Chi-Pig-MIAMI CD (Chi-Pig, 2301 Parker Road, Akron, OH 44313)
Chi-Pig sure dredge up a lotta memories of my fanatical late-seventies/early-eighties Akron/Cleveland underground appreciation days back when there was something else for me to get all obsessive/compulsive about (and believe-you-me, the seventies were an obsessive/compulsive decade starting with comic strips/books all the way through movies, TV, rock, jazz, oriental gals...). Hearing Chi-Pig on the infamous Stiff Records AKRON COMPILATION was an eye-opening revelation, and finding their "Bountiful Living"/"Ring Around The Collar" single at the Record Exchange (the same store Miriam Linna used to espy for inexpensive vinyl wonderments) on the same day I went to the Kent Creative Arts Festival to see the Styrenes and Daevid Allen was just a nice cherry on top of a whipped-cream and hot fudge sundae afternoon of one of the five or so most remarkable days of my life. (No, I'm not going to tell you what the other four are!) To me, Chi-Pig came off like a female (with a man drummer---nice gimmick!) take on Devo who were only a month or ten away from irritating me for all time, complete with lyrics that seemed to get to the heart of the female problem as dictated by THE VILLAGE VOICE---no wonder hippie crit Richard Reigel gave this CD a rave in the VV music section! And while we're at it, Cleveland irritant Anastasia Pantsios seemed to be pretty keen on the likes of the Pig (despite her abject hatred for the more innovative and dare-I-say Velvet-y aggregations on the scene) even going as far as to have a nice dileniation of head Pig Sue Schmidt adorn the cover of an early-eighties CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER FRIDAY MAGAZINE insert which used to house Pantsios' vast array of usually vomitous musical opinions. Between you, me and the stylus, I think the only reason Pantsios cozied up to Chi-Pig was because they were primarily a female band (with the only male "subjugated" to the drum seat) and that gave Pantsios more fodder for her pseudo-feminist "women in rock" writings which were even shallower than her mid-eighties wrestling and rock articles where she always stuck up for the good guys like the nice little gooch she is.
A WMMS-FM live show ("wow, we gotta be hip and air all of this neat-o stuff and osmose to it and rock lobster all over the place before going back to Segar!!!") didn't quite zone me out when I heard it way back when, but by that time my musical tastes were beginning to branch out in different directions. And besides, that whole scene was changing and perhaps for the worse...all of the attributes which had made the late-seventies new wave idiom so exciting had rapidly declined into a one-shot joke while the truly innovative bands had either broken up, slipped into obscurity despite still functioning or worse yet joined the eighties gimp rock movement. Whereas something like Chi-Pig meant a lot to me back in 1979, by 1982 they seemed more or less has-beens...musicians who had outgrown their usefulness and failed to attain any sort of energy level that could capture my attention the way that Rocket From The Tombs, the Styrenes, Tin Huey (the early version...the later ones seemed to have fallen into the same gnu wave trap as Pere Ubu and so many groups with promise) and plenty of others still do. At least Chi-Pig did what they should have done by disbanding at a time when it seemed as if they didn't have anything more to say.
Anyway, this new CD (an actual promo!!!---hear that Tom, I got an actual living, breathing PROMO!!!! Oh goodie!!!!!!) made it to my door this afternoon and totally took me by surprise! I mean, one of the last things on my mind here in 2004 with all its trials and tribulations (to coin a phrase) was that distant memory Chi-Pig, and whaddya know, here comes a CD of 'em collecting not only an unreleased album recorded in (where else but) Miami FL '79, but their single and track from the infamous Stiff album! Not only that, but I also got a promo "fact sheet" featuring a whole buncha reviews from the likes of Cleveland's own SCENE as well as the previously-mentioned Reigelschpiel from the ol' VV (which I gotta say is even worse than when I thought it was worser than worse two decades back---and I hate to say it but even the scribings by such enlightened minds as Metal Mike Saunders and Tim Ellison that appear in its pages, or better yet on its website, aren't exactly their best moments, but that's my opinion) and whaddya know but even that ol' gorgon Pantsios wrote this CD up in something called THE CLEVELAND FREE TIMES, and as you can bet getting that dribble sent to me in the mail really made my day!!!!
But how do Chi-Pig hold up in a world where the energy and vigor of the sixties/seventies punks still seems to be in force in one way or another??? To be totally honest, pretty good...the unreleased album portion actually reminds me more or less of a local band take on mid-seventies Roxy Music style and swerve, perhaps because of its bouncy demeanor that too many of these new wave groups swiped from Ferry and his Friends before they started swiping from Talking Heads. The cover of "Going To a Go Go" might have a twinge of gnu wave jerky motion to it, but it doesn't make you wanna ridicule all of those ineffectual geeks that YOU coulda easily turned into had you failed to jump off the bandwagon at the right time. But actually, the good bulk of this doesn't offend your sense of rockism proprieties. It doesn't quite rock 'em at least some of the time, but it's ingenious and sixties-pop catchy enough to have you returning to it at least a few times in your life.
For me, the track that's the hands-down winner here's the grande finale from the Stiff sampler, "Apu Api (Help Me)," which has the intensity and achtung that I used to associate with the creme de la seventies NE Ohio underground at the time when primitivism was such a shock to rock audiences bred on technically-precise guitar solos without the distortion or atonality custom-made for disturbing squares and classic rock radio fans, one and the same if you ask me! And hey, I would have loved to have heard more from that session but I guess I can't have anything, but for a nice obscure slice of Akron underground music give this CD outta nowhere a try and be sure to file it next to the Bizarros, Tin Huey and the rest of the seventies hard-edge scene that made more than a few rock critics turn their heads towards the land of rubber. And while you're at it, why don't you contact head Pig Susan Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org and discuss the new wave with her.
LSD March-SUDDENLY, LIKE FLAMES CD (Last Visible Dog, available through Eclipse)
After being knocked-down silly by the LSD March tracks on THE NIGHT GALLERY compilation of new Japanese underground rock bands who seem to take the spirit and direction of the early Velvet Underground more seriously than just about everyone else who claims to these days, I decided to break down and fork over more money than I could afford on a CD of theirs (this being their second offering originally released in a very small quantity of vinyl a few years back) via Eclipse, who always seem to have these rare Japanese wonders available. However, on first spin I didn't care for it, thinking that the energy and innovation that pretty much bowled me over on their comp tracks had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle. However, I gave SUDDENLY, LIKE FLAMES another chance, not necessarily because of any generosity on my part but because hey, I paid for it and I better get my money out of the thing one way or another. It's not like one of those beyond-hideous it's-good-because-it's-alternative piles that the misguided editors at OPTION and YOUR FLESH used to send me back when the promo gravy train was getting mighty lumpy, and frankly, in no way could I even fathom the concept of having to listen to the X-tal album twice!!!! Life is too short to waste gazing up the orifices of boring San Franciscan self-important cultural charlatans even if Angel Corpus-Christi plays on their album.
On SUDDENLY, LIKE FLAMES it's amazing just how close LSD March get to not only the Les Rallizes Denudes/Up-Tight sound, but that uniquely Japanese proto-whatever feel that's hard to describe. Les Rallizes Denudes' use of an early Velvet Underground template (along with sidesteps into 1966 San Franciscan quasi-hippie leanings well before they evolved into David Crosby singsong) gave us thirty years of recordings that hardly ever let us down and made ears bleed even with their ballads. Up-Tight took the basic mold and went in their own direction with it, perhaps getting even more wiry in the process. One listen to the title track (which resembles those free-for-alls that Denudes were performing at their debut gig in '68!) will prove that LSD March are continuing that fine Japanese tradition...the one where a certain style and mode is crafted into what some might see as a cheap copy of the original, but on closer inspection it takes on a life and form of its own perhaps being not quite Western in some respects, and not quite Eastern as well. Omnidimensional.
Being non-innerlectual about it, LSD March have SEARING DISTORTED ELECTRIC GUITAR LEADS, REVERB AND TIN ALL OVER THE PLACE, LATE-SIXTIES APOLCALYTPIC VISION AND MUFFLED THREATS/GARBLES PASSING AS VOCALS!!!! It's really hard to fathom that there can even exist groups like LSD March, Up-Tight and their comrats in arms from THE NIGHT GALLERY CD this late in the rock might as well be dead game, but they're here and although they ain't exactly in your face they oughta be. And frankly, you gotta give these groups credit, because I haven't really cared about the ol' Velvets continuum (as a currently functioning entity) for about fifteen years already and not only have these bands done it, but I think it's absolutely keen-o the way they recycle 40-year-old concepts that still sound avant garde (at least in their hands) and fresh even though more than an few tries from the early-eighties onwards have done their best to run the whole thing into the ground for longer than I can hope to imagine.
Saturday, October 02, 2004
Chi-Pig-MIAMI CD (Chi-Pig, 2301 Parker Road, Akron, OH 44313)