Combustible Edison was a group founded in the early 1990s in Providence, Rhode Island, and was one of several lounge music acts that led a brief resurgence of interest in the genre during the mid-1990s. Unlike other bands with a more ironic take on the lounge scene, Combustible Edison took the music seriously and strove to add to what its members saw as a canon of works, such as those by Esquivel, Henry Mancini, and Martin Denny. Before Combustible Edison, the artists known as The Millionaire and Miss Lily Banquette were members of a band called Christmas.
Originally formed around 1991 to serve as the musical accompaniment to a stage show entitled “The Tiki Wonder Hour,” the 14-piece “Combustible Edison Heliotropic Oriental Mambo and Foxtrot Orchestra” slimmed down to its five core members, shortened its name, and put out a debut album, I, Swinger, on Sub Pop records. The band put out two more full-length discs, Schizophonic! and The Impossible World – and several singles. The band also recorded the soundtrack to the Quentin Tarantino (and others) film Four Rooms, with music produced by Mark Mothersbaugh.
The main theme for the Four Rooms soundtrack, “Vertigogo” was submitted for consideration for an Academy Award but was ultimately disqualified from consideration because of its incomprehensible lyrical content, despite the fact that the band submitted a lyric sheet with their best written approximation of the lyrics.
Unlike other musical acts who, to warm up live audiences, employ an opening act, Combustible Edison instead chose to display a short film, “Dark Night in the Ultraviolet City,” which was billed as “Combustible Edison’s Opening Act”. Director Guy Benoit described it as a vignette exploring the Combustible Edison mindset. Combustible Edison provides the music for this short film, and The Millionaire himself has a cameo as a robot. During some shows, the film was played during intermission instead as an opener. Experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger was invited to direct an accompanying video for the song “Bluebeard”, but declined commenting that he didn’t care for the music. (He also commented that the song was never released as a result, on the contrary it featured on Schizophonic! and was released as a single in its own right.)
After Combustible Edison, The Millionaire went on to help build the online music community site Luxuriamusic.com. A cocktail enthusiast, he also contributed the Combustible Edison Cocktail, the recipe for which was printed on the back cover of the band’s debut I, Swinger CD. It was later collected by Paul Harrington in his book Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century. The Millionaire has been credited with coining the term “Cocktail Nation”.
Their reinvention of lounge music spawned a new generation of lounge devotees.
“Spanning styles from James Bond thriller to the Italian sophistication of ‘La Dolce Vita’, Combustible Edison presents the full breadth and depth of lounge music.”
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