Tuesday, November 30, 2004

SUISHOU NO FUNE CD-R

As some of you (mainly the guys who sold me this stuff) know I have loads of Japanese goodies to write about, but while the Hiroshi Nar collection and latest Up-Tight offering not forgetting a slew of LSD Marches ferment in my mind I'll be a nice sport and give you a brief review of this newie to satiate your hunger for these obscure yet proto-punk in an anti-punk world Tokyo wonders. Suishou No Fine are yet another modern Japanese group with Les Rallizes Denudes connections (some of the many ex-members have passed through Suishou's ranks) thus making them of some interest to people like myself, and though they sure do have the right credentials this CD succeeds only about half-way. With a hard power-trio setting that at times veers very close to the all-out noise grate that turned me off faster than I would a Mike Myers marathon, SUISHOU NO FUNE remind me of more than a few of those nineties Japanese bands that seemed to clutter up the Forced Exposure catalog at the time...y'know, the ones with the hard artsy crash and thud that never did seem to light a fire under me because it sounded too...er, motionless. Music for monkeys to yank the hair outta their arms to. However, when they're not creating musique concrete with a metallic thud, SUISHOU NO FUNE do have a fine sense of pure underground slam that one can tell evolved from the great psychedelic garage EPI-inspired warm drone of the Les Rallizes guys. When it isn't getting too cerebral and settles into a nice repeato-riff groove (with the femme bassist singing these dulcet la-las) Suishou can even be exhilarating. One worth the effort to search even with the less-than-enthralling moments.

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YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN, BUT IT'S FUN TO TRY

Back when my sister was attending Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland I used to hit the two used record shops in nearby Cleveland Heights (on the way to the campus), they being Record Revolution and the Record Exchange. At the time both of these places were like a godsend for a kid who had to search far and wide for not only new but old, out-of-print wonders...there were no used record shops in the Youngstown/Sharon area that I knew of so finding those hard-to-get wares (this being the seventies long before mailorder and internet made even the most obscure offerings commonplace) available at used prices was more than what a depression-wages kid like myself was askin' for! The avant garde classical and free jazz albums were not only plentiful but inexpensive, plus rare items along the lines of bootlegs and imports could be found with ease and without denting your wallet that much. Record Exchange was good enough for bargains especially when trading old discs you got for practically nothing, but I preferred Record Revolution since it was twice as big, had the hugest selection of records and rock magazines one could hope for, plus they had the latest import/local release singles available in a small bin on the countertop which I always would comb through in order to find the latest underground Cleveland release...you can't imagine how many times I'd look through that box hoping for a Rocket From the Tombs single back in 1979! True you had to put up with a bitta the countercultural spew that one could find in this little Bohemia, but really, what was it in the light of import records starting at $5.99 (including the CLUSTER AND ENO LP which the local shopping malls were retailing for a whopping $11.99!) not to mention all of the rare free jazz wonders straight from the local college radio station that one just couldn't find at the local National Record Mart. And who could forget those unholy and illegal bootlegs...man, I even remember seeing Pere Ubu's infamous U-MEN boot in the Record Revolution basement racks going for a paltry $1.99 back when it first came out spring 1979!

And one great thing about these shops is that some of the same records would hang around in the bins for years on end! Since Cleveland Heights was folkie/hipster-entrenched, the denizens there would ditch the good stuff (punk, garage, avant jazz...) and take all the Alex Bevan and Down Home Jim Dippy platters they could get their hands on! Leaving the hot stuff for me, who could enter into these shops with maybe ten bucks in my pocket and a stack of used records bought cheap at a local flea market mixed with my own rejects, and leave with a hugeoid, humongous stack which certainly helped quadruple my record collection within a few short months! Sorta like the Charles Atlas plan for underdeveloped rock fans. Believe-you-me...if there was a used album there that I was thinking about buying in 1979, I could guarantee that the very same record would remain there for YEARS ON END in case I'd change my mind somewhere down the line. Like take this copy of the James White album on Animal...the one where Luther Thomas did the horn arrangements and maybe played a bit on it? Well, I saw this promo copy of it in the Record Revolution basement back in '82 when it came out, and thought about snatching it then and there but decided against it. A few years later the same thing. By 1988 I STILL saw it there and, missing the intense bleat of late-seventies underground rock to the max, rescued it from languishing in the bins for yet another ten/fifteen years!

Off the top of my shiny dome here are just a few of the records I can think of having bought at both Record Revolution and Record Exchange between 1978 and 1990, and to have fun I'm going to peck out all of the discs I can think of within the range of one minute! OK...ready...set...GO!: Pere Ubu's DATAPANIK IN THE YEAR ZERO 12-inch EP, Patty Waters and Alan Silva on ESP, Acting Trio on BYG, Red Crayola Radar reissues of first two albums, the Styrene Money Band's "Radial Arm Saw" 45, Alternative TV's "The Force is Blind" 45 plus the Mark Perry and the Good Missionaries 45, MC5 KICK OUT THE JAMS, Kim Fowley's OUTRAGEOUS, Kevin Ayers' ODD DITTIES, Sun Ra LIVE AT MONTREAUX, Max Neuhaus' Columbia album w/"Fontana Mix (Feed)," Zappa's 2-LP live '77 set that had the insert for the NO COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL bootleg, Unholy Modal Rounders etc.'s HAVE MOICY!, John Coltrane's INTERSTELLAR SPACE, Ornette Coleman's WHO'S CRAZY, Peter Laughner's Coolie album, the CLEVELAND CONFIDENTIAL EP (which was in that aforementioned singles bin smack-dab next to a display filled with the last issue of SLASH which I neglected to get despite a Roky Erickson interview!), Walter Steding's GET READY EP, THE REMAINS on Spoonfed, Guns 'n Roses' 44 CALIBRE HORTICULTURE 2-LP boot, the Velvet Underground's ARCHETYPES and THE FUGS SECOND ALBUM. Whew, that was tough! OK, it took LONGER than a minute, so whip me with a wet noodle!

Anyway, as the blah eighties led to the tiresome nineties, I became more and more introverted and began to stay in my room most of the time hardly venturing out other than to hit a flea market or Chinese restaurant. Believe me, I thought that such things as shopping for records was in my kiddish past, and given how records were giving way to (ugh!) CDs, there wasn't any impetus for me to get up off my acne-laden buttocks to go hunt for records anywhere 'cept maybe a local shop still carrying vinyl where rarities could be discovered on a few occasions. Besides, I HATE shopping for CDs with those plastic holding cases clattering everytime you go down the bin, and it ain't like you can pick 'em up and read the cover notes with any ease like you usedta with albums! I did make one trip back to Cleveland Heights in '97 and felt sad thinking what had happened to those shops that were once brimming full not only with albums and singles but some character. Like I said, shopping for CDs was no fun and the basement used record section at Record Revolution was now filled with used CDs. The only thing remaining of the used record section were a couple of the old-styled bins that survived filled with the same disco drivel they couldn't even get rid of back then! I sorta chuckled at that. Some surviving bootlegs were there, remnants of the old days (BONZO'S BIRTHDAY PARTY and some Hendrix items, plus a new vinyl boot of REM with Roger McGuinn that actually tempted me!), but they were being displayed in a showcase as if they were rare relics of a bygone era, which they were. I was inhibited from asking a clerk if I could inspect them up close.

As for Record Exchange, they seemed to be getting a lotta the biz from the new breed of kidz, but all of their CDs were stacked in locked cabinets and there was no way to see what was for sale. I split pronto knowing that I was never going to return. And at that time in my life there were a whole slew of things bothering me and eating away like that gnawing puppy the Spartan boy swiped and hid under his cloak until the dog chewed enough flesh to kill him (the li'l soldier uttering nary a whimper...true Spartan he!), and you can more or less guess that this li'l trip back just helped heave a little more angst on a guy who was going through more than a little bit of it himself (I get that way sometimes). Yeah, I know you can't go home again and things change, but just like I wish that television was firmly stuck in 1963 and rock groups in 1966, I still think it would be neat if record shops were timewarped in 1979, even with the disco! (Well, you need a counterpoint to make the good stuff all the more better!)

At least I got a copy of Coltrane's ASCENSION set from the trip so it wasn't a total washout, but I did feel the loss of yet another major source of fun and jamz gone from my gulcheral life, and I've suffered more than a few of those down the line! Heck, it was almost as bad as when you were a kid, and that TV show you were obsessed with was just canceled!

Flash forward to last Sunday. It was a whim, but I ended up back in Cleveland Heights after almost seven years! New buildings on one side of the street and oddly enough the same set up and front doors on both record shops, but I passed on Record Exchange (now known as CD and Game Exchange or something to that effect...new name's a tipoff that this place ain't exactly gonna be a fun way to spend my afternoon!). So different yet so the same, at least to the point where I fantasized that I was either Peter Laughner or some made-up Cleveland underground seventies rock personage of my own design who was hanging around the Heights on a cold November day before getting ready for a hot flash gig that evening at the Viking Saloon (some people have sex fantasies and I have rock ones!...well, it's better'n going through my own at-times yawnsville living!). I did get a fine feeling going through the doors of Record Revolution...sure the window display was hyping the likes of Luna just like they did Patti Smith 25+ years back, but it did send a retrogarde thrill down my spine. Of course the import bins where I used to pour over Flamin' Groovies and Soft Boys albums were gone, but they did have the CDs and I could get a bit of excitement thumbing through digitized versions of the same offerings I lusted over long ago. Downstairs is now closed up which is a shame because of that zing I'd get tromping down 'em to see the used/bootleg items up for grabs, but they did manage to move some of the graffiti from the walls next to the staircase over to the upper floor...available for eyeballing was Debbie Harry's '78 autograph as well as a bunch of things from...City Boy??? Dunno where the Laughner thing went, but someone should preserve it all for history's sake!

Surprisingly enough amidst the CDs and what's left of the clothing counter where paraphernalia used to be sold in less up-tight times was a display with some local long-playing records by groups I never even heard of, as well as one with what must be the very last batch of used records surviving from the glory days of used bins. Amongst these now-mystical wares was a British copy of WITH THE BEATLES ($6.00) which I actually inspected and considered buying before it dawned on me that I'm not that big of a Beatles fan, as well as a Bola Sete live thing that I was thinking of getting until I decided that I didn't want it that much considering the problems with my turntable. I left the shop, went a few doors down to the book store to see what was left of the shop that was once-brimming with hipster holy grail writings by the likes of William Burroughs and Patti Smith (not much...the only remaining artifacts of a boho past here was some R. Crumb-drawn AMERICAN SPLENDOR poster plus a pic of this Cleveland beat poet guy whose name I forget who got into trouble with the law probably for writing something dirty and killed himself), then returned to Record Revolution and purchased a CD of Funkadelic's FREE YOUR MIND AND YOUR ASS WILL FOLLOW. I had seen a copy of that in vinyl form at the same shop back in '88 and considered buying it then, but passed for some obscure reason. Buying it this go 'round was almost therapeutic, like maybe I did get a chance to slip back and make amends for a past non-purchasing error on my part.

To top it off, the man who waited on me was the same guy who had been checking my discs out ever since I started shopping at the store way back in the seventies! And as usual, he made a remark about the item I was buying (saying that he bought FREE YOUR MIND... when it came out and really liked it) just like he would when taking my moolah every other time over the years which I thought strangely surreal, a nice li'l cap to a day which I didn't expect to be anywhere as real as Gig Young's attempt to re-live past joys on THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but it was fitting.

2 comments:

Jim H said...

funnny... never took you for a guns 'n' roses fan..

Christopher said...

Not a "fan" as much as someone who liked what he heard and preferred hearing it on better-quality bootlegs as opposed to high-gloss legit disques. Actually, the person who "turned me on" to GNR was none other than ex-Mirrors/Rocket From the Tombs bassist Craig Bell!