Sunday, January 16, 2005

Chinaboise-THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD CD (Gulcher)

Those of you pongos smart enough to have latched onto a copy of BLACK TO COMM #25 back when it first came out 12/03 will probably remember my jumping-the-gun-on-EVERYONE review of the "pre-MX-80" Chinaboise CD. In case you don't remember (but do care), Chinaboise was a musical project/brainchild of future MX-80 vocalist/saxist/guitarist Rich Stim and Dave Mahoney (also a future MX-er, this time on drums) along with asst. helpers including local college radio personality Rich Fish, MX-80 guitarist extraordinaire Bruce Anderson, and a bevy of bountiful broads joining in as a chorus of sorts. A proto-punk delight for sure, best represented by their signature tune "The Greatest Story Ever Told" which just happened to end up on 1975's BLOOMINGTON ONE sampler alongside MX-80 (back when they were still MX-80 Sound), the Screaming Gypsy Bandits and a buncha other local talent that it seems hardly anybody cares about these days given how mainstreamish and aspiring to boring heights they were.

I believe this CD is a reissue of the cassette-only release that got mentioned in the MX-80 discog that FORCED EXPOSURE printed along with their MX-80 interview long ago, but the underrated and oft-ignored Eddie Flowers' liner-note interview with Stim doesn't seem to mention that so maybe it ain't. Whatever it is, THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD is a more-than-"representative" document of what else (besides MX-80 and the Bandits) was happenin' on in the fertile Bloomington scene in the early/mid-seventies which also gave us two vital fanzines (BEYOND OUR CONTROL and INITIAL SHOCK) and a label like Gulcher which in retrospect was about as important to the growth of Amerigan underground fun-and-games as any of the more popular companies out there in new wave land you can think of. Of course, if you wish, you can read more about the whole sordid saga here.

What is so remarkable about THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD is that on one hand, the thing just reeks mid-seventies miasma (with not only the energy crisis and JAWS getting their oh-so-'75 dues, but a well-placed Groucho Marx "aside" sends this thing straight back to the days of bad seventies impressions of not only Groucho but W. C. Fields and Clark Gable---who sez the seventies were that hip anyway!!!), yet on the other this sounds so late-period new wave (talking early-eighties original scene crash) that it almost seems contepo of some of those other MX-80 side projects of them dark ages, most notably PLAYETTE which maybe not-so-coincidentally is also slated for a Gulcher reissue. In fact, both Chinaboise and PLAYETTE share a track in "Dear Tears," which was originally done by Chinaboise as a sublime, jazzy tune and later on turned into a tortured, beautiful dirge. Future MX-80 staples pop up as well, like "Myonga Von Bontee," "SCP" (here w/lyrics as "Self Conscious Pisser") and "Partners in a Crime" (the song not only with the aforementioned Groucho impression but a nasty ref to Stim's ethnic background). Like I said in my original write-up, people studying the growth and development of MX-80 will enjoy just seeing how these songs developed from stripped-down comedy rock numbers into full-blown heavy metal ephiphanies.



The Flowers-conducted interview is somewhat informative (though I naturally want to know about three times more, or at least what Flowers edited out of the thing!), but the biggest surprise about the entire enchilada is the revelation that Chinaboise was a studio-only project (!), something which really stymies me to no end because I just THUNK that they were an actual, live-functioning and gigging aggregate though how they could have pulled off a live show with this material woulda been interesting. Anyway, for a fantastic look into the mid-seventies Bloomington underground complete w/"found sound" ("Time-Temp," "Walker Dallas"), Zappafied (or is it Firesignied?) funnies ("Breakfast at the Gables," "In The Sahara") and of course Bruce Anderson's better'n McLaughlin even guitar playing, you better get hold of it, and don't even wait until the price goes down like I tend to do!

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