Longmont Potion Castle – 19

7.5.22 by Matty McPherson

Perhaps the only time I ever truly made a mogul move was when I was 15. January 2014. Taking a call from my brother while I sat in a hot tub. I belted into the phone “get me the longbox.” I don’t think Amoeba LA ever carried another Longbox Option Package again. The $70 it sold for is now a bargain. For teenage me, Longmont Potion Castle was the umpteenth piece of comedy ephemera in a long line–right after Space Ghost Coast to Coast and just before David Thorne’s late-00s blog emails; before Mr. Show but way after Homestar Runner. It felt like a secret handshake needed to navigate the world, an armor of its own accord.

Back in spring 2011, his cult-celebrity finally landed him a prime-time spot at 4:05 AM on [adult swim]’s Off the Air. I quickly found LPC 4 at a record shop in Portland, OR on vacation during Thanksgiving 2011. I never gave a second look at the complimentary Sub Pop CD comp, I was reveling in the excitement of Tandy. Since then, I’ve had an open policy of leading the charge on acquiring any and all Longmont possible. This is somewhat of an annual activity, made possible by the seasonal LPC online mega storefronts. Longmont Potion Castle 19 is LPC’s 21st studio album in 34 years, if you can appreciate that.

The 2019 “Where in the Hell is the Lavender House” documentary implied that Mr. LPC has no intention to stop making phone calls, as it is still an activity he enjoys. He even started doing live calls for audiences at screenings and collected the most workable calls into a single compilation. His methods since late-career highlight Longmont Potion Castle 8 (where calls were done on Skype and with a new voice, the result of a nose injury or something) really haven’t changed much. Longmont Potion Castle calls local businesses, the celebs, and assholes on the edge. He usually corroborate two hours of worthy material. If you know this, then you either really like it, or you are T*m Th*rnt*n and think he stopped being good after LPC 5 (this is wrong).

When Bono asserted the idea that their very good song “the Fly” was about “that of a phone call from someone in Hell who enjoys being there and telling the person on the other end of the line what he has learned,” he inadvertently provided the clearest image of Longmont Potion Castle’s discography. LPC has crafted a timeline of weird and eerie dispatches over phone lines, letting us eavesdrop on the unsuspecting, unraveling, and/or unhinged . We almost never know how many times, or for how many months LPC has been calling these people, just that on the calls put to tape, we know they want to murder him with guns and knives and fists. And the entire time, LPC maintains insane composure. This is not trolling. Something more akin to a sincere surveying of the American id, pinpointing what riles people up to the point they declare they will “put a bullet in [his] ass” and murder him. His requests are often incoherently genuine or genuinely illogical; things that purposely push people out of their comfort zone and into the hissy ether of our phone lines. It’s a decidedly unhuman world out there.

I have to stress to people that LPC is not prank calls; the objective(s) of DU Records’ highest-profile artist do not align with crass over-the-top antics. The John Cena spam call and Dunkey’s pranks, themselves some of the more noticed/notable prank calls of the 2010s, are crass and lack establishing a dialogue with the individual on the other end. They torment and berate, negating any possibility of ascending to phone art. LPC’s phone art has always been based in two distinct MOs: rhetorical standardization and contextual bafflement.

When I say “LPC has set rhetorical standards”, what I mean is that his capacity for carrying on a conversation is rhythmic. It in its vigor there’s rhyme and flow, amongst sudden left turns; it never ceasing to enact new colloquial quips or turn of phrases. And somehow, people on the line keep trying to decipher or find themselves roped in. So few are the humorists that actually make their sleights of phrase worthy of leaning in (Tim Robinson is currently one of the few who’ve most achieved rhetorical standardization via ITYSL). For the latter, the contextual bafflement, that’s been LPC’s whole bread and butter–since the beginning when the answering machine would beep every ten seconds. The phone is a miracle, one that synchronously connects two spatially diverse voices. People HATE when that is called into question. LPC has often destroyed that synchronicity–accomplished either with batshit noise and feedback, three-waying the phone lines to truly create temporal uncertainty, or by curating the calls that end up on these compilations to be the freewheeling and unbound. Early LPC releases were just dozens of calls under a minute. It was supposed to consume and overwhelm. Listening to a tape (not CD) of his work and the lack of immediate returns to that sensation. The seamlessness makes it hard to pinpoint his melodies. One line closes and another immediately opens.

What has become increasingly apparent over LPC’s 30+ years dedicated to calling people just to see what’s up, is a real sense of what the refinement of the decline sounds like. In an era where public trust in institutions has eroded, we’ve failed to truly combat covid and fascism, and we have no prospect of a real communal future (just dipshit survival of the fittest), LPC 19 is basically a tenuous survey of how close we are on the brink. No, LPC calls have never been outright political–even the 2004 highlight Election Blues is more a dead-eyed stare into the world of opinion polling and petty territorialism, than real politics. Yet, even with the usual roster of peeving or phone mayhem, something about this compilation’s squabbles is more unhinged than usual.

Could it be pinpointed to various moments of the LPC 19 Medley 1/2? Dedicated pleas to help with a garage lever (“I got your number from a friend at the DMV”) hit the fritz faster than a bat outta hell. Later, earnest pleas coaxing neighbors to provide a swab, just to confirm they didn’t steal anything from LPC, unleashes some of the pettiest “go fuck yourself” behavior documented on a phone line. “Machete Lottery,” a stately attempt to make a general store garner $200, unleashes new levels of customer service hell, as if being a valued customer over generations doesn’t mean a thing. Somehow lottery people are enraged by the end of this! One LPC’s finest joke threats is recited by the woman over the phone from a call LPC opts not to record; brilliant depth to the story and humor from what’s been left behind. Meanwhile, no one wants to pay ASCAP the hundreds of dollars owed for Taco Comavilla. People just aren’t willing to let their data be destroyed and restored, and let interstate commerce crimes be bygones in the process. Even the cryptozoologist isn’t interested in building a coalition, only furthering his knowledge. Truly, all signs of a society that wants the other fella on the line to fuck off and die.

There’s still these fascinating moments of brevity. Take the new sound effects, like the reverberated siren that randomly shows a la Eric Andrew style, to the baffling twinkles that pop in moments where people are truly being unhuman; they function as breadcrumbs to signify that LPC sorta knows the insanity he’s in as we sit back and eavesdrop. Meanwhile, while dialing up as Dale Pigtail and trying to force a fella to pay a ticket, LPC just lets the fella state he’d been the target of homophobic slander and sincerely express grievance; he hangs up and never hear from him again. For the first time I can recall since Super Nintendo (perhaps LPC’s pinnacle of empathy), LPC sorta just vibes around with a kid with no real harm or irritation. Even a call to a bookstore reveals that people who staff these stores are more amused by the bizarreness and humor of the three-way rhyming quips than actually wanting to kill this man. Truly, a sign that civilization is still alive, at least as long as someone is listening and playing.

While the Alex Trebex calls remain likely finished and all released in the forms they should be, the return to the record store for a semi-sequel to Nash, Buckwild. Here it further teases that those calls that have garnered him a longevity for a new generation. Record store clerks now live to tell tales of LPC. Hell, I met one of the guys on the LPC’s Amoeba Records call from vol. 7. Buckwild’s splicing twists and turns, going well beyond Zia Records’ meta-moment and spreading out. It’s the call that has instilled long-lasting effects on my brain, with LPC’s incessant need for the breakthrough single from a Babylonian group on a “hot imprint” creating massive layups for slam dunk lines. And also, he can’t not sing the song into the phone over and over. All instigates classic LPC pleasure. And of course, there’s the samplepedia ditty, the thrash song, and a whole roster of things I can really only say “you should just hear this.”

I own two copies of it, one on 2xCD and one on 120 minute type II cassette. Both are $25 flat for US buyers, and likely going to be available in physical format when he decides he has the time to offer it/finds more type II tapes. I don’t recommend you play this in anything but a tape deck if you do happen to acquire it. All I can say is at the end of several deep listens in various formats and with various friends, Im deeply thankful this guy just wants to swab some people and keeps doing this shit. It’s important American surveyor work.