Certain Songs #1170: The Miss Alans – “Mata Hari’s Butt”

Single, 1993

While dormant in terms of releasing any new music to the world, The Miss Alans had spent 1992 slowly re-tooling their sound yet again, and “Mata Hari’s Butt” was the first flowering of that retooling. Not only was it their first release by The Miss Alans since All Hail Discordia, and really — since “Crushed Impalas” was originally a Hollywood Demo, their first true studio creation since Smack The Horse.

And as such, was an absolute transition record on multiple levels.

First off, it was the only Miss Alans song that was worked on by both Ian O’Higgins and Blusher producer Tracy Chisolm.

It had originally been recorded by Ian O’Higgins at the same session as the lost legendary “Peter Fonda and The Man” — and if anybody reading this has a tape of that song, please get it to Scott, as everybody involved raves about the song’s greatness, but it still hasn’t popped up.

In 1993, around the time they were signing with Zoo records and recording Blusher with Tracy Chisolm, The Miss Alans were approached by Meltdown Records to release a 7″. Everybody liked the idea, but they obviously didn’t want to use any of the material they were then recording for Blusher, so they decided to go back to that session with O’Higgins, and use “Mata Hari’s Butt” for the single, as it was still significantly different from the Blusher material to not be considered for the album. Tracy Chisolm then offered to remix it, and have Scott re-record his vocal to boot.

The upshot was a record that was literally transitioned from their old producer to their new producer, and a definite precursor to the sound of Blusher.

Also making changes: Kirk Biglione, who, like so many of us, was looking at his life as he was approaching 30, and coming to the realization that he hated the music business. And because the Miss Alans would still be in the highly capable hands of Linda Cohen, he took the opportunity to step down as co-manager after six years of dealing with the The Miss Alans shenanigans.

That said, he was fully on board with the shenanigan known as “Mata Hari’s Butt.”

Anchored by a ten story tall Jay Fung bassline tsunami that cleared light-years of space for the rest of the band to work in — Scott & Manny are hitting huge power chords, while Ron’s snare could cut diamonds — “Mata Hari’s Butt” also highlights Scott’s new vocal technique.

He’d been steadily retreating from the yelps and yodels of the Bus era all along, toning down for Smack The Horse and then during the Discordia era, experimenting with using it as almost another instrument, as well as sound effects.

But on “Mata Hari’s Butt,” it’s something different: a hoarse golden whisper that was perfectly suited for the fuzzier blurrier guitar tones he and Manny were producing and also matched the typically dark lyrics about a family member who went down the wrong path.

Yeah, you were right
Some fucking punk with a knife or a gun
They said you were gone
I prayed that they were wrong

My heeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad
Tumbling through
My heaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad
Tumbling through

You can hear the emotion: all of the fear and worry and pain and wondering if this could be his path every single time he sang “My heeaaaaaaaaaaaaad” while the guitars roared and chimed, or even when they weren’t.

“Mata Hari’s Butt” was just about the last time where the Miss Alans wrote a song that featured a Manny Diez counterpoint vocal, as nearly all of the vocals on Blusher were overdubs of Scott. The exception was “Naked,” which is a song from the 1990-1991 period, kinda proving my point (especially since Manny’s vocal sounds like it was run through a Leslie speaker).

And while it would be nearly another year before Blusher was actually released, “Mata Hari’s Butt” featured both as a teaser for it as well as a farewell to the past.

“Mata Hari’s Butt”

“Mata Hari’s Butt” live at Club Lingerie, 1994

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