Kerguelen of a Cartoonist

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The Kerguelen Islands are a forbidding, rocky archipelago lying in the southern Indian Ocean, somewhere between the horn of Africa and Antarctica. A territory of France, they were discovered by (and named after) the French explorer and navigator Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen-Trémarec in 1772. Kerguelen had been commissioned by Louis XV to find a southern continent (like Australia) and claim it for France. It was believed that such a continent must exist to balance out the land-masses of the northern hemisphere. Kerguelen returned to France from his sea voyages and told the King a bunch of crazy and elaborate lies about discovering a paradise of untold beauty and riches. When an expensively mounted second expedition to the islands failed to turn up any beauty or riches (a native Kerguelen cabbage turning out to be the island’s most exploitable resource), Kerguelen was imprisoned for his fabulations. But he was released as a “victim of monarchy” after the French Revolution and appointed port manager at Brest.

Apparently this tale somehow inspired Matthew and Nick to make a movie they called “The Kerguelen of a Cartoonist,” though the film itself had nothing to do with either Kerguelen the man or the islands that I could tell. I cannot recall whether the protagonist (played by Nick) was a cartoonist or what cartooning had to do with anything. I do remember there were all sorts of surreal flourishes (including a giant pointing-finger-of-death prop) and deep philosophical conversations in the movie, and I’m also pretty sure I remember getting shot and dying in my one scene, filmed at Nick’s kitchen table.

When it came time to do the music for the film, Nick brought over lyrics that I think he and Bob DuCharme had written. (Or maybe just Bob wrote them?) I immediately paired the lyrics with a melodic figure that had been floating around my guitar that week (which Kris said sounded like the old Yellowbirds TV commercial jingle, if anyone is left alive who knows what that is). I hastily (and sloppily) recorded the finished song live to a boombox (so hastily and sloppily that the opening notes were left off the tape, and as the song unfolds, the guitar part isn’t played correctly through even once), converted the cassette to MP3, and sent the MP3 to Bob and Matthew, thinking I might make a “realer” version later, but of course, that sloppy boombox version is what ended up in the movie.

For a minute afterwards I regretted giving up that bit of music for adoption rather than keeping it to use later for one of my own songs, but I got over that. Musical bits work where they work; you can always make more. Besides which, these lyrics are great, truly odd and very moving, and applicable to nearly any occasion. I sing them now as if they were my very own. Bob loosely adapted the melody and guitar line to create his wonderfully appropriate 60s-esque avant-garde soundtrack, which I have stolen from his website and posted here, further below.

Kerguelen of a Cartoonist — Closing Theme Song

Why did you say
It had all these
Natural resources
Why did you have to go back?

He was in prison
That’s when they had
The French Revolution
So they made him a minister

Why did you have
To take all the pictures
Why did you have
To show everybody the cartoons?

Why did you have to do it?
We could have been friends
This is no
This is no cartoon

This is real life
Not Benday dots
Before he heard
The shots, he knew

Why did you say
It had all these
Natural resources
Why did you have to go back?

Why do I have to do it?
We could have been friends
Why do I have to do it?
We could have been friends

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Opening Theme

The Party

Kurt Threatens Oomulus

Kurt Wanders the Streets

Opening Theme (Bonus Version by The Master Cylinder)

Odessa Tarzan

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Sometimes I do the music for the soundtracks of friends’ movies, most often for the indescribable productions of Matthew Licht & Nick Danger. This was the “theme song” of their most recent cinematic venture.

Vocals

Instrumental