cgwlogo.jpg

Gardner Cole – ∆’s (1988)
purchase this album (Amazon)

Do you have irrationally fond memories of the year 1988?

Do you often find yourself sitting around where all the “good times” of the late ’80s went, or leafing through your 1987-88 and 1988-89 yearbooks, or boring your friends to tears with constant stories that begin with “do you remember…”?

Do you smile wistfully when remembering the election of George H.W. Bush?

I have just the album for you.

Imagine, if you will, that a group of scientists, sitting in a lab on December 31, 1988, were somehow able to bottle the essence of the preceding 364 days and press it onto a CD. Do you want to know what it would sound like? I hear you screaming “no,” but I’m going to tell you anyway: It would sound like Gardner Cole’s debut album, ∆’s.

How about that album title, folks? Is that the most late-’80s thing you’ve ever laid eyes on, or what? Also, isn’t Gardner Cole kind of a tool for naming his debut after a shape? Don’t you hate him already? Well, wait until you watch this:

There you have it — “Live It Up,” Gardner Cole’s claim to fame as a solo artist, a song that, as far as I can tell, rose no higher than #91 on the Billboard Hot 100. This would seem to make Cole something of a footnote to a footnote in pop history, but oh dear God, would you look at the songwriting collaborators he lists on his MySpace page:

Peter Murphy, Nile Rodgers, Adam Ant, Philip Bailey, Bobby Caldwell, Jay Graydon, Patrick Leonard, Siedah Garrett, Oliver Leiber, The Jacksons, Madonna, Stephen Bray, Danny Sembello, Nathan East, James Newton-Howard, Kenny Nolan, Andre Cymone, Mic Murphy, Michael Omartian, Brian Wilson, Peter Allen, Franne Golde, David Gamson, Nathan East, Al Jarreau, Amy Grant, Michael McDonald, Syreeta Wright, Peter Murphy, Robbie Nevil

To quote Christopher Walken: Wowie wow wow.

Okay, so we can’t make fun of Gardner Cole’s career. But we can totally make fun of this album, which I’m just going to pretend was titled Douche. Not because it’s awful, but because it might be the most dated collection of recordings I’ve ever heard in my life. Aside from a compilation of Stephen Foster songs performed on the harpsichord by Civil War vets in blackface, I’m not sure it would be possible to even conceive of something more dated.

Which is to say, I love it — and I didn’t even like 1988, otherwise known as The Year My Skanky Ex-Girlfriend Showed Up at the Eighth Grade Graduation Dance with That Cocksucker Mike Legg. No, for me there’s just something incredibly fascinating about the sounds people made in recording studios during the mid- to late ’80s, and Gardner Cole’s Douche is chock full of those sounds, many of which have been hunted to extinction — which draws an intriguing parallel between, say, the call of the dodo and the noises you hear in songs like “In a Big Way” (download) and “Thought I Had Her” (download).

Holy shit, does Gardner Cole prove Darwin was right? Or did I just blow your mind?