Monday, December 26, 2005

Mars-THE COMPLETE STUDIO RECORDINGS 1977-1978 CD (Spooky Sound/G3G, available through Forced Exposure)

Hi-Hope your Christmas was merrie and NO, nobody picked up on any of the hints I was dropping with regards to what I wanted for the yuletide season so I guess there'll be no workable turntable around here, or at least for a little while! I really shouldn't complain given the wads of moolah I've received, so I guess I'll be having a little fun with the cash given the checks don't bounce! Anyway, today's post in question ain't gonna be one of those infamous BLOG TO COMM "gang-reviews" where I prattle off about a whole slewwa "recent acquisitions" not only to clue you hipsters in on what's "hot" and "happening" (hah!), but to lord over you all the neat-o items I have and YOU don't! Just know the real reason why I (a "respected" rock critic with a hotline to all the boss underground cabals around) do all this, and that's in order to SAVE THE WORLD from the encroaching arm of terminal boredom at the hands of godless Guccioneism and rampant Eddyspeak! Be thankful, you proles!

I just got hold of this rather recent (circa. last year) collection of the infamous (and first?) no wave group Mars' studio recordings after a long bout of deep-seated inner debate, which is one reason you're reading a review of this one in late 2005 rather'n when the thing actually CAME OUT. Y'see, since I already had these exact same items on other disques in my collection (including the top-ten spinner NO NEW YORK as well as the Atavistic reissue of the exact same Mars tench "retreated" by Jim "Foetus" Thirwell under the command of Lydia Lunch I presume) I figured that yet another recording of the same old same old would only be clogging my already over-clogged collection up even more, and man can I use the space! Well, I managed to latch onto a used copy of THE COMPLETE STUDIO RECORDINGS thanks to the people at ebay who offered it to me at a reasonable price, and so what if my vast array of recorded wonders is pushing everybody out of house and home anyway? I mean, it ain't like the rest of the occupants here hafta STICK AROUND, y'know?

All funnin' aside, THE COMPLETE STUDIO RECORDINGS is a pretty good wowzer of an archival dig even if you have all those aforementioned platters (as well as the totally boss MARS LIVE which I actually had reservations about when I first chanced upon it over a decade back, probably because of the artsy/decadent direction most of this music headed in by the time the eighties hit and all these punques hadda be radical!) because not only were Mars so musically-attuned to a specific "o" frame-of-mind that seemed to flourish in the seventies underground but fizzed out soon after, but the music in its original form is so much better than the eighties "reprocessing" which was interesting enough but frankly totally unnecessary cluttering up the mental decoding even more. Herein's a sound, a style that seemed to take everything that was good and wholesome about New York underground music from Lou on up through Suicide, Man Ray (the group not the photog) and the whole glam trip through the unmitigated noise that be RADIO ETHIOPIA (album and song) on and on. And it's all taken on a strange, feral quality by the time the group recorded their swan song that later appeared on the Lust/Unlust 12-incher. Hearing the group go from their '77 debut (originally scheduled to appear on Patti Smith's own Mer imprint but hustled onto the French Rebel label because of Smith's usually short memory) with the even-then cranky "Third Uncle"-styled riff up through their Eno-produced NO NEW YORK trackage (which, despite the original verdict, is so strident that I wish Eno had worked with more no wave groups including the unrecorded/documented ones seemingly lost to all time) finally ending with their totally chaotic conclusion is quite a trip, or at least a lot better'n hearing the usual young upstarts with their blinding flashes of brilliance turning out even more tired than the old fart music these groups set out to destroy.

The insert to this mini-LP-sleeve-styled offering's a help complete with not only a much-needed history of the group but explanations of all their songs (as if they needed any explanation) but anyway it's sure nice to get a li'l insight into the world of Mars after all these years of willful obscurity. And, believe-it-or-leave-it, but hopefully an article on Sumner Crane will be appearing either here or within the pages of a future BLACK TO COMM! (I hope you readers are noticing my sly linkage up to the BACK ISSUES post that I keep sticking in these reviews and such in order to nudge you into scarfing up a whole buncha these crucially needed fanzines rotting away here at BTC central...really, if you like the writing and ideas found within this blog you should buy the mag in order to read some of my more, er, UNCHAINED opines!) Y'see, I've been talking to Lou Rone about him and Lou's been filling me in on a lotta things about Crane that I'll betcha didn't know, like that he and Mars drummer Nancy Arlen were married for awhile and that Sumner was a big opera fan, which I guess that you woulda figured given his JOHN GAVANTI album, so whatever you do, buy up a lotta back issues so's I can afford to put the thing out SOON, and you won't be sorry!

A postscript entitled...YECCH!

Finally, props for even keeping the Simply Saucer flame alive must be thrown to Chris Stigliano of BLACK TO COMM magazine (formerly PHFUDD!), a rock fanzine journalist who was featuring the Saucer on his covers long before the LP was even issued. I don't know if you want to call his various calls to action the groundswell that got folks to stand up and take notice, but the band could very well be a distant memory for Hamilton mall shoppers & space rock freaks to this day if not for his intervention. A quarter of a century is an awful long time to remain unacquainted with this canonical, far-ahead-of-the-herd rock & roll music.-Jay Hinman, PERFECT SOUND FOREVER


tim ellison said...

Chris, have you heard Coffin Full of Blues? I have not. Someone should put it out! I wonder if Gulcher would be innerested.

Anonymous said...

sad news, via Artnet

NANCY ARLEN, 1942-2006
Nancy Arlen, 64, sculptor who showed her cast-polyester abstractions at Robert Steffanotti Gallery and the New Museum in the 1970s, died following heart surgery on Sept. 17, 2006. Arlen made a series of glass works in 1983 and then more-or-less retired as an artist. She was also the drummer for Mars, one of the "No Wave" bands featured on the 1978 No New York record album produced by Brian Eno. Mitchell Algus Gallery exhibited some of her works in 1998, and is working with the estate.