The Working Poor exhumes the recent past with Eat the Middle Class | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Working Poor exhumes the recent past with Eat the Middle Class

The Working Poor
Eat the Middle Class
New Anarchy


Back in 2004, the then-members of local underground band The Working Poor trekked to Erie to record with John Johnston, of Telefonics, at his home studio. Some of those recordings were later released on local labels New Anarchy and Rickety Records as Come Down for Your Silver. But at least six of the songs they recorded -- on Nov. 7, 2004, "between 5 and 6 p.m." -- hadn't seen the light of day.

They've recently become available as Eat the Middle Class, a CD EP packaged with elegant simplicity by Third Termite Press, in a printed cardboard sleeve featuring fantastical beasts drawn by the band members' children.

The songs, recorded live in the studio, come across as necessarily raw: Alan Lewandowski's acoustic guitar clanks and rasps, Lee Smookler's organ wheezes, Greg Pierce's electric guitar stabs and jabs. Brian Richmond's bass mutters darkly behind the rattletrap drumming of Thad Kellstadt.

The rough-and-ready approach pushes Lewandowski's plaintive, searching voice toward the front, along with kaleidoscopic lyrics that pull you into little worlds, each with its own tensions and conflict. For example, "I, Draupadi" seems to take as its inspiration the five-husbanded woman Draupadi (from the Hindu epic Mahabharata); in the song, the narrator of ambiguous gender starts out with five lovers, a number that dwindles inevitably down to one, and finally none.

The frantic "Luck Attack" turns a Greyhound trip into a wide-angled glimpse of the world: "Let Satan blab on / Let my buddies get bombed to their hearts' content / Mute city look what you made us invent / I'm tired of the same stock paranoia / That's the last thing I want to leave behind for my boy."

Somewhere between the earthy lurch of the music, Lewandowski's so-real-it-hurts vocals and the illuminating lyrics, there's a compelling spark that lights up this snapshot of the recent past and of a longstanding and unique local band.

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