The musicians of Porky’s Groove Machine’s latest album “Magic Brunch” include senior Casey Frensz on tenor saxophone and lead vocals, senior Matthew Lowe on trombone, junior Marshall Yoes on trumpet, senior Matt Gunby on guitar, sophomore Ilan Blanck on guitar, a mystery man on keys known as Johnny Rocketfingers, senior Nick Allen on bass, senior Peter Ehlinger on drums and senior Eli Edelman on percussion.
Many of these guys play in multiple ensembles and study in disciplines other than music performance. The talented men of Porky’s Groove Machine are both scholars and gentlemen.
Frensz enlightened me as to the enormity of the production process. It took twelve hours to record “Magic Brunch,” an hour-long album, and its many music videos. Larry Darling, Director of Recording at Lawrence University recorded the audio and senior Brooks Eaton oversaw filming. Beyond the day of live recording, many weeks were put into editing.
The album opens with “Theme from Planet Funk.” This number begins with a scintillating triangle solo and grooves into an inspirational anthem for Planet Funk: “viva la funk and shake your trunk,” the listeners are told.
Second on the album is “Golden Boy,” which demonstrates Porky’s lyrical skills—Frensz beautifully croons the compelling story of a boy becoming a man and fighting his parents’ expectations.
The next song, “Puberty,” is impossible to listen to without laughing. Yoes, in an impressive falsetto, calls out to the band: “Waiting for my balls to drop!” In a low, resonant response, the rest of the band proclaims, “There they go!” In a similar vein, “Hey! Fatballs!” tells the somber tale of a man, his testicular troubles and the friendships he loses.
“Sex Machine” and “Come Around” are the most simple and direct, lyrically speaking, but seem very easy to jive to. Between these songs is “Magic Brunch,” a sultry rendition of a sensuous Sunday morning as communicated by the metaphor of a decadent brunch. My favorite line is, “That sticky syrup on your lips / Let’s make brunch, babe, swing those hips.”
“catstaCatstac” rounds out the album. Heavy on brass, this palindromic gem was the first piece that Porky’s ever put together; they came up with it during their first jam in 2011 and now, years later, this song has been fine-tuned into a joyful, fresh song that you cannot help but get stuck in your head.
The album also contains a minute-long bonus track of Porky’s singing the spooky chorale “Have You Seen the Ghost of John” in an a cappella round. In no way does it fit with the rest of “Magic Brunch,” but in the context of all the lengthy grooves, this piece is a playful final touch.
When listening to this album, it was hard for me to sit still—all the songs made me want to bob my head and bop around. Each track felt balanced in duration, instrumentation, and every song had little nuances that added professional polish to this funky album.
Although listening to the album is an enjoyable experience, watching the music videos intensified the funk exponentially. In them we can see “Robeert”—an amiable and immobile robot made of beer cans—saluting and supervising the entire performance. An incredibly majestic tiger rug covers the jazz room floor. The walls are garnished by cardboard bulldog heads, painstakingly dissected from many a case of Red Dog.
Goofiness aside, it takes a skillful band to come up with such an entertaining and seamlessly groovy collection of songs.
Porky’s albums can be found on their Bandcamp and YouTube pages; links to both can be found on their Facebook page.
Porky’s Groove Machine is hosting a CD release party on the Viking Room patio this Friday, May 16 at 4:30 p.m. Guests are invited to bring instruments for an open funk jam following their show—like the Red Dogs that feature so prominently in Porky’s creative endeavors, this performance promises to be uncommonly smooth.