About the multi-purpose solution

To say that Jim Teacher and Brother Stephen became good friends while studying abroad in Oxfordshire, England, is quite an understatement. Actually, they saved each others lives several times. This was in the fall of 1998.

In the town were three pubs and a chapel. The boys drank a lot.

Sometimes, Stephen would sit in his room and play guitar. Sometimes, JT sat and listened. It wasn't until they returned home - four months later - that Stephen discovered JT had been writing lyrics to all those little riffs.

JT introduced Stephen to Fuzzy and Dave. The four met in a Clifton basement. A few hours later, there was a song called "Jackals." This was in the spring of 1999.

The first album - the mps - was all fire and very, very late drunken nights. There was very little thought behind the recording; the songs that went into it were the songs the band knew how to play at the time. Again, they were in a basement, this time in New Brunswick. Though, up until this point, there was no bass player, the band decided to add bass to the recording. This was in 2001.

At the live shows, audience members started telling the band that they needed bass.

The second album - In Bed - was partially a reaction against the idea of needing bass. Fuzzy and Stephen decided that they would compensate for the lack of bass. As a result, the songs are long and dense, with very little space for breathing room, very little light and shade. Everything about the album is very deliberate; the songs were written with the whole album in mind. It is, in fact, a sort of concept album, and it was done for Stereophile Records and recorded in a basement (again) in Teaneck. This was in early 2003.

Brother Stephen moved out of his bedbug-ridden apartment in downtown Newark, and into a lovely rowhouse duplex in downtown Jersey City. That was on a Saturday. On the following Monday, Stephen rushed home from work to pick up his guitar and head back out to band practice. When he arrived home, however, he found that the place had been broken into. Among lesser things, his guitar was stolen. He called the guys from the band, and they arrived to console him. It was a bad night to tell Stephen that the band decided to call it quits. That was in late 2003.

American Degenerate was on the outs, too. Their bassist, Alan, was a fan of the MPS, and had often wanted to play with the band. Alan approached them with a new idea: Why not record the songs you guys wrote just before the break-up?

After some months of wandering and cooling off, the guys who were no longer a band - JT, Fuzzy, Stephen, and Dave - decided they'd play a few songs for Alan. Why not? Beyond that, they suggested that Alan go along and play bass with them. Why not? Afterall, they were no longer a band; they had lightened up. About everything. This was in the summer of 2004.

Having live bass changed things in ways none of them could have imagined. Soon, the band was back together.

The third album - How Can A Man Be Tougher Than The World? - the title of which comes from an old rock steady song by Alton Ellis, will be released by the end of summer, 2005. It was recorded in Brian Beninghove's studio on Brunswick Street in Jersey City, just before Brian and the family above were forced to relocate. The songs have a new delicacy and depth that the older songs never knew. The guys have learned to make room for one another.

When your own heart asks, go willingly. Say yes. This is today.

The singer: He presents his narratives in a voice somewhere between a punk-rock Louis Armstrong and Tom Waits committing hari-kari. I don't know whether or not he gargles with ground glass, but Teacher's guttural ranting sounds positively painful. If his performances make you think the Multi-Purpose Solution routed an articulate street crazy out of Washington Square Park, stuck him in front of the microphone, and let him do his thing, well, they've probably made their point.

The band: The guitars scrawl and stutter while the rhythm section sticks to the basics. The bass guitar plays eighth notes on the roots, the drummer keeps four-on-the-floor, and the lead guitar shoots oscillating sixteenth-note patters through the fog like signal flashes. Cymbals: big, splashy, and frequent.

The songs: Unusual; songs without a clear center but never without musical focus. Many of these compositions feint toward verse-chorus structure, but substitute tag lines for releases. Multi-Purpose Solution songs build toward foci rather than resolutions -- toward moments of heightened intensity. --Tris McCall