Patty Carpenter and the Dysfunctional Family Jazz Band (PCATDFJB) are a troupe of musicians who are also family members. Singer Patty was married to saxophonist Scotty, and they had daughter (who is also the band’s other singer) Melissa. Patty and Scotty broke up, and Patty married the band’s manager, Charles, and together they had son Travis who plays bass. This album is essentially like being trapped on a couch in the living room of your new neighbors watching an endless slide-show of their family’s summer vacation.
Little did you know how creepy your new neighbors were. “My Baby” stomps in with snarling saxophone and electric guitar. The song’s lyrics are about a rebellious child growing up, “My baby’s going away. And I hope it will be okay/Such a young girl hurrying out the door.” Okay, fine so far. But then the song gets a little bit too, er, tactile? “I can hold her when she needs my touch... Someday I know that she’ll go away/But I will stay close to her heart.” Now I’m confused. I thought this was a song about mother/daughter relationships? Is this the kissing family from Saturday Night Live?
PCATDFJB waffle between Sonny Clark-esque jazz, zydeco, and reggae. “Love Bound” is a song about daughter Melissa and husband Alan getting married in Jamaica. I know this because it says so, under the lyrics to the song in the liner notes: “we cooked up this song to celebrate the first anniversary of Melissa and Alan. Their wedding in Jamaica required a reggae saga. You had to be there. Now you are.” It really is great that this family willingly shows so much affection for each other. Frankly, though, I don’t really want to be invited to their wedding. I just don’t know them well enough to be interested. I suppose you could argue that there are plenty of great songs out there written about people and events that most listeners have no personal connection to. Paul Simon wrote about wife Peggy Harper in songs like “Run That Body Down,” and it works. But then, Mr. Simon didn’t write in the liner notes to his album, “My wife and I were going through a very difficult time, which would eventually end in a bitter divorce. You had to be there. Now you are!” Speaking of Paul Simon, he also made reggae work for a white dude. Unfortunately, PCATDFJB are more reminiscent of Willie Nelson’s attempt at reggae, which (needles to say) was both bumbling and strange.
On the track “Summer Love,” PCATDFJB get creepy again, for along come the sultry sounds of what can only be a mom singing about making whoopie in a corn field: “The corn’s silky tassels are luring me in [...] come on, baby, roll me in the grass.” Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. The teenager in me just threw up a little in my mouth. This is a family band! What are you doing, hippie parents? This song feels a bit like Maeby Fünke and Michael Bluth singing “Afternoon Delight” together. That moment on Arrested Development was funny because it was unintentionally creepy. This is just creepy.
It’s great that these folks enjoy making music together and seem to love each other so much. I just think you may need to be a part of their family in order to really get it.