Saturday, March 19, 2005


Let's face it, if you hate mid-seventies garage primitivism, atonal blasts of pure white noise feedback, Jimi Hendrix-inspired guitar twist, Velvet Underground riff/drone, general high-energy jamz, terroristic usage of light and sound coupled with a hefty dose of unbridled pure mania unseen in the rock & roll world for a longer time than you (or even I) can imagine, then you're really gonna hate this DVD.

Avid readers of this blog are well aware of the praise and homage I have heaped upon this truly "cult" band, a bunch so unbelievably pure with regards to their mission and execution of beyond-hard rock norms (over a period of almost thirty years!) and under very clandestine wraps to boot that the stale term "cult" doesn't even start to describe Les Rallizes Denudes' whole reason for being. Formed in the mad rush of Japanese college-level dissent and protest during the fall of 1967 and performing from early '68 until the mid-nineties, Les Rallizes Denudes (or, actually, leader/free-guitarist Mizutani + whomever else) were a band who've unleashed an incredibly high-energy (in pure BACK DOOR MAN-speak) pow'r surge music on the few lucky enough to get hold of this wail first hand complete with a blinding light show that had fanz within eye and even ear-shot comparing these malcontents to everything from the EPI-period Velvets to early San Francisco thud-bomp (Blue Cheer...). Couple all that with a legendary outlaw/radical bent (alleged Japanese Red Army involvement with a former member somehow tied up with a hijacking to North Korea that Mizutani was even asked to participate in!) and you've got yourself one walloping huge hunka Japanese rock & roll history to contend with. A verifiable cross twixt the early-Velvet Underground, Deviants and VON LMO, and a group so enveloping in their mysticism that (as you'd guess) even the obviously Denudes-inspired produce that came out in their wake like LSD March and "acolytes" Up Tight may come close, but I'm not doling out any cigars yet...

Anyhoo, this DVD-R features (what at least I would call) mandatory Denudes material taken from a coupla sources. The first clip's from an August, 1976 appearance at something called the Sunset Glow Festival, an outdoor thingie that looks just like every other outdoor thingie you've seen via your own personal seventies rock VCR/DVD archive for years on end. Y'know, a one-camera set-up job which moves in and out from the stage focusing on various aspects of the show including (beside the on-stage goings on) the audience and the sky for that matter. Quality is very good, and here the Denudes kinda look like a Japanese variation on the Real Kids or some other American garage band upstarts around the same time with long hair (this being just-pre-Sex Pistols anti-hippie credo) only they're all Japanese with the drummer wearing a mask that looks like it was made from a training bra while the group do one of their signature songs, the one with the obvious fifties beat whose title I forget. Like I said, good sound and overall quality though the whole thing just ends "like that" after eight or so minutes.

Flashing forward to 1994, we now see the Denudes (or actually Mizutani with the rest of the group hidden beneath the fog and amidst the stroboscopic effect) in one of their last incarnations courtesy of a pair of clandestine videotapers who edited their results into a halfway-decent two-camera effort that makes YOU just as much a part of the audience (meaning, you get to see a buncha back of heads!) as the brave souls who taped this! Mizutani's hair's shorter now, more or less in a 1965 Beatles flop and he's now clad in leather like someone's idea of a fifties rocker, and what's amazing about the whole thing is that the music, even that far down the line, is pretty much the same in style and overall scronk as it was twenty years earlier! Yes, while many other bands had "improved" their sound as time went on and "evolved," usually into some polished, taste-laden outfit maybe you and definitely I could care less about, Les Rallize Denudes remained steadfastly primitive and unreconstructively raw! As usual, the backing band lays down their basic riff somehow derived from hoary old Velvet ideals, while Mizutani grabs the mic Johnny Thunders-style and sings in his usually moany, quasi hoarse way before latching onto his axe and emitting some of the most extreme all-over feedback guitar I've heard since VON LMO, or at least when Lou Reed stopped playing his white-noise cantatas whenever the Velvets (make the Lou) quit being avant garde. And it can get pretty out-there as well, almost to the point of post-eruption pure unrelenting solid screech like on the twentysome-minute-long traditional show closer "The Last One" which at times can make even you (like it did your humble reviewer) actually simulate a hallucinogenic experience akin to being there, and being about as dosed as I'm sure Mizutani was. In fact, coupled with the extreme stroboscopic light show (which I'll assume is also a leftover from the band's early days when they tried to simulate the Warhol/'Frisco experience with blinding lights and reflective balls giving off an effect certainly not "in-tune" with the usual peace-'n-flowers vibes o' the fact, I wonder if this sorta aural/visual chicanery's what the ultra-legendary band Man Ray had in mind with their planned monochrome set up!), this DVD can send you into mental realms only Brion Gysin could explain. Not recommended for epileptics.

Another interesting surprise...amidst the sonic screech and repeato-rock, Mizutani actually picks up a HARMONICA for about thirty seconds of some post-Dylan play that's out of tune at times, but a lot better'n Crocus Behemoth's great duncework on Pere Ubu's deconstructive cover of the Seeds' "Pushing Too Hard." Not as obtrusive as when he picks up this Firebird and starts screeching and playing it totally oblivious to the patented tape-loop riff the rest of the group's laying down.

It's pretty neat getting hold of these video documents from downright punkazoid faves whom I never thought I'd glom all my born days. I mean, if ya'd asked me twenny years back whether I'd ever experience seeing the MC5 or Stooges via the small screen (let alone stuff from the likes of the NUGGETS bands, who I thought would remain locked up in Dick Clark's vault forever...) I probably woulda thought "feh!" But nowadays it's like this stuff is coming outta the woodwork and at a rate so fast that even the most studious collector probably couldn't keep up with the backlog. Whatever, I think it's fantab that I got a DVD of this in my collection to refer to again and again, and who knows, perhaps this is yet another start of the archival dig into other classic proto/avant-punk vaults for similar wares I never thought even existed in the first place. I know that there's just gotta be a whole load more video rarities to be unleashed one of these days, and although I'm not exactly gonna be holding my bowels until it does come out (the videos, that is), I got the strange and tingling feeling that there are gonna be a lot more goodies of similar intent winging their ways to our stinky boudoirs within a relatively short time. Dunno about you, but I'm impatient.

1 comment:

Percy Dovetonsils said...

Hmm. I don't suppose you're interested in making a copy of this DVD-R for me? I don't want to pay insane amounts of cash for it, but I'd love to see it.