One of today’s [url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/4432415.stm]entertainment news stories[/url] was swirling its own implications around in my mind as Misty’s Big Adventure start up their live set at the Joiners Arms in Southampton tonight, singing a song about how Columbus taught us the importance of confidence in his statement that the world was round. With a C and an O and an N and an F and an I and a D and an Ence. The news story was about Cookie Monster from Sesame Street, who has now been forced off of his sugary comestible favourite in an attempt to steer young, impressionable viewers away from obesity. Cookies are now a “sometimes food” and the muppet is due to befriend an diet-wise owl guru and a veritable harvest of talking vegetables.
Personally I have no major qualms against this. Millions of kids watch Sesame Street around the world and subconsciously end up relating to the blue, fuzzy, goggle-eyed biscuit-gobbler so the notion that he’s teaching about moderation is surely teaching something useful about health issues. It’s just that this story, along with the band, seem to stress how music is the most potent device in blurring the line between escapism and the things we’re trying to escape from. Sesame Street is an educational programme, yes, but it is fundamentally quite silly – I’ve seen the aforementioned Monster eat his way through an entire wall, or rather a polystyrene approximation of one, which is childishly surrealist in itself before realising that the entire transmission is centred around Jim Henson creations you could barely put a species label to. So too are Misty’s Big Adventure – yes, Grandmaster Gareth (the supposed ringleader to this eighteen-legged pop ensemble) lyrically tackles love, war and politics in the songs, but there’s a guy in a red robe covered in blue gloves dancing about all the way through it…
Both say something about the stronghold music has over the senses and the emotions. There’s something so fundamentally joyous about this sort of music that it’s not unnatural when, after days of hearing bands strain and howl and yelp about the complex nature of relationships and office jobs and their own paranoia and inadequacy, part of me yearns for the sheer abandon prevalent in a youth-orientated classic like ‘C Is For Cookie’. But in hearing the healthy eating story I searched for other recent Sesame-related news articles and it turns out there’s a multitude of political issues connected with this apparently benign children’s educational show. In one episode, United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan settles an argument between Elmo and other characters about who should sing ‘The Alphabet Song’, and George Dubya apparently utilised Elmo’s carefree message for his own means in order to maintain support during the war on Iraq. There’s currently a feud over whether a HIV-positive character already featured in the South African version of the show should be seen in America, and there was even use of Bert’s image on Bangladeshi posters next to Osama Bin Laden, after the creation of a site called ‘Bert Is Evil’.
This broken floodgate between reality and a slightly twee form of art seemed all the more evident watching Misty’s. I can see why people take such silliness so seriously. Like where the popular hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ is manipulated to make Bush look like a malicious child pulling the wings off birds at the bottom of the garden. Or where the singer confesses to having “killed some music” because he distributed it copyright-clearance free on cassette. Yet this group are more about escapism then any one of yr rock’n’fuggenroll bands, at least not in the mind of someone who recently felt quite moved on hearing the theme tune to ‘Poddington Peas’. I’m not really one for drugs, see, but give me a song about dogs by a guy playing an egg whisk and I feel addicted. It’s probably the nursery-rhyme nature of the songs, the simplicity of the lyrical structures and the melodic tendencies that entrance us from birth, and helped in no little part by the day-glo imagery that goes with it. Maybe this is what they mean by pleasing my ‘inner child’.
Yet the thing is I can’t really tell what Misty’s want to say. With Sesame Street it seems clear-cut, they want to educate as well as have fun, whereas with the band it’s not so simple – barely a smile is shared between any of the eight members here tonight, including the multi-gloved Magic Roundabout-esque take on a Bez figure, which is refreshingly un-wacky but ultimately a bit confusing. Are they knowingly eccentric but serious about it? Or maybe it’s me being too serious about it? Maybe MBA are the sort of group that just want to stand out, or are archly ironic and post-modern, or get a kick out of pointing and sniggering at the aimlessly insecure and smitten like yours truly who try and class this sort of nonsense as ‘high art’. But I shouldn’t care, because of all the things that this band make me feel, the most notable emotion is that of happiness. What else could you ask for in your escapism?