Da Vinci's Notebook
by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
Some people, it seems, just can't take life seriously. They're the kid who gets the giggles in the middle of the pastor's sermon, the friend who laughs out loud at Aunt Emma's funeral. While most of us are discussing the scrounge of internet porn or wondering why people in California take pleasure in enemas, our pathos impaired friends are thinking how funny it is that people sneak away in the middle of the night to look up smut on their computer and how amusing it is that intestinal hygiene can become trendy. Unfortunately, if this tendency isn't checked early on, these funny guys will start to think of their problem as a talent and perhaps exploit it in order to make a living.
Which brings us to Da Vinci's Notebook, a band that houses not one but four funny guys. Worse still, all are intent on making fun of a number of sacred middle-class cows, lambasting Irish drinking songs, and offering accolades to Heather Graham. One begins to suspect that in the post-millennium world, nothing is sacred.
While I wouldn't want to encourage Richard Hsu, Paul Sabourin, Greg "Storm" DiCostanzo, and Bernie Muller-Thym in their pursuit, I have to admit that some of these songs are pretty darn funny. I Wish I Were reminds me a bit of Simon & Garfunkel - at their worst that is - with a chorus lifted straight out of The Boxer ("Lai da dai, lai da dai"). In one verse, the singer imagines becoming a deer to attract a love interest, but changes his mind when he realizes that she might accidentally shoot him and hang his antlers in the upstairs hall. You can try to resist the charms of Heather Graham, but will soon find yourself singing along to, "When I see her, I feel mushy/Robert Downey touched her tushie/I want to root around her pantry/I bet she tastes like cotton candy." Sure, "pantry" and "candy" don't rhyme, but who cares?
What makes all this funny nonsense work so well is Da Vinci's Notebook's deft vocal delivery. These guys are fabulous singers, evoking the Mills Brothers and Manhattan Transfer with stellar harmony and clever arrangements. While guitars, piano, and drums back the boys on a number of songs, it's the complex harmony and multiple vocal parts that energize Brontosaurus from its silly opening to preposterous ending.
The centerpiece of Brontosaurus just might be Another Irish Drinking Song. Inside the CD booklet there's a cute drawing of Death himself, complete with scythe, apparently waiting to take the next causality of casual indulgence. The song begins by remembering departed friends and family members (from consumption, the pox, and the Troubles), and the only way the mourners can think to pay tribute to their dearly beloved is by toasting them. The chorus implores: "Now everybody's died/So until our tears are dried/We'll drink and drink and drink and drink/And then we'll drink some more." This may be the Irish drinking song to end all Irish drinking songs.
As entertaining as Brontosaurus is, you may find yourself longing for a bit of maturity or a comment or two of social-political import. A song like Big Penis is amusing, but you have the feeling that it would have been more amusing when you were nine or ten. But good taste-and maturity-is sometimes an impediment to good humor. And artists-God help them-must follow their own inclinations. Which means that Da Vinci's Notebook-four guys who never quite grew up-have no inclination toward commenting on the world's problems. Instead, they specialize in generating witty albums like Brontosaurus that give the rest of us a break from the seriousness of everyday reality.