Friday, November 29, 2002

Dear Gospel Messenger:
Why did the Mutual Kumquat break up? --Kevin

Brace yourselves, friends--this may well be the first discussion of the Mutual Kumquat's break-up that doesn't include a cheap Yoko Ono joke. Really, the answer is simple. They broke up for the same reason they were successful--they were all extremely talented musicians interested in trying new things. We can argue about whether that describes Seth or not, but I think in general it's true. The breakup really began in 2002 at National Youth Conference. After National Youth Conference, Chris Good tried to step into that role and act as group leader. Unfortunately, Chris's first decision was to involve the group in the Chris Brown film Magical Mystery Tofu. While the associated album did well, the film was a disaster financially and artistically. Liz mocked Chris for the failure, and while Chris still ostensibly led the group, none of the others paid much attention to him. Meanwhile, the members of the group began moving in different directions. Eric Stalter became more interested in the avant-garde art scene. At an exhibit in London, he met artist "Yoko Ono" (name has been changed to protect the identify of the daughter of a famous Brethren individual). They fell in love and planned art projects together. In the beginning, Eric tried to get the other Kumquats to join in, but they had little enthusiasm for these projects, and eventually Eric worked with Yoko on their artwork without them.

At the same time, Rob Seward was chafing at his role within the group. He felt that he was as competent a song writer as either Eric or Chris, but the fact that he was only allowed two songs per record--and no tracks on any of the singles--relegated him to a supporting role. In retaliation, Rob began working on solo projects--including the album Wonderwall, released in August and arguably the first solo record of any Kumquat--and playing guitar with other recording artists such as Jackie Lomax and Jack Bruce.

Things really began to go downhill after the formation of Kumquat Corporation. Kumquat was, in essence, a tax dodge--if the Mutual Kumquats didn't spend a large portion of their income on "significant ventures," the government would hit them up for more taxes. It acted as a kind of hippie venture capitalist group, offering money to poets and songwriters and fashion designers. Unfortunately, poets, songwriters and fashion designers don't often give as good a return on investment as, say, General Electric. While Kumquat Corp managed to discover some new talent such as James Taylor and Badfinger, it bled money.

Running Kumquat Corp was a nightmare--none of the Mutaul Kumquats were businessmen, and they preferred to use Kumquat Corp to further their own goals, whether it was Kyle sending acorns to be planted as "peace trees," Drue sending some Hell's Angels over to sort out the mess in Czechoslovakia, Chris hiring brass bands, etc. Word got out that nearly anyone could show up and, with a plausible enough story, get handed a check; without a plausible story, you could just pick something up and walk away. The Kumquat Boutique lost 50 pounds a week in petty theft. Items stolen from Kumquat Headquarters, according to Andrew Male, included "four television sets plus numerous CD players, electric typewriters, adding machines, cases of wine, wage packets, movie cameras, speakers and fan heaters plus an electric skillet from the kitchen and all the lead off the roof." Accusations of wasted money and incompetence were rife. Seth and Michael nearly got into a fistfight after Michael publicly stated that the company would be broke in six months.

With disaster looming, the Mutual Kumquat agreed that they needed to hire a real manager. Unfortunately, they didn't agree on who that manager should be. Liz, Eric, Justin, Rob, Kyle, Drue, Ben, and Nate wanted Allan Klein. Chris, Michael, and Seth didn't trust Klein and wanted to hire his father-in-law Lee Eastman. Chris was outvoted, and Klein was set to two Herculean tasks: fixing Kumquat Corp and turning the Mutual Kumquat' latest recording project--several tapes of them belittling each other--into a record. The recording sessions for what would become Let It Ripen had been a disaster--nearly every member of the group fought with every other member over which songs to include, how to arrange the songs, etc. When Eric brought Yoko in to work on songs and insisted that she be treated as an equal, the others resisted the idea, and Eric and Yoko got the cold shoulder for the rest of the sessions.

As time went on, it became obvious that even new manager Klein couldn't stop the fighting. Chris was incensed that Klein had hired Phil Spector to work on the tapes and accused Spector of ruining his songs. Eric was furious that his song "Cold Kumquat" had been dropped from the Manchester Road album, and recorded it on his own as a protest, crediting the writing to "Stalter," and not "Stalter/Good," the first such song in thirteen months. Eric's insistence on working with Yoko--and the rest of the band's insistence on not working with her at all--drove a wedge between Eric and the others. Rob was furious that Kumquat Corp was falling apart, and that he still wasn't going to be allowed more than two songs per album.

On October 31st, 2002, Chris Good sued the other ten Mutual Kumquats for a dissolution of the partnership, and talk of another Mutual Kumquat album ended--except, of course, among the group's fans, who hoped for days for a reunion that never came.

The good news is that you can get the complete works of Mutual Kumquat by getting their one and only CD "Feel the Vibe". You can try contacting them at Will you like this CD? Mutual Kumquat is a St. Elmo Fire like ensemble of talented musicians having fun and you should have fun listening to this CD as well. You are bound to find something on this CD you like as it jumps from one musical style to the next. From Hip-hop, Emo, Indie, and Doowop to Instrumentals. The CD starts with "Funk Interlude" which reminds me of another band with ten members Poi Dog Pondering. With ten musicans in the band, you have to expect some layers of sound. "Listen to the Beat", a tasty hip-hop treat or is it something more Puff the Magic Dragonish? - you have to listen and decide for yourself. You can hear a surreal peace studies influence on the neo-psychodelic "#54". "Didn't Really Know" switches gears once more for a Retro-Swing sound of Squirrel Nut Zippers. One of the best songs on the CD is "My Life My Love" a cross between Doowop and Tracy Chapman.

So my recommendation is have some fun and get yourself a copy of "Feel the Vibe" by Mutual Kumquat, because I've got blisters on my Kumquat.

1. Funk Interlude
2. Listen to the Beat
3. #54
4. Summer Rain
5. In My Eyes
6. Never Quite Knowing
7. Didn't Really Know
8. Fingerpaint and Ice Cream
9. My Life My Love
10. Fairy Tale
11. One World
12. Feel the Vibe

Saturday, November 23, 2002

What's Everyone Complaining About?

What's everyone biggest complaint about Annual Conference year after year? If it's not the liberals' agenda or the conservatives' unhappiness with change, it's definitely the walking. Oh so much walking. And with the campus location for the Brethren in Boise, we think we've found a solution.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Search for General Secretary Hits Major League Snag

Kirk Stiffney has confirmed reports that a leading candidate for the head position of the Church of the Brethren General Offices has withdrawn from negotiations. "We were just unable to reach an agreement over the salary," said Stiffney, "and our prime candidate accepted an offer from another organization... the General Board was unwilling to meet his demands."
Investment Opportunity

Contact the Messenger subscription department now to order your special edition copy of the November 2002 issue. Printed on archival quality paper and hermetically sealed in moisture resistant packaging, this commemorative "Issue issue" will only increase in value over the years. This edition historically recognizes the officially unrecognized first ordination of an openly gay minister into the Church of the Brethren clergy. Beware of imitations (there are reports of copies with an asterisk in the listing).

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Fundamentalist Farmers Begin Testing Sheep

In an attempt to stem the homosexualization of their own households, Brethren farmers have been called on to examine the brain structures of their sheep to search for signs of same-sex attraction. "We have encouraged our members to identify and separate their queer sheep," said Jerry St. Kilda, spokesman for the Brethren Congress of Orthodox Sheep Farmers (BCOSF). "It is important to confront this threat quickly before entire flocks are lost." A gay detection kit, complete with a four-color brochure on the hypothalamus, will be included in the next BCOSF Source Packet.

Monday, November 04, 2002

What is "Any Publicity is Good Publicity?"

The Church of the Brethren figured in a "Jeopardy!" question in an October broadcast of the popular TV game show. The contestant who got the question, related to the denomination's early nickname of "Dunkards," answered it correctly.

Then Again...

A reader recieved the following crank mail:

From: "Mary D. Nolen"
Subject: Your religion
Date: Fri, 1 Nov 2002 23:28:38 -0600

If this is the Church of the Brethren that I saw on one of the hour news shows on TV (ie. 20/20, 60 minutes), you were depicted as taking in young adults, especially college students, and brainwashing them, and keeping them from contact with any of their family, etc. I am a Christian washed in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray for you and your church. I got a horrible feeling about your organization when I watched the show and I plan to spread this bad news whenever I can. It may be until the end of the world that the truth about you is revealed. Many will come in Jesus name but Jesus will say at the last judgment, "Away from me, I never knew you." Please do not communicate with me as I think you are wolves in sheep's clothing! If you are guilty of the accusations I saw on TV, God have Mercy on your souls. You would be just another religion, and religion is man trying to reach God. Christianity is God reaching down to man. Many are called but few are chosen. It would help for you to have a study of the five points of John Calvin and read C.H. Spurgeon and Arthur Pinck's writings along with the scriptures.

--- Mary D. Nolen

[Don't take the bait and respond to this email, you're almost guaranteed an increase in canned luncheon meat. - the Editors]
Controversy Follows NYC Site

In spite of the speaker's values, which we hope liberals and conservatives alike can both agree are not fitting with the Church of the Brethren's pacifist history, there have been no calls from any corners to boycott the presentation at Colorado State University's Moby Arena on November 6th.