Angelo Bruschini is an under-the-radar guitarist I was hipped to, by accident, about 20 years ago. I was browsing through the Richard Thompson CDs at Aaron’s Records on Highland. The place has long since gone the way of most record shops, but back then it was the best music store in the city. So I’m there one day, and a dude with a big blonde Harpo Marx-style afro, and wearing a Mudhoney T-shirt (another sign of just how long ago this was), comes up to me, unsolicited, and says something like, “If you like Richard Thompson, you’ll love Blue Aeroplanes.” I hate when strangers impinge on my personal space. It’s one of the biggest reasons I’ve chosen to live in LA instead of New York. You’re constantly in the cocoon of your car out here, shielded from people who want to talk to you, shielded from guys with Harpo Marx afros, who don’t get that you don’t want to talk to them, who don’t get that what you want, above all else, is for them to stay the hell away from you. For some reason, I give off an unspoken vibe that’s precisely the opposite of the way I feel. Weirdos love me. I’m a magnet for psychotic drunks on the street, demented elderly folks at the grocery store, religious proselytizers in parking lots… I wish I could be like Susan Richards in the Fantastic Four, with her ability to put a force field around herself. My time in the car is my Susan Richards time. Nobody can get to me in there. I just find the Blue Aeroplanes on my iPod and the rest of the world doesn’t exist.
“I’m serious,” Harpo says. “You’ll love Blue Aeroplanes.” I do everything I can, body language-wise, to let the guy know I just want him to get outta my face. “Ok,” I say, refusing to look at him (because once you make eye contact with guys like this, they have you), “I’ll check ‘em out.” He finally scurries off, and I think I’m rid of him, but I’m wrong, of course. He comes back with a Blue Aeroplanes CD called Beatsongs. “This is the one you want,” he says, “this is the one you need.” Part of my problem is that I don’t like conflict and I don’t know how to say ‘no’ to people. Sales girls in places like Banana Republic and J. Crew can feast on me because when they make their inevitable hard-sell pitches for all kinds of extra stuff I don’t need - 'this really expensive shirt would go great with those jeans you're buying, and here's a little peak at my cleavage, and we take Visa or Mastercard, suckah - I don’t know how to politely decline. Christ, I can’t even say no to some freaky mental patient at a record shop! ...So Harpo more or less walks with me to the cash register to make sure I buy the album, Beatsongs. I’m thinking to myself, ‘it’s only $8 (used), a small price to pay to finally have this motherfucker out of my life forever and ever. …I take the record home, along with a few others I’ve selected, and when I finally get around to playing it, Blue Aeroplanes really don’t sound anything like Richard Thompson, except for Angelo Bruschini, who turns out to be one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard. He’s sort of in the same vein as Johnny Marr, but with more Thompson-esque flourishes. He’s obviously studied his Richard Thomspon very closely and taken great notes.
But I don’t wanna make it sound like Bruschini is a mere copycat. He’s got his own distinct, style and a great intuitive feel for the texture of a song. He understands that sometimes the most brilliant thing a guitarist can do is to just be a great accompanist. …Bruschini eventually left Blue Aeroplanes and joined Massive Attack, whose dancey trip hop vibe resonated with me in the era of the dot com bubble, but eventually I lost interest.
…I wonder where Harpo is today. Maybe I shouldn’t be so down on people like that. Some folks just crave human connection and have no way of knowing that I crave detachment and solitude. I wonder where a guy like Harpo goes after his main hangout closes? What’s his new spot? Is he one of those Hollyweird guys who traverse the seedy alleyways just off the boulevard, hoping to find somebody to talk to, somebody who’ll listen and be interested in what he has to say? If I knew where he was, I might drive there, locate him, roll down the window of my car, and thank him for turning me on to Blue Aeroplanes. And then I’d roll the window back up, drive away, and get lost in the loveliness of Angelo Buschini's guitar playing...