Saturday, July 24, 2004

A COLUMNIST'S THOUGHTS AT LARGE and a CD review to round the thing out...

While listening to a CD for reviewing purposes (actually, while listening to it the third time around and refreshing my beanie as to whether or not this thing has any deeply-rooted meaning to myself, yourself or just about any real flesh 'n' blood piece of humanity out there) I thought I'd babble on about a few random things that popped into my head while doing all this rockism deciphering. By the way, in case you're interested I copped the title of the above "heading" from Sidney Harris' column of old. (Actually, "A Columnist's Thoughts At Large" was Harris' weekly-or-so off-the-top ramblings and not the column's actual title...that was "Strictly Personal.") I dunno if you remember the guy, but he was one of these old-timey liberals whose column for some strange reason used to appear on the first page of the second section of the local SHARON HERALD 'stead of the editorial page, roughly from the early-sixties until his death I believe in the late-eighties or so. I remember that he was from England and the early snaps of him posted at the top of the column originally had him looking a lot like Mike Wallace, though as he got older and fatter he kinda started resembling a younger Peter Ustinov. I also recall him getting a lotta older folks all in an uproar...the same people who probably loved him for his Kennedy-era musings were undoubtedly beginning to hate him once the more-freewheeling latter part of the decade was in gear and some progressives were, uh, progressing faster than others. My dad really got all undie-bundled after reading Harris' "Jesus was a hippie" column...seems that Harris (along with Frederic Wertham and a lotta folks who gravitated to the leftward end of the spectrum despite remaining part of the powers that be) tended to look at the shaggier aspects of the "younger generation" as love-brimming pacifists who were maybe a bit too starry-eyed but a whole lot better'n all those ogres spewing the establishment line. Altamont and Manson hadn't happened yet so who can blame these "look for the good in people" pollyannas anyway, but I gotta admit that looking back and seeing over-thirty types who shoulda known better heaping praise on a buncha smelly commune-huddlin' lice-infested neo-commies kinda makes me sick to my stomach! (I remember when I was a kid and first handling just how to read thinking that Harris' column was entitled "A Communist's Thoughts At Large"...I asked my father [who along with my mother is a hard-shell yellow dog Democrat, which I guess is their option] if this in fact is what was printed and he said something along the lines of "You're close to the truth there!") An uncle of mine was once railing against Harris for a pro-gun control column, saying that because the guy was English and they have gun control over there he shouldn't be spreading his foreign philosophy over here, or at least he said something like that. Anyway, I recall Harris as being a sorta paternalistic writer who seemed to pontificate on whatever subject matter he wanted to sorta like a knowitall mid-aged FDR cheerleader telling his son (who was weaned on William Burroughs and S. Clay Wilson) what was best in a particularly understandingly dry way. If he were still alive Harris would probably be writing for COMMONWEAL and all those old-time leftie mags who still cling to the "hip" sixties way while seemingly eschewing the radical elements of what their movement doth wrought yet they don't have the guts to go neocon because they're still stuck in Eugene McCarthyland, if you know what I mean. (An' lemme tell you, I hate neocons!!!!)

Lessee, what else can I discuss while listening on and on to what's turning out to be a pretty good about tee-vee? And guess what, the Stigliano abode is now connected to a satellite dish which was installed early last year, and as you'd expect my television viewing habits have grown about thricefold since my once strictly UHF days! I mean, before I only had five channels to choose from, and now there's about a few hunnerd or so, and guess what (like you wouldn't expect it!)...I tend to gravitate towards only a few of 'em, such as TV Land which at least has the best of the better-known oft-rerunned classics not to mention the old flick stations like (I hate to admit it but...) Turner Classic Movies as well as Trio when they run such obscuro-classics like JOHNNY STACCATO (hey Trio, how about NAKED CITY???) and believe-it-or-not but MY MOTHER THE CAR!!! Sometimes I tune into the cable news networks just to see what the loony libs are doing on one station or the nattering neocons on Fox (both usually a waste of time...let's face it, cable TV newspeak programs ain't that hot unless Pat Buchanan's on in some capacity!), or maybe one of those history/science/geography stations if they're talking about something that interests me like Stalin, Hitler or those unbelievable Civil War submarines that have been capturing my attention lately. And for a little spirituality I can always tune into EWTN and catch a classic Bishop Sheen sermon which makes all those yammering types you see ALL OVER look positively wilted. Then again I like to tune into BBC America for an old MONTY PYTHON, THE AVENGERS (though once again they play it safe, not airing the entire run which I and probably you have never seen while concentrating on the popular Diana Rigg ones which doesn't give you the full picture you need), and even a relatively new offering like ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, if only for Bubble. Funnily enough, I only tend to watch the box on an average of ten hours a week now which is still too low for your average BLACK TO COMM couch potato. Maybe if I ruled the world and EVERYBODY was subjected to my tastes...I mean, imagine nothing but SUPERCAR and DEPUTY DAWG running day in and day out! The future of America's...THE WORLD'S children would be improved for the better, dontcha think???

But there's more to life the tee-vee twiddlin' like rock & roll and after the above mewlings I think I better get to the heart of the matter again, which is this CD in question by a group called Red Glance. SWIRLS AWAY (Gulcher) is the name of this newly-released wonder and, not being one to always immediately read the hypesheets or the enclosed CD booklets wanting to let the music speak for itself first, I spun this thinking after a few decidedly twisted-six-oh punk takes later that Red Glance were yet another new bunch of postpostPOST garage practitioners who got their cues from the Cheater Slicks, Mummies and about a hundred old nineties fanzines and started their own take on the like. There were many of these groups cluttering up the landscape back then and frankly I thought that the whole genre had become tiring once the same interesting ideas became done and redone over and over and something about the musicians and their intent began to seem downright phony! It was almost like the little brat kid everyone thinks so cute and precious only you wanna tease the li'l pants-grabber incessantly because his cuteness can just get a little sickening after a few deadly minutes.

But then I decided to read the booklet and guess what? Red Glance were from the early-eighties back when the underground still had some modicum of decency! So you're probably thinking I'm gonna EAT THIS ALL UP now that I can put it into the context of 1982 rather than ten years later when I began getting kinda creepy-feeling about this brand of garage redo. Well, you're RIGHT, because now I can judge Red Glance within the right time they would have appealed to my 1982 sense of loss with regards to what had happ'd to the "new wave" (an' you know what I mean, like going from Rocket From the Tombs and Patti Smith to Missing Persons!) rather than my '92 GET THIS RACKET OFF THE TURNTABLE!!!!!! reaction to a lotta what underground rock had become because it unfortunately didn't know any better.

If I hadda describe these guys I'd kinda call 'em a cross between the Modern Lovers during their pre-kiddie rock days only without Jerry Harrison's organ and the early Ramones. The singer (Phil Hundley) has a weird yelp that makes Jonny Richman's and Joey Ramone's sound opera in comparison and though it takes a bit getting used to you probably hadda get used to Neil Young's and Tom Verlaine's as well so quit complainin'! Musically Red Glance play the sixties garage thing pretty well, sounding like some 14-year-olds in the knotty-pine basement 1966 knowing that the best they have to emulate is the Seeds because alla big names are just too complicated! Pretty neat if you were born and bred on the NUGGETS breed of rockism that never really caught on with the masses more attuned to well-played symphonies masquerading as "youth culture," but you knew that already.

Funny, if these guys were nineties punks trying to revive past triumph with a moderne decadent approach I woulda tossed this one onto the compost disc heap asap! But given that it's from '82...well, Red Glance were riding the gas fumes from the once-full tank of seventies high-octane American Underground, and that makes a big diff in my book! You may think it's silly but it makes more sense than your soggy brain would ever's sorta like TV kitsch being made in 1959, 1969, 1979 and NOW! In '59 we got tons of wonderful, watchable fun sitcoms like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET...ten years later it was soppier stuff that was still good getting the same treatment...THE BRADY BUNCH and THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY (and NANNY AND THE PROFESSOR for you masochists out there!). Later on, what was there but utter treacle like DIFF'RENT STROKES and SILVER SPOONS which saw the original form watered down by years of everything from general American softie marshmallow living to social worker consciousnesses entering into WHAT WAS ONCE GOOD AND DECENT stifling it all to the point where it was all just more oatmeal. The same thing happened to rock & roll in a way...think about it!!!!

So SWIRLS AWAY and Red Glance get the BLOG TO COMM award for "Best Unknown Recording By Band Trailing At The End of the Seventies Underground" and that's an award that BETTER be mounted proudly on the mantlepiece amidst all the debating team trophies and kiln-baked ashtrays made at camp because it means just about as much as those aforementioned goodies when it comes down to CLASSIC MID-AMERICAN SUBURBAN TRASH LIVING and what we can use a lot more of these days is a lot more trash living and a lot less post-socialist mindzapping entertainment! And you know it's s true.

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