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how's your hand?
Casper Fandango and His Tiny Sick Tears
How's Your Hand?
Lookit Mee

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Casper Fandango, Mike NeSmith's brainchild/alter ego, is his Atlanta answer to indie rock avant-garde. Completely DIY, he has also served his time as a musical apprentice; NeSmith played with at least four other bands since the breakup of his last group (and in keeping with the transitional mood, Fandango's Tiny Sick Tears are only present on this record; Casper's now teamed with the Cookies). This gap must've given him some time to develop a stronger sense of style. If not, it certainly gave him time to practice. In either case, How's Your Hand? pointedly demonstrates a strong musical talent.

How's Your Hand? sports two cover tunes: General Public's "Tenderness", and "Sport (the Odd Boy)" by the Bonzo Dog Band. "Tenderness" is just as catchy as the original was, but NeSmith adds his own inventive twist by playing bongos for percussion, getting rid of the synth line and using acoustic guitar. NeSmith's voice is rounded, even somewhat high and melodic. He even has a solid falsetto, except at the very highest registers, which you'll hear in "The Other Veronica". The best bit about Casper Fandango, though -- if How's Your Hand? is anything to judge by -- is his sense of humour. It's somewhat twisted and intentionally geeky, rather like the humour you'll find in XTC, They Might Be Giants and Jonathan Richman records. "Walking is a Good Idea"'s spoken intro reminds me a little of Lou Reed's "Small Town", and also of a song called "Sex with My TV" by a now-defunct Massachusetts band called Humbert, if that gives you a sense of Mr. Fandango's style. "The Other Veronica" is a flashback to the narrator's relationshipo with his grade-school love. After his date at her house, Veronica's mum drives him home in her "Lam-bor-gay-nay"; it's funnier than the Davemobile ride in Drive Me Crazy. "Walking is a Good Idea" is a Gulliver-in-Lilliput fantasy about waking up huge and being able to hold up the sky; "Little Lamb is Terminator" sounds like some of XTC's middling tracks, although it lacks that group's native melancholy.

If I was choosing records based upon appearance, I might miss How's Your Hand simply because of its modest cover art. Hopefully others won't make the same decision, and Casper Fandango will garner the attention his sweet, quirky acoustic pop music deserves. It's a style that doesn't have too many proponents right now, and with luck that'll be NeSmith's advantage.

-- Jenn Sikes
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