Today an intelligent alternative pop duo with folk and country leanings (though they often relied on synthesizers and drum machines, even while playing live dates). They released six original studio albums between 1986 and 1995. Pat and Barbara K. MacDonald wrote many better songs than their surprise 1986 hit "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades." The couple, who met in the late '70s while Barbara studied at the University of Wisconsin, were based in Austin, Texas by the mid-'80s, when they recorded their debut album Greetings from ..on IRS records in 1986. They found a niche in the college/alternative community with albums such as Eden Alley, Edge of Allegiance and Big Shot in the Dark.....N'Joy
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Timbuk3 was formed in 1984 in Madison, Wisconsin, by the husband and wife team of Pat MacDonald (acoustic, electric, bass and MIDI guitars, harmonica, vocals, drum programming) and Barbara K. MacDonald (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin, rhythm programming, vocals).
Timbuk3 was signed by I.R.S. Records after appearing on an episode of MTV's The Cutting Edge in 1986. Soon after, they released their first album, Greetings from Timbuk3, which included their only single to chart, "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades". That song has had numerous movie and television appearances over the years since its release, and been included in numerous compilation CDs. Also from the same album, the song "Shame On You" was played during the opening scene of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, released in 1986. The band was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1987. They appeared onscreen as the house band in a bar in the 1988 film, D.O.A.
After their successful debut, Timbuk3 receded from the spotlight but went on to record five more critically acclaimed albums.They were joined in 1991 by Wally Ingram and Courtney Audain.The group broke up in 1995, with the ex-members going on to record other music independently. Pat MacDonald moved to Barcelona and recorded several albums for Ulftone, a German indie label (Sleeps With his Guitar, Begging Her Graces, Degrees of Gone, In the Red Room (a live album) and Strange Love: PM does DM, a collection of Depeche Mode covers). Of those, only Sleeps With His Guitar was released in the U.S. His 2007 effort, Troubadour of Stomp on the Broken Halo label, was his first U.S. release since 1997.
Barbara K. MacDonald has released two albums: Ready, and Undercover which is a set of acoustic covers of Timbuk3 songs. She is currently working as part of Sparrow's Wheel, an Austin label for independent music, and a new group, Ghosts and Sparrows. As of mid-2012, the first six Timbuk3 albums were not available on physical media in the United States, although all but the last were available from download services. A live CD, Espace Ornano can be purchased from the band's official website.
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The curse of having a hit single is that it tends to define public perception of your music in a very specific way, and after Timbuk 3 hit the Top 40 with "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades," they were quickly tagged as a novelty act by people who didn't absorb the song's satiric irony. Actually, skipping past "The Future's So Bright...," the opening cut on the group's debut Greetings From Timbuk 3, to the second tune, "Life Is Hard," would have told folks a lot more about the duo's lyrical perspective -- no less satiric but a lot more grim, the song sandwiches the tale of a rich kid in between two stories of losers crumbling along life's margins, and not finding much to snigger about in their collective misery. Songwriter Pat MacDonald goes for laughs more often than not on Greetings From Timbuk 3, but the effect is usually that of whistling past the graveyard -- the couple living vicariously through their television on "Cheap Black and White," the street-smart metaphors of "Facts About Cats," and the sociological speculation of "Hairstyles and Attitudes." And anyone who doesn't catch the bitterness of "Just Another Movie" couldn't have been listening. Timbuk 3's beatbox-fueled folk-rock would get a lot more sophisticated over their next few albums; on Greetings From Timbuk 3, the production and arrangements are serviceable though not terribly special, though both Pat MacDonald and Barbara K show off impressive guitar chops and fine harmonies. But as a songwriter, Pat MacDonald had already arrived at a pretty interesting destination, and while "The Future's So Bright" hardly suggested the full range of his gifts, the whole of Greetings From Timbuk 3 showed he had lots to say about life in these United States.
Timbuk 3 - Greetings From Timbuk 3 (flac 222mb)
01 The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades 3:21
02 Life Is Hard 4:08
03 Hairstyles And Attitudes 2:51
04 Facts About Cats 3:16
05 I Need You 3:50
06 Just Another Movie 4:16
07 Friction 3:44
08 Cheap Black And White 2:54
09 Shame On You 5:04
10 I Love You In The Strangest Way 4:21
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Critics bowed at the feet of Beck when, in the mid-'90s, he was able to successfully fuse elements of such disparate genres as funk, folk, and retro-rock. Few remembered that several years earlier, husband-and-wife duo Timbuk 3 had brought a similar (if more homespun) eclecticism to alternative rock with their programmed drums, willfully clunky rhythms, and lyrics clever enough to rival those of the best singer/songwriters. Eden Alley, the follow-up to 1986's Greetings From Timbuk 3, didn't result in a Top 40 hit the way its predecessor had -- there's nothing as outright funny here as "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" -- but it contained the same brand of irony-fueled lyrics and smart songcraft as the band's debut. "Easy" and "Dance Fever" were thinly veiled morality tales set to sweet pop melodies. "Eden Alley," "A Sinful Life," and "Little People Make Big Mistakes" remain the best examples of Pat and Barbara K. MacDonald's amiably gentle vocal harmonies; the title track, with its country-ish melody contrasted by a flamboyantly synthetic beat, is particularly striking, while guest Ponty Bone lends accordion to the pop-reggae tune "A Sinful Life." On the funkier tracks, however, the rigid groove of the drum machine proves too limiting, leaving songs like "Reckless Driver" and "Tarzan Was a Bluesman" locked in the '80s.
Timbuk 3 - Eden Alley (flac 223mb)
01 Tarzan Was A Bluesman 1:26
02 Easy 4:26
03 Reckless Driver 5:44
04 Dance Fever 2:42
05 Sample The Dog 3:18
06 Too Much Sex, Not Enough Affection 3:15
07 Welcome To The Human Race 3:17
08 Eden Alley 3:29
09 Rev. Jack & His Roamin' Cadillac Church 4:13
10 A Sinful Life 3:36
11 Little People Make Big Mistakes 2:07
12 Reprise (Don't Stop Now) 0:55
In many ways, Edge of Allegiance presented Timbuk 3 at a crossroads. It was their last album as a duo (1991's Big Shot in the Dark would find them replacing their well-worn drum machine with a real-life rhythm section), so it was a transitional effort in that respect, but it also brought to fruition the musical maturity and sense of nuance that had been blossoming since the pair's 1986 debut. No longer were Pat and Barbara K. MacDonald singing merely about the personal or the political; they were combining the two, and at times using one as a metaphor for the other, with multi-layered songs like the incisive "Standard White Jesus" (perhaps Timbuk 3's crowning achievement), "B-Side of Life," and "Acid Rain." Rhythms were becoming more complex, presumably as a result of the contributions of jazz percussionist Denardo Coleman, who produced the album; the snaky, Latin-leaning "Standard White Jesus" left barely a hint that Timbuk 3 was still in possession of its famed drum machine. As such, Edge of Allegiance was Timbuk 3's least funky record; only "Count to Ten" kept that aspect of the band's sound intact. But Pat MacDonald's lyrical observations and facility with wordplay were razor sharp here, and as a collection of intelligent pop songs, the album ranks with the best of its period. In three short verses, "Wheel of Fortune," sung by both vocalists over a stark guitar accompaniment, sums up the bittersweet reality of relationships more elegantly than do most songs given twice as much space.
Timbuk 3 - Edge of Allegiance (flac 227mb)
01 National Holiday 4:00
02 Waves Of Grain 3:43
03 Dirty Dirty Rice 2:50
04 Pass It On 2:49
05 Standard White Jesus 4:45
06 Grand Old Party 3:15
07 Count To Ten 3:53
08 B-Side Of Life 3:24
09 Acid Rain 3:13
10 Daddy's Down In The Mine 3:07
11 Don't Give Up On Me 2:43
12 Wheel Of Fortune 2:30
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On their fourth album, Timbuk 3 officially became a foursome. The addition of bassist Courtney Audain and drummer Wally Ingram shook up the Austin-based band's dynamic, but this proved a mixed blessing: On the one hand, the new players seem to have freed up co-frontman Pat MacDonald to concentrate on exploring new guitar textures and beefing up his harmonica work, and there's a newfound sense of instrumental adventurousness all around ("'49 Plymouth" employs a lute, while an instrumental version of "Sunshine" is played on steel drums). But the songs themselves aren't quite as strong as those from the band's previous efforts. MacDonald's lyrics are still clever, but for the first time they also come across as slightly precious, as on "Two Medicines." Still, the high points were as high as ever; "Sunshine" and "Dis***land (Was Made for You & Me)" rank among the most richly creative pieces in the band's repertoire. Big Shot in the Dark has a bluesy, droning quality throughout, a vibe that would be amplified further on Timbuk 3's 1994 EP Looks Like Dark to Me.
Timbuk 3 - Big Shot In The Dark (flac 252mb)
01 God Made Me An Angel 4:35
02 Sunshine 4:12
03 Two Medicines 3:12
04 The Border Crossing 3:15
05 Big Shot In The Dark 6:33
06 Mudflap Girl 4:50
07 Dis***land (Was Made For You & Me) 3:58
08 Wake Up Little Darlin' 2:44
09 '49 Plymouth 4:46
10 The Little Things 3:45
11 Sunshine (Instrumental) 4:41
Timbuk 3 - Big Shot In The Dark (ogg 105mb)