Ashtray Petting Zoo – Alma Mater Sweater

by | Aug 15, 2019 | Song of the Day

Etheline: Chas came home.
Margot: What do you mean?
Etheline: He and Ari and Uzi are going to stay with me for a little while.
Margot: Why are they allowed to do that?
…That night, Etheline found all of her children living together under the same roof for the first time in seventeen years.
— from The Royal Tenenbaums

To never grow up means to live in a state of perpetual stupidity and what’s wrong with that? Sleep in a tent in the upstairs ballroom, on the sleeping bag that you took to the African wing of the Public Archives when you ran away with Margot, surrounded by your collection of toy cars and listening to long-forgotten albums. Set up an office in your bedroom, your rack of identical ties within easy reach, the Dalmatian mice of your grade school business scurrying underfoot. Or hide your secret smoking habit, rebelliously begun at age twelve, for twenty-two years.

With ‘Alma Mater Sweater,’ Ashtray Petting Zoo confronts the dual difficulties of college graduation and getting dumped. Both are irreversible, a double-crossing of the Rubicon that leaves the singer back where he started, in childhood. Or, at least, wishing he were there.

and I know it’s so unfair of me to do
to try to make anything out of what i meant to you
but I’m starved for meaning in this fucking nightmare
I just need more time to be young, dumb, and scared

Our Hero can choose to remain there, perhaps living on the proverbial couch in his mom’s basement and perpetually playing video games, or move into the Unreal World of employment and perpetual repayment of student loan debt.

‘Alma Mater Sweater’ is a magnificent musical mishmash that swirls back and forth across the stereo span. It’s completely lo-fi, and as disorienting as the segment of Life Cycle that it chronicles. The result is a suite of sounds that captures Our Hero’s sadness-tinged optimism. Because only a sad optimist would create this.

Ashtray Petting Zoo is Davy (no last name) of Salem, Oregon. ‘Alma Mater Sweater’ appears on his new four-song EP, Poor Little Idiot, which Davy describes as an ‘album for recently dumped, recently graduated college kids who are sad, and others.’ On Bandcamp, Davy tells us that ‘Ashtray Petting Zoo is my lack of musical talent mixed with my hubris. I stole the name from Joyce Manor, they’re currently way better than me, but I dunno, maybe I’ll open for them at some point or something?’ I stand by my assessment: Sad Optimist.

Ashtray Petting Zoo’s music is available on Bandcamp and Spotify. And be sure to follow Ashtray Petting Zoo on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Since 2013, Reverb Raccoon has featured the best music from unknown and independent musicians. His interests include eating leftovers from the neighbor’s garbage can and watching The Royal Tenenbaums.  Email:

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