Spencer the Gardener | Run Away With Lulu

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Run Away With Lulu

by Spencer the Gardener

A latin big band spy movie set on a moody tropical beach... the weather's always nice, the girl is always leaving and there's thunder in the distance.
Genre: Pop: California Pop
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Christine
Spencer the gardener
3:39 $0.99
2. & Go Crazy
Spencer the gardener
4:05 $0.99
3. Tragedy of Dreaming
Spencer the gardener
5:05 $0.99
4. Nice Girl
Spencer the gardener
5:03 $0.99
5. LuLu Interlude
Spencer the gardener
0:36 $0.99
6. Why Did I Let You (back in my life)
Spencer the gardener
4:03 $0.99
7. Hay Cariño
Spencer the gardener
4:34 $0.99
8. Yea Y Yea
Spencer the gardener
4:34 $0.99
9. LuLu Interlude
Spencer the gardener
0:31 $0.99
10. Denise
Spencer the gardener
4:27 $0.99
11. Can't Go In (it's getting heavy)
Spencer the gardener
6:17 $0.99
12. There goes Nicole
Spencer the gardener
5:02 $0.99
13. LuLu Outro
Spencer the gardener
0:27 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Spencer the Gardener is a potent ensemble.
Always ready for fun times and incredible live shows.

Music Style Pop/Rock
Musical Influences Violent Femmes, Cake, Latin Playboy's
Similar Artists Cake, Jane's Addiction, B-52's, They Might Be Giants.

Artist History
Lulu, if you don't know, is neither a racy woman nor a messy dog. Lulu - Run Away with Lulu, to be exact - is the latest album of Spencer's longtime, come-and-go Santa Barbara-based band Spencer the Gardener. Filled with genre-bending songs melding salsa, new wave, mariachi, jazz, pop, rock, and surf 'n' sunshine - all stamped with Spencer's trademark helium-esque vocals - Lulu marks the band's fourth album and the first since splitting up back in 1998. Spencer the Gardener is once again mowing through California's do-it-yourself music scene.
That's the scene the band almost took over in the early 1990s, when they were touring from San Diego to Tahoe, with big-time sellouts at Slim's in San Francisco along the way. Two albums - The Boy with Two Big Heads and Happiness Comes to My House - garnered enough praise for record labels to take note. But then they crashed, literally, into an oncoming driver who was doing 80 miles per hour on the wrong side of the road near Riverside. Every bone in Spencer's face was broken, the drummer was nearly killed, and the other band members sustained injuries as well.
'Life is filled with ups and downs and everyone tells you that and you say, "Whatever." Well, I never set out to prove that, but I've done a pretty good job.'
- Spencer Barnitz
But no worries, they were playing shows again by 1994, and even released Kiss Me in the Deep Blue Sea. Times weren't the same, understandably, and by 1998, Spencer the Gardener was no more. "People say, and they're right, that your own enthusiasm can take you far," reminisced Spencer over an American Spirit cigarette last week in his apartment, which overlooks the roof of Jimmy's Oriental Gardens, where I first crossed paths with him in 2000. "But my enthusiasm was gone at a certain point because I stopped being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Not that the music stopped. Spencer the Gardener cohorts Nate Birkey (trumpet), John Schnackenberg (sax), Cougar Estrada (percussion and keys), Brett Larsen (accordion), and Gary Sangenitto (bass) kept playing in their various bands, often together in the Wedding Band, which Spencer formed as a bar band in 1984, predating the Gardener formation by five years.
But it wasn't until last year, when Cougar - of the famous Estrada brothers, who now play with Los Lobos - kept bugging Spencer to get the Gardener going again. "Cougar was the biggest motivating factor," said Spencer, reminding, "It's his band too." They had numerous cups of coffee in Camarillo, where Cougar lives, and started laying down tunes in Cougar's garage. When it started sounding good, the old band mates were called, and Lulu - written/produced by Spencer and co-produced by Cougar - was born.
The album is like diving into Spencer's mind: It represents a truly authentic California music. He's surfed his whole life, he sang in Spanish as a kid, and he's lived through what he calls the "Golden State of mind." The name Lulu is a word from the hipster 1940s, meaning something that's real good or cool. Run Away with Lulu, then - which incidentally is a song written in 1996 by Spencer and Birkey that's not on this album - isn't about escaping. Instead, Spencer explained, "It's like having everything work out in the best way possible." And things working out is exactly what Spencer hopes to have this album do, crossing his fingers that it doesn't become a colorful coaster and rather sells more than 10,000 copies. Toss in some touring and it's clear California hasn't seen the last of these dudes.
Having been in the biz for more than 20 years, Spencer's seen most of what the musical life can bring. "Life is filled with ups and downs and everyone tells you that and you say, 'Whatever,'" he said. "Well, I never set out to prove that, but I've done a pretty good job."
And now? Will this be an up or a down?
"We did this one for the same reasons we did the first one," Spencer said, referring to his enthusiasm and creative urges. "And I like the CD. Anything that happens now is good."

Group Members
Spencer Barnitz - vocals & guitar
Nate Birkey - trumpet
John Schnackenberg - saxophone
Brett Larsen - accordion
Gary Sangenitto - bass guitar
Cougar Estrada - drums, percussion, keyboards, piano, whistles & sings

Additional Info
We would like to thank our friends, family and musical peers, who have and continue to inspire us to move forward and create!

Join our mailing list at www.spencerthegardener.com
Santa Barbara, Ca - USA



to write a review

Jeffrey the Beerslayer

Looking forward to more...
Spencer's back! After too long a hiatus, Spencer and his bandmates are back with yet the latest installment of their quirky blend of jazz, 60s pop, surf music, and mariachi. This album is a must in any collection where any of the above categories are found. That said, this album has taken a bit longer to grow on me than their previous ones. As another reviewer noted, this one has a somewhat darker feeling to it - still upbeat, just not quite AS upbeat as their earlier albums, and a bit more introspective. I could attribute all that to the long layoff and the change in band personnel. But all in all, it's a worthy album and I am thrilled they're back! I'm waiting impatiently for their next effort... (Also hoping they'll play a few gigs in Northern California soon... :)

CD Baby

This is the kind of perfection that I lovingly refer to as "swing your pigtails music." If you don't have hair long enough to sport your own, just imagine that kind of spazzy, head-twirling, whole-body flailing and then imagine the music that perfectly captures every delicious little eccentricity and every morsel of irreverent joy...and you've got something like Spencer the Gardener. This delightful, quirky pop gem seems to simultaneously encompass a quality of They Might Be Giants, Squeeze and some hybrid of carnival craze. Any way you size it up, it's extremely fun and beautifully nerdy.

Dru KevinChino.com Indie Music Reviews

Spencer the Gardener's latest CD is filled
Spencer the Gardener's latest CD is filled with a surprising array of sounds besides the party-pop/Latin-inspired grooves for which they are loved. Long-time group members such as the incomparable trumpeter Nate Birkey join relative newcomers like Brett Larsen on accordion to, Yes, play a few surfy and carefree tunes (that make you want to stick your hand out a moving car and do the wave) and the obligatory song in Spanish-- I think it's a conjunto. But a sweeping piano interlude? Who figured Spencer knew such melancholy?

And is this a concept album? The title Lulu is not just a woman's name but connotes seduction and trouble; all but a couple of the songs clearly focus on a woman, or the idea or one, or an aspect of woman. In the opener Barnitz admits in "Christine" that "he leads ten different lives," which is an excellent preview of what's to come. Consider the personal connection the singer and listener feels to the happy Christine, the un-named mantrap of "& Go Crazy"—whom I think best represents Lulu—the abandoning lover in "Tragedy of Dreaming," and so forth.

The musicianship throughout is spot on—the horns on virtually every track are completely reliably terrific. Vocals are warm and alive, unadorned. "& Go Crazy" makes me wish I could cha cha along to playful horns à la Cake, yet the song is moody and wistful. We are enchanted, just as our hapless subject is, by the siren in this song. Lyrics steer further into melancholy for a slow-dancer, the down-tempo and practically folky "Tragedy of Dreaming," where it's mused with regret, "I always thought you'd marry me…," amidst classic trumpet and jazzy, delicate bass.

"Nice Girl" is as unexpected as it is memorable. Harpsichord? Scratching? Accordion nestles in perfectly, but segues into the nutty bridge. A smattering of noise-makers and other unidentifiables tinkle amid expert percussion and Sarah Frascella's backing vocals spinning like a slightly warped 78. This is not a bad thing. I think it's a likely single—contemporary, cool and exceptionally catchy.

Barnitz changes things up with breathy, baritone almost spoken vocals for "Why Did I Let You (back in my life)," something we've all related to. This gets a bit more 60's and loungy, a territory old Spencer records show he knows intimately. Lovely choruses and a bridge that lilts, "the only thing that I want is to fall straight into you," is literally bittersweet: it makes you sigh, and sort of smile at the same time. The vocal layers do well here, Barnitz showcasing some of his originality. His voice isn't the technically perfect kind but he's a natural storyteller.

In "Yea Y Yea," the mellow jazzy guitar intro gives way to more 60's-ish pop. I love the bridge, which to me perfectly sums up the feel of this record:

"In the scheme of life, I live mine
Nothing really seems secure
I throw my hands in the air
For pure joy and despair"

This leads into the saxophonist's turn to shine and get a great solo out. There's possibly a well-placed vibe in the background, else a nice keyboard—overall really well orchestrated. It's fitting when Barnitz sings, "I feel like I'm living in a movie… don't know how it ends or what happens to me," because this song would be at home in some vintage Peter Sellers flick, but is not overdone. It feels genuine: more novel than novelty.

The highlight of "Denise" is how several lovely guitar lines intertwine: the accents of a warm tremolo and other ethereal doodles with the main acoustic in the verses that has an almost Love & Rockets feel. A lower guitar, perhaps a baritone, rounds out the choruses, in which you hardly notice the meaning of the words, "the day before we met, a day which I regret," because you are just grooving. "Can't Go In," another unexpected piece, is part free jazz, part spaghetti western, with haunting sax, muted trumpet, military snare, and the rappy whispers of something like MC 900 ft Jesus.. This song builds into a maelstrom of noise, too, intriguing and spy-fabulous.

At first I found "There Goes Nicole" an even match to its bookend at the beginning of the record, more of the Spencer I'd become familiar with over the years. Nice. Fun. Generally happy. The song seemed like a so-so closer, save the wonderful café style accordion, except as proven several times over on this album, Man can Spencer ever write a memorable bridge or two. Beautiful and fleeting, one ends with:

"And so remember me, with no promises,
'Cause promises were only meant
To break your heart in two"

And segues to a break/monolog that would be at home in a 50's ballad:

"I remember one night in particular…
The night sky swirling all around
And the stars were glistening in her eyes… he wouldn't trade it for the world."

Maybe I’m just feeling exceptionally bittersweet myself these days, but this-- and the record as a whole—is so damn moving, especially on further listens. It's our great fortune that drummer/percussionist Cougar Estrada encouraged Barnitz—who has plenty of other musical projects, as well—to put together Spencer the Gardener again for another album. Let's enjoy it as long as we can.

Glen Starkey

Classic eclectic Cali-pop songs by the ultimate party band!
The disc begins with some patented Spencer Cali-pop about a girl named “Christine.” “California drifting and driving with the windows down,” begins the tune about an itinerant free spirit. The CD’s second track, “& Go Crazy,” is a great Latin-sounding salsa number driven by long-time band member Nate Birkey’s smokin’ horn. “Tragedy Of Dreaming” delivers the album’s first ballad, a somber lament about love lost.
Compared to preview Spencer efforts, this album is much more introspective and dark.
By the fourth song — “Nice Girl” — the CD has turned artsy and psychedelic, tripping off into a sound effects-laden soundscape punctuated by Birkey’s sharp horn. The song begins with what sounds like harpsichord and congas before Birkey’s horn paints a faintly Latin riff as a lead-in to Spencer’s cooing vocals, “What’s a nice girl like you, doing in a place like this?” It’s vaguely sinister despite the catchy chorus.
The title of another ballad pretty much sums up its dark mood: “Why Did I Let You (back in my life).” But the very next track, “Hay Cariño,” is a Mexican-style polka replete with accordion and Spanish lyrics — destined to be a classic Spencer party song.

Bill Locey_Ventura County Star

Spencer the Gardener plow ahead
Still outstanding in its field, hot veteran dance band Spencer the Gardener is back with a new CD.

Tanya Young-Womack

SPENCER THE GARDENER, Santa Barbara's favorite unsigned band...
Santa Barbara's favorite local [unsigned] band is SPENCER THE
GARDENER, a unique and totally cool group led by Spencer Barnitz [Yes,
there is actually a person named Spencer in the band and, yes, he
once was a gardener!]. Their music is very difficult to describe, but
Spencer himself probably best defined the band's sound as "A Latin,
big band, spy movie, set-on-a-moody-tropical-beach-type band." I would
personally describe their music as a collage of jazz, r & b, '60s
surfer pop, Latin, big band, roots-rock, calypso, J. Geils Band
crossed with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Joe Jackson, the
Beatles and the Beach Boys, and a little Mexican wedding band thrown
in to boot. You'd have to hear it to appreciate it (obviously)!


Search this out and pick it up.
No doubt this has the highest ratio of inescapable hooks and unforgettable choruses than anything currently on the radio. I have listened to this CD over 50 times and it never gets old. This CD is a must. GET IT NOW!!

Jerry Tintor

Catchy tunes, pero cuidate, there's a change a-comin'...ponte trucha!
Hugely intertaining, always surprising, ultimately addicting. Simple tunes with catchy melodies, pero cuidate, there's an unexpected change around the bend....ponte trucha!

by Matt Kettmann

Spencer the Gardener Rises to Release Run Away with Lulu
Lulu, if you don't know, is neither a racy woman nor a messy dog. Lulu - Run Away with Lulu, to be exact - is the latest album of Spencer's longtime, come-and-go Santa Barbara-based band Spencer the Gardener. Filled with genre-bending songs melding salsa, new wave, mariachi, jazz, pop, rock, and surf 'n' sunshine - all stamped with Spencer's trademark helium-esque vocals.