Songs Of The Day 6/22/2015: Mumps – “Stupid” + “Crocodile Tears”

Pride Week: Mumps ranks up there at the top of the list of my favorite delayed discoveries from the ’70s. They cut their teeth at CDGB’s during the middle of that decade. I’ve read comparisons of their style to British chamber pop bands like The Move, which doesn’t make a lot of sense right off the bat. I think they sound more like an transatlantic precursor to Squeeze, a band that means the whole world and half of another one to me. Trust me, they’re Squeeze-like.

Leader Lance Loud was already in the public eye when Mumps started gaining whatever following they had, in a couple of groundbreaking, though not necessarily happy ways. He was one of the siblings of the Loud family of Santa Barbara, who were serialized on the PBS TV show An American Family in 1973. Many television historians consider it the first “reality” television show, and I can’t think of an earlier one. The Louds therefore had cameras watching their internal lives every day for around seven months, and it just happened to catch them at the time when the parental Loud’s marriage was dissolving. Or were the cameras part of the problem? Twist on that one for awhile.

Lance, one of the five Loud children, was almost 21 when the cameras started shooting, but played a major role in the dynamic of An American Family. Loud was openly gay, which according to his estimation made him the first openly gay person on American serial television. He had come out privately to his family, he said, at age 16. “Upon hearing me utter those words almost twenty years ago,” Lance wrote, “my own mother did what and self-respecting middle-class mom would do: went directly into a seizure. Unfortunately, she was behind the wheel of our family station wagon. As I was coming out of the closet, our car was hurtling over an embankment. The moment was terrifying — but exactly right.” Now that would have been great television.

Loud formed Mumps with Kristian Hoffman, and later defined their work as music that “spoke to the true misfit class of American teenager. Not the poetic James Dean outcast, but the real, nerdy, nobody-wants-’em, forgotten teens.” That describes “Stupid” and "Crocodile Tears" to a T. Mumps recorded a bunch of sides, including one at Brian Wilson’s studio. Nothing much came of it outside New York. “Three of us were gay in a hereto-heavy field which only acknowledged homosexuality as being a passing marketing ploy in David Bowie’s career.” Yikes! Snap! We just had him in here yesterday! Loud died of complications from HIV and Hep-C in 2000 at age 50, and sort of penned his own emotional and irreverant eulogy in his penultimate weeks.
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