Sunday, October 10, 2004

NOTHING LIKE A GANG-REVIEW (TO PASS THE TIME AWAY)

Hi readers. Rather than wait until the next BLACK TO COMM, due sometime in 2100 or so to come out, I'm gonna piecemeal reviews of a number of previously-unreviewed items in order to keep the size of the next ish down to maybe 200, 300 pages. That is, if a next one ever comes out, but you, dear reader, can do your best in order to see that one does materialize by buying up the current as well as back issues of BLACK TO COMM with a frightening regularity just so's I'll have the capital to put out another one of these monstrosities! Just check out my back issue posting from July 31st for more information and remember, the more you buy, the faster the next one makes it to your door!

Anyway, here are some new and maybe not-so items that have graced my laser-light as of the past few days/weeks/months, and I'm sure there will be something of interest in here to capture your attention, even if it is for only a few nanoseconds...

Homestead & Wolfe-OUR TIMES CD (Anopheles, PO Box 170045, San Francisco CA 94117)-What the hippydippy's going on here??? Anopheles, the same label that gave us the Twinkeyz and Debris, have now gone whole hog (well, maybe only half-hog) into seventies "relevant" music that comes off about as dated as a GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW comic book, not to mention a BILLY JACK/BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN/SOLDIER BLUE triple bill playing at the Peace Palace. Some guy from early-sixties surf act the Ripchords goes to seminary school, grows his hair, and puts together a hippie/folk/Christian hootenanny band with some equally liberated parishioners doing numbers about the massacre at Wounded Knee ("See The Children Die") and Richard Nixon ("Your Freedom's In Question") that'll make you wanna join the cavalry and plaster Spiro Agnew posters all over your abode. Believe-you-me, I hadda live through that era when this stuff was being force-fed down us gullible kiddies' throats and you couldn't even watch a bloody YOGI BEAR or POPEYE cartoon without getting some peace and love message straight outta the Woodstock handbook crammed into it! If you wanna know why I'm the way I am, just give this platter a listen! Hopefully Anopheles will wize up on their next offering and return us to the golden days of proto-punk (Twinkeyz, Debris) and forget all about this hootenanny nabobism that Homestead & Wolfe ooze from their all-natural pores.

Stiv Bators-DISCONNECTED CD (Bomp, PO Box 7112, Burbank, CA 91510)-Sad to say, but I just haven't been listening to as much Ohio rock as I should be given how just about every nimnul with a computer out there thinks I'm some sorta big Ohio music expert or something. And that includes Ohio pop as well as punk...believe me, I haven't had the desire to listen to just about anything that has come out of that sainted state 'cept for a number of review items here and there not to mention a few once-in-awhile goodies like Rocket From the Tombs, and I've been so lethargic over the entire area that I've even neglected to buy the new Blue Ash (see PHFUDD! #7, if you can) 2-CD set that has come out recently which must PROVE what a lazybones I am with regards to a sound and an area that I've been hopping up and down and cheerleading all over the place about as long as I can remember.

So here comes this CD of Stiv Bators' debut solo trip entitled DISCONNECTED, a special edition thingie as well with added bonus tracks and a whole slew of goodies including new booklet notes and tracks and things like that to lure in the dummies who already bought the original version ten years back! And for a guy who hasn't listened to this CD or any Ohio sixties-pop for well on a decade, it sure did bring back memories. Stiv goes teenage idle (no sic) here, with that patented Cleveland pop sound that started with the Choir and developed full-throttle with the Raspberries and a slew of bands in their wake (Circus and Freeport amongst 'em) that had everyone from Greg Shaw to A*******a P******s yellin' NEW LIVERPOOL from here to Stow. It is convincing, enough so that not only did the local FM AOR station plug this about as much as they could to the sopor minds they were caterin' to (complete with geek FM disc jockey Thomas John braggin' about how he was gonne ba "hanging out" with Stiv that weekend and all!), but when a local shoe store needed a version of "It's Cold Outside" (inexplicably not here like it shoulda been!) for a television commercial, Stiv's take was used over the original!

But enough reminiscences, DISCONNECTED is a nice spin back to what Youngstown was probably like back when the Pied Pipers, Human Beinz and all of those great British wannabes were playing high school gyms during the best time in the history of this earth for what used to be known as "youth." Nice, snappy pop with enough energy in it to save it from going the Climax route (they of Sonny Geraci and Outsiders fame who hit in '71 with "Precious and Few," which wasn't quite as sappy as everybody made it to be!), and once you start worryin' Bators throws in just enough punk rock to show you he was still sicko all the way.

Zuno Keisatsu-TITLE IN JAPANESE (that's not the actual title, I just can't read it!) CD (Invitation, Japan)

Having conquered just about all of the proto-punk information and recordings that I could hope to scarf up elsewhere, this Alexander the Great of rock & roll has gone in search of other worlds to conquer, mainly that of the Land of the Rising Garage Band. I always had the suspicion that there must have been some interesting proto-punk attack going on there despite the fact that Japan seems to be the ultimate march-in-lockstep gulcher one could imagine...I mean, in a world where kids go to school all year 'round and have to wear uniforms (cute on the gals but the boys look faggy!) and things cost so much that one can only afford to buy maybe one recording a month if very lucky, just how can an Ameriganized trash aesthetic take root?

Well, such an aesthetic has, because Japan's got enough of its share of maddening high-energy (and maybe not-so, but I don't care cuz they're so good!) groups these days that, like I said, makes me wanna take the first plane to Tokyo to see a whole buncha these bands playing in maybe not-so-cultured clubs. You've read about 'em in this blog before, groups with monikers like LSD March, Doodles, Nagisa Ni Te, and of course the granddaddy of 'em all Les Rallizes Denudes. These groups are perhaps some of the most interesting ones on the planet in this day and age that I can think of ('cept from Denudes, that is), and the best thing about 'em is that they aren't superficial stylists without the dimension and depth of the original groups like the new generation of underground spew tend to be, but have that energy, verve, passion and power that got me so obsessed over groups like the Velvet Underground, Styrenes and Flamin' Groovies in the first place!

Anyway, Zuno Keisatsu (Japanese for "Brain Police"), like Les Rallizes Denudes, are part of that great pre-mid-seventies swell of local underground talent that didn't quite know where to go until fanzines and on-target rock writers began networking things in a few years time. However, unlike such similarly-minded types as Umela Hmota, these guys actually put out a slew of albums in the seventies, broke up by '75, then got together for a reunion CD and tour in the early-nineties. Originally a duo featuring teenage-y heart throb Panta on guitar and vocals plus Toshi on bongos, this "anarchist folk-punk" aggregation started life as a Tyrannosaurus Rex clone releasing their debut (with one of the weirdest insert sleeves ever) on some small independent label before graduating to Japanese MCA for a series of albums.

This is their second offering which comes in a great sleeve showing Panta and Toshi posing in front of some brick edifice...really nice early-seventies bargain-bin cheapness sorta like the kind Kama Sutra indulged in. Musically this shows us just how far Zuno Keisatsu has evolved from their Tyrannosaurus Rex roots...by now, these guys have gone the full group blast into T. Rex terrain and in the process put out an album that, like ELECTRIC WARRIOR, proves that there was still room for rock with the "& roll" firmly in place even that late in the youth consciousness game.

However, unlike Marc Bolan's woodlands bopparoo, Panta just hadda fall face down into the mire of KYU SAKAMOTO balladeering. Never mind that even the rockinger of the tracks here aren't exactly high energy (more or less mid-level), but there tends to be a mellowness here that reflects something about the Japanese pop mindset that's foreign to my pinned-back ears. It's pleasant enough, but if I wanted more of that stuff all I'd have to do is listen to WSOM-AM in Salem Ohio which plays all of those sappy fifties/sixties/seventies hits like the kind you used to hear as a kid being played between the good stuff. And although this one attempts to be the Japanese ELECTRIC WARRIOR (with actual revolutionary lyrics I am told), it tends to fail as far as any high energy jamz go.

For an eyefulla Zuno Keisatsu, try to get hold of GENYA CONCERT (available through Eclipse), a two-CD box set reissue of some early-seventies Japanese mudfest (the only worthwhile stuff besides Zuno Keisatsu being Lost Aaraaff, Keiji Haino's avant garde jazz band) which contains a DVD of some cheap b&w film made of Panta and Toshi (and nobody else!) acoustic guitarring and bongoing away at the festival. It's interesting to see the group operating as an obviously Bolan-esque duo (though the tunes on GENYA CONCERT are mighty thin-sounding) even though you have to sit through not only some of the most amateurish camera work imaginable but a whole buncha naked hippies doing the bunny-hop during Keisatsu's set. Also noteworthy of mention is the fact that longtime Japanese underground figure Hiroshi Nar, who also played in a version of Les Rallizes Denudes, was a one-time member of Zuno Keisatsu. There are a whole bunch of Nar recordings available through Eclipse including these nicely-packaged three-inch CDs with neat color covers and recordings dating from the mid-sixties (a particularly garbled take of "The Times They Are A' Changin'") up through the early and mid-seventies punk days on, and you can believe all are highly-recommended for not only the serious students of Japanese punkism but mad fans of the form as well. Also worthy of your lucre are some of Nar's more-current wares such as the Jokers CD (his band with Toshi on drums!) and maybe Port Cuss, not to mention the limited bootleg series of CD-Rs with either Kazuo and Youji or Nishinihon backing him up. However, whatever you do, avoid the "legitimate" reissue of the HIROSHI NAR WITH NISHINIHON CD because it's a real bad job released by a sniveling opportunist bandwagon-jumper and it's a lousy, expensive deal at that!

One more thing...hefty thanks to BLACK TO COMM reader Matthew Pellaggi who got me a copy of this one in exchange for the latest issue of BLACK TO COMM. Hope the magazine got to you safely, please write!

Michael Yonkers-13 YONKERS CD (Empath)

I wasn't overly excited, if excited at all, by the recent Michael Yonkers Band LP that got more than a few pointy-heads all hot and bothered just like their spiritual hippie forefathers were yapping all over the place about that MUSIC OF BULGARIA album back in 1965, but this new release (where Yonkers is backed by a Michael James, a name which sounds familiar, who also wrote all the songs and produced) is pretty good. Imagine a mad atonal guitar screech (sorta like the kind a lotta those late-sixties wah-wah'd out bands who sounded like the early Stooges but never heard of 'em perfected) and gruff vocals playing what could only be described as the weirdest offspring of early-seventies heavy rock and late-seventies punk...or maybe a late-seventies punk band trying to gross their audience out playing early-seventies hard rock or an early-seventies hard rock band trying to gross their audience out playing punk. Either way it's a surprise, and I actually like it a tad more than the original thing!

The Troggs-ARCHAEOLOGY 3-CD set (Fontana UK)

They're BETTER than the Kinks! I gotta say that I never really cozied up to the Kinks despite having purchased a copy of the "Sunny Afternoon" single at a flea market age 13 and lusting over the cover of THE KINKS GREATEST HITS at the record shop at the same time, but having seen Ray Davies and company kinda devolve into elder statesmen of ever-boring and aging hipster concerns in the late-seventies dimmed my opinion about them to (almost) the point of no return. (I know this is sacreligious to the hoardes of Kinks fans and BLOG TO COMM readers who have sworn by Davies and co.'s music and image for well over four decades, but for me the Kinks were to the late-seventies just what the Who and Stones were...mainly TOO BIG FOR THEIR BRITCHES!!!) The Troggs were another thing entirely...throughout their career they remained a buncha bricklaying louts which is what made 'em so wonderful...while their countrymen were playing big halls and appearing on TV acting out the patented seventies rock star roles handed down to them, the Troggs were playing Max's Kansas City and continuing on as just another rock & roll group to come down the pike and not get swell-headed about it. Now don't get me wrong, I love success; in fact, I wish I'd see a little of it myself, but I can't stand seeing once-interesting rock & rollers all of a sudden put on airs of Jackie Kennedy-ness appearing at Studio 54 with the rest of the mightier-than-thous who forgot all about us peons back on the farm from whence these demigods have come. Ooooh!

Anyway, here are two discs filled with the best moments of Trogglodynamism, almost but not quite a dupe of the perennial late-seventies bargain-bin 2-LP Sire set with Ken Barnes liner notes (oddly enough, he also does 'em here!) but with a lotta the newies that didn't make it to the Sire one like "Good Vibrations" (which was a great departure from the original take just like Sparks' "I Want To Hold Your Hand"!) and the single side of "Summertime" which has this spidery acoustic guitar line and's more sublime than the oft-heard Max's version! Then again this also includes an extra disc with the famous "Troggs Tapes" showing the boys in full bloom cursing each other out while trying to record a song called "Tranquility"! A very good collection of Troggs tracks that I tried weaseling out of Phonogram "for reviewing purposes" when it came out in 1992 (hear that Tom???), but better late than never is what I say even though it woulda made a HUMONGOUS impact had I heard it age 13. As you probably would have guessed already.



2 comments:

Christopher said...

OK, the return of the disc would be appreciated. I actually sent the review to Brian Gundy of H&W for a laugh. Here's the thing: very few records of this type, of unknown singers playing with top quality L.A. session musicians, have been discovered. I like the
playing, tight arrangements, singing, and "lost" quality of the whole production. I've lived in California for 18 years (grew up near Detroit), so perhaps I'm absorbing the environment out here. Just so
you know, I haven't abandoned the "sound" of Debris' and the Twinkeyz. I've talked to other musicians along those lines, some of whom I'm still talking to, some of whom I've had to "give up" on ...so, this was something I wanted to do to "make my mark" as a label documenting something unknown in psych or folk-rock circles, that I happen to find appealing. They aren't hippy dippy, just kids having fun playing music together with a mentor (Ernie) who knew good music and had some real Hollywood connections from his Rip Chords days...as a reference point, think of the Rainy Day LP with Kendra Smith and David Roback as a touchstone for this type of sound/approach/"vibe"...I loved that LP in '83...couldn't remember if you liked any early '80s Paisley.-Karl Ikola

(Portions of correspondance I received from Karl regarding the Homestead and Wolfe review....Karl said it was OK for me to post it as his "rebuttal"!)

tim ellison said...

I love the thing. It's like a Peanut Butter Conspiracy album, except with Wrecking Crew backing and on which every song is very good.