Todd Tamanend Clark-NOVA PSYCHEDELIA 2-CD set (Anopheles)
Todd Tamanend Clark (known to us who bought his classic mid-eighties self-released album INTO THE VISION as just plain old Todd Clark) is one person who really might be able to be classified as a bona-fide enigma. Well, at least he sure seemed that way when that aforementioned platter got unleashed onto an unsuspecting underground music loving clique back in the middle of one of the more boring decades ever at least until the nineties and oh-ohs...after all, here was a guy coming atcha in the midst of all this geeky post-wave and slick pop and light metal, and with an electronic barrage that hadda be heard to be believed! And not only that but he was getting such bigname (at least in my book) talent as Cheetah Chrome, Alan Ravenstine and William Burroughs to appear on his disc which at the time seemed like a big feather in his cap and his feather certainly made for my obsessive/compulsive-about-such-things pleasure, that's for sure! OK, the Burroughs recitation on the title track was taken straight offa CALL ME BURROUGHS (Clark may be good but he ain't no Dashiel Hedayat!) but the nova synthroid energy was still there and considering how this guy came off like all the best the seventies hadda offer wrapped up for mid-eighties sound gobble, who could (especially in 1985) ask for anything more? Back then I had Clark pegged as being a healthy mix of early-seventies Eno and even-earlier-seventies Alice Cooper, and twenty years down the line I gotta commend myself for being astute about such things even then!
Still, there seemed to be a lack of somethingorother that kept Clark from being a classic (or better yet accepted) underground persona that I didn't catch, but others might've. Not quite too sure what it was, but it reminds me of a story of little importance I'll tell ya...y'see, Clark lives in Butler PA (also home to the Congo Eels of yore as well as a lotta factories including the plant which used to make the Austin here inna USA) and perhaps due to the relative closeness in locale (twixt Sharon and Butler, that is), I happened to obtain a copy of Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream" 12-inch single that was once owned by Clark! How do I know this? Well, Clark actually wrote his name on the lower left corner of the front cover which I think is cool, because a lotta people liked to write their names on record covers so's nobody would swipe 'em or for some other reason (like vanity?), and better a personality like Clark's name on a sleeve than some schmuck like Joe Fafoofnik's! However, it seems that a person who owned this very record afterwards (a BLACK TO COMM contributor whose name I won't mention in order to protect the innocent...mainly me because I don't wanna get hit!) had the unmitigated audacity to print the words "is an asshole" directly beneath Todd's very name! Naturally shocked, I asked this contributor-in-question as to why he would do such an uncouth, bestial thing as that. I forget his response other'n either he met or he knew someone who knew Todd and obviously they didn't hit it off too swimmingly or something like that, but sheesh...around the time INTO THE VISION came out I talked with Todd on the phone a few times and he came off like the nicest, aw shucks kinda guy I ever met who also had a good knowledge of electronics (I told him that I liked his album because I thought the synths of yore he used sounded so much earthier than the then-current Sweet Polly Purebred electronics seen all over the place, and he gave me a neat discourse of the differences between analog and digital devices that did make quite an impression in my oft-vacated beanie). Heck, the man even asked me if I happened to be "musically inclined" and when I told him I joked around on various noisemakers and even recorded some of the rather unmusical results, he then pondered whether or not I was a non-musician type like Eno! I felt kinda flattered although my musical level is about that of ol' Brian as an embryo, but the buzz I got was pleasant anyway. Even after this admission Todd invited me to his abode to do some jamming, and though I naturally declined for fear of being humililated on a musical level I understand that he also asked Sister Ray's Mark Hanley as well, and I recall that Mark was actually thinking of taking Todd up on his offer!
But that was long ago, and though much has happened within the BLACK TO COMM sphere in those years (mainly much degradation and obscurity!) it looked to me as if not much has been going on as far as Mr. Clark has been concerned. Another single entitled "Flame Over Philadelphia" managed to get popped out within a year or so, but after that it seems as if I (and maybe a lotta other people) lost contact with Todd. I guess that Todd actually was musically active after all (considering the backlog of CDs of his that are available through CD Baby), but at least it's neat that Karl Ikola at Anopheles had the brains to release a two-CD set of classic seventies/eighties Todd tracks because, even in this already boss retro-seventies underground-saturated year which has seen reissues and archival upheavals I never thought would see the light of day, we can always use more of these old-timey offerings in order to remind ourselves of just how exciting the whole fanzine/CREEM-bred high energy DIY scene was before a lotta geeks hadda turn garage aesthetics into "amerindie" disposables.
My Eno/Alice comparisons seem to shine through on these platters, from the single recorded with Todd's early aggregate Stars September '75 entitled "Flame Over Africa"/"Two-Thousand Light Years From Home" (both sides weirdo slow-down creepy crawls) to the all-out glam/metal stomper "We're Not Safe" that sounds like it coulda been some early Cooper outtake ca. EASY ACTION with a lotta synths added for extra-spook effect. And, in the best seventies-punk "we remember the sixties" fashion, there're also covers of Paul Revere's "Hungry" and the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" that seem to suit these thudsters and their six-oh template just fine. In between there's a lotta fine electronic non-mummery excitement with wailing theremins and mini-moog blotches that sound like Eric Lindgren's studio just went ka-plooey!...lemme tell you, I don't care what Contributor "X" may think, but I know that Todd's mix of early-seventies hard-rock and style ('n take a look at that pic [on page 17 of the enclosed booklet] of a shirtless Todd live and onstage...somebody please feed this guy!!!) with now-outmoded electronics is one of the better underground trips I've heard in quite some time, or at least since Chrome stopped being of interest to me.
(And by the way, can anyone out there like Karl f'rinstance find out whether or not it was Todd's "Stars" or another band with the same handle who performed at the now-fabled CBGB Christmas Festival sometime during the closing days of 1975? Yeah, I get the feeling that there must've been a hunnerd groups calling themselves Stars between then and now [including the famed Syd Barrett/Twink attempt] but considering that the Fest featured a lotta outta town talent made up of suburban garage band wannabes who read about the club in ROLLING STONE, who knows? Perhaps these Stars were those Stars, and finding out the plain truth would be nice one of these days if only to clear up these nagging details that've been cluttering up my mind for years.)
Oh, and the entire INTO THE VISION album plus the "Flame Over Philadelphia" single are included as well (though I gotta admit that I don't quite cozy up to Todd's dedication of this song to Mumia Abu-Jamal especially after reading more and more about the case which has clearly put me on the "Fry Mumia" side of the issue---and I ain't even that much of a pro-death penalty cheerleader these days either!) and yeah I know that it's redundant and even futile to rehash the ol' arguments in favor of high-energy rock such as this that you've heard from the word processors of folks like me for ages but between you, me and the laser I'd take advantage of the one-month only sales price ($17.99) that Karl is offering because especially in these money-shortage times you can't afford to pass up bargains such as this!
Oh, and I didn't tell you about the time Todd went to the Allen Theater in Cleveland to see the Slade/Stooges show early '74 and sat in the third row next to one Crocus Behemoth and left during the Slade set because he thought they were boring and talked with Iggy in the vestibule who came off like a nice and friendly chap for being a rock star and all! (That Stooges show must've been impressive as well, since his "Secret Sinema" on disque two comes off more like Iggy ca. KILL CITY as opposed to Jim Morrison, Todd's intended influence!)
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