When American Graffiti revived the early '60s, it brought back geeks and jocks while ignoring the era's most stylish trendsetters, the beatniks. It's about time the beats get more recognition than they receive as the inspiration for Maynard G. Krebs on Dobie Gillis reruns.
Ginsberg, 64, one of the smartest and hippest of the original crew, offers inspiration for aspiring retrobeatniks with his new album, reading some of the muscular verse he wrote from 1947 to 1980.
Despite his urban-New York accent, he sounds at once liturgical and cosmic. "My eye caught the edge of the red neighbor apartment building standing in deafening silence," he intones, caressing every word in a way that confirms the argument for listening to, not just reading, poetry.
Current jazz musicians such as bass player Rob Wasserman, Saturday Night Live guitarist G.E. Smith and horn player Lenny Pickett heighten the mood with beeps and thumps that sound as twisted and fascinating as those road trips with Jack Kerouac are always portrayed.
Glover, best known for playing the nerdy dad in Back to the Future, has recorded a profoundly strange album whose loose mix of speech and background music seems historically related to the beats.
He begins with a spoken number about catching rats, proceeds to a rap song about masturbation, a hysterically sobbed version of "These Boots Are Made for Walking," and ends up with "Oak Mot," a stream-of-consciousness story that seems to chronicle the lives of insane people.
All the while, Barnes and Barnes, an L.A. duo that includes Billy Mumy of Lost in Space fame, play cartoony orchestral music and moody riffs. Supposedly there is a meaning to this madness. Each song relates to an overall "secret" problem, and Glover includes a phone number for listeners who want to call and guess the problem.
The whole thing would be impossibly gimmicky if not for Glover's manically entertaining delivery. In any case, he seems to find inspiration in the same far-out place where Ginsberg, Kerouac and the other beats once reigned. He may even convince a new generation that it's still cool to be hip. (Ginsberg: Island; Glover: Restless)