal. He looked at his prick and its glans was beating right along with his heart and it was purple and throbbing. He said that her fingers sometimes completely came off it, but it felt like they were still there. His cat came into the room and looked at them and then sat down and started cleaning. He said that when he started to climax he started screaming and laughing and his girlfriend did the same thing. The cat jumped up and ran out of the room. He said that he felt like he was watching this happen on television, but that the television was in someone else’s house and he was standing out in the road, squinting to make out the images on the screen. He was supposed to work that night, but called in sick. He said he mispronounced his boss’ surname, and said something about his parent’s basement. His boss asked him what television had to do with it and he said everything, screaming and laughing while his girlfriend screamed and laughed. He never did LSD again. He ended up marrying that girl. I can’t really blame him.
There are two other songs, “Walking Through the Graveyard” and “What You Do for Money,” that are really wonderful. They are really kind of beautiful and are sort of like when you see mountains for the first time. You want to ask questions, but you can’t figure out how or what to ask, so you just look and say, “wow.” It’s not that different from watching fireworks on New Years after you’ve had too much bad sparking wine. But, in this case, you listen, and knowing who’s making these sounds or whether or not these words are real words or if Tom and Christina Carter care if people can or can’t pronounce their band’s name doesn’t even matter.
I thought about all the times I walked through a graveyard. And I thought about all the times I’ve seen mountains. I thought about all the things I’ve done for money and it made me want to think about all the times I’ve seen mountains and all the times I’ve walked through a graveyard. “What You Do for Money” sort of sounds like a coffeehouse version of the Stooges’ “We Will Fall,” where the vocalist is gesticulating like she’s blind and the guitarist has incense smoldering in one of those wooden shoehorn things on the floor by his amp. The quietest people in the room would shush “the loudest people in the room” while this song was being played so they could think about yellow linoleum and dead cockroaches and climaxing. But, I mostly think about mountains these days. Can you really blame me?