A THREE-FOR-ONE SHOT HERE!
Yes, while other blogs may give you one review per post thinking they've done their duty and it's time to go back to their white-collar jobs having fed the lions so-to-speak, here at BLOG TO COMM at least I attempt to give you more bang for your buck! This time by posting three-count-'em-THREE writeups on items I'm pretty sure you'll want to someday listen to, watch or read so whatever you do, don't go saying that I don't go the EXTRA MILE for yez INGRATES out there!
Umela Hmota II-VE SKLEPE-1976/77 2-CD set (Guerilla Records Czech Republic, though more easily obtainable for us Amerigans [and others?] through Tamizdat)
I'm sure anyone who's poured through his doggie-eared copy of BLACK TO COMM #19 already knows the story behind this famous Czech underground rock group by heart, but for those cheap-o slackers who are too penny-pinched to buy a copy here's an all-too-brief encapsulation of the Umela Hmota saga which doesn't even COMPARE to what has previously been written in those pages but like I said you'll hafta fork over hard-earned cash for that! Anyway, Umela Hmota were, more or less, a (proto-) punk grouping stationed in the heart of communist-riddled Prague, Czechoslovakia that was formed in 1973 by the mighty triumvrate of vocalist Dino, bassist (later guitarist) Alfred and guitarist Josef Vondruska, heavily under the influence of not only the underground rock that had been creeping through the strict confines of the prevaling Iron Curtain kultur of the times (Fugs, Mothers, Lou...) but such local legends as the Plastic People of the Universe and DG-307. Umela Hmota (name translating into "Artificial Matter" aka "Plastic" so you know where their loyalties lied!) played the vast array of underground festivals to surprising success despite their lack of solid chops (or perhaps because of it) and continued on until a 1975 rift in the group (reportedly caused by Vondruska wanting to introduce his pro-heroin numbers into the band's repertoire) ended in an Amon Duul-ish negotiation. Thus, a Vondruska-less group continued on as Umela Hmota 2 (or II) while Vondruska started his own variant entitled what else but Umela Hmota 3 (III), an outfit which Dino (in the enclosed booklet) describes as being "MC5-influenced" but if you want to hear for yourself all you have to do is pick up a copy of the CD that comes with BLACK TO COMM #22 which I know you'll want to do one of these days.
Anyway, as far as Umela Hmota II/2 is concerned, critics have compared these guys to everyone from the Fugs and Velvet Underground to David Peel and Hawkwind and I ain't gonna argue with that, but while we're at it how about if I toss in some early Black Sabbath and the Detroit heavy metal of the Stooges and MC5 as well! Yes, for a group born of a totalitarianism that most alternative doofuses on this side of the fence continually dream of, Umela Hmota II certainly had their high energy down pat! The band is pure primitiveness yet play with a strange finesse that's unassuming especially for a mid-seventies garage band, utilizing interesting primal wah-wah guitar leads courtesy Alfred complete with Dino's bellowing growl and a repeato-riffage that sounds more punk 1970 than 1975 but that would figure since these guys with their shoulder-length hair and beards more or less resemble John Sinclair-dominated Detroit than mid-seventies New York, if you get my drift. But since I'm sure things were at least five years behind everything else over in the Worker's Paradise, who could blame Dino for wearing a headband as late as 1977? Not me!
The influence of the Plastic People and DG-307 can also be discerned amidst the hard-edged first-LP Stooges meets first-LP Fugs sounds extant, perhaps due to Dino's cheap-o harmonica playing (which sounds more like a beginner's Hohner accordion being played by, well, a beginner!) as well as his kazooskapading which at times takes on atonal bliss worthy of Albert Ayler. And what's even better is that, despite the language barrier, you can still enjoy Uh II on pure musical merits alone and feel great that at least these guys were fighting against a REAL enemy of evil intent 'stead of the vague anti-capitalistic/moralistic downpat leftscreed heard by way too many wonks here inna West these days making me wish all those pampered leftoid bands seen cluttering up alternativeland would be immediately transported to the gulag of their choice where they can ponder the ultimate end results of their political dreams preferably while flinging heavy sacks of salt somewhere in Siberia.
Meanwhile the rest of the group rocks out like just about any primo punk battalion you could find in Europe (or elsewhere) in the early/mid-seventies with maybe a tinge of a "progressive" sound (thanks to the Plastics and/or Zappa influence?) but that doesn't get in the way at all. It all snuggles up fine with the overall approach of Uh II, who on these two discs have issued some of the better proto-punk sprawl I've heard since...well, Les Rallizes Denudes, Chinaboise, the Magic Tramps...
As far as my favorite tracks go...I like "Vodovodu Alkohol" which sounds surprisingly similar to the one appearing on the CD sampler that comes with issue #22 of my own fanzine which is no surprise because it's THE EXACT SAME TRACK only sounding much better, more like a studio recording rather than the clandestine cassette job I originally thought it was! "Slunecny muz" is the cut that reminds me of the early no-chord Sabbathisms mentioned earlier, while "My dva a knez" (which turned up re-recorded on Uh's second reunion LP back in the early-nineties) is an intense creepy-crawl that comes off like Uh 2's answer to Rocket From The Tombs' original version of "Final Solution" and this just might be "thee" sequel to that mass of Blue Cheer/Hawkwind cosmic ooze for all I know.
There's also some live tunage (including an entire CD recorded Feb. '76) which features Alfred also tinkling the ivories on an electric job (which makes 'em sound even more like the 1972-period Plastic People, or is it just the cheap equipment?) and it's all what I would call "highly recommended," especially if you're like me and are in a quandary as to just who to give the "Best Archival Dig of 2005" award to this December 31st! A daunting task for sure, and although VE SKLEPE-1976/77 originally came out two years back that's no excuse for me NOT to give it any belated dues because it is that important if you've ever considered yourself rockism inclined one iota. Like I said in my earlier post, e-mailing their label (Guerilla) will probably do you no good but Tamizdat (who have an office in NYC where you can send payment w/o worrying about any overseas sticky fingers) were helpful (and fast), and I just ordered Guerilla's 2-CD collection of DG-307 '73/'75 sides entitled HISTORIE/HYSTERIE from 'em as well!
SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS DVD (Other)
Over the years the Kuchar Brothers' films have been getting all sortsa typical revamp/revision thematic remakes from alla these upsprout kultur-driven Susan Sontag wannabes who are more'n anxious to inflict their warped ideas of right and wrong upon us presumingly unsuspecting peons who don't know any better. I mean, if you thought people finding weird homo/politico insight in Shakespeare back inna seventies were strange, you should see what all those Queer/Feminist Studies groups at yer local college are now doing with EVERYTHING ELSE from kiddie books to old films and music to even this six-oh avant spew which I didn't think even took itself that seriously to being with! And it is a shame, because although people like the Kuchar Brothers (Mike and George) are getting feted by a whole buncha gays out there I gotta admit one thing, and that's their films, at least the ones seen on this brand-spanking-new DVD, are pretty much 100% hetero-oriented themselves! OK, the one with pop artist Red Grooms as a guy torn between a rock and a hard one does border into the realm of "hey sailor" territory, but anyone who'd think that this one was pro-queer whether in a modern or sixties sense has gotta be mixing a little something extra into his umbrella-endowed drink.
Anyway, this disque features three of brother Mike's (who I "think" is the gay one...the other's normal, right?) films, most notably the title feature which is considered by some one of the top underground films of the sixties which is no mere feat considering just how many of these flickers had been unleashed during those whacked out days. And of this trio, SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS is certainly the best of the batch, a futuristic tale set a million years from now where humans, recovering from a nuclear war, decide to indulge themselves in the pleasures of unmitigated lust and Wise Potato Chips while their humanesque androids (aka "fleshapoids") do their bidding as supposedly docile slaves. Amidst the decadence, opulence and just plain "ence" a fleshapoid (played by Kuchar reg Bob Cowan, who also "assembled" the magnificent score and narrates the saga sounding like a cross between Criswell in PLAN 9 and Charlie Chaplin from his forties reissue of THE GOLD RUSH) develops feelings of love for a female counterpart who works for the extremely femme-ish George Kuchar in the futuristic domicle nearby! The quest for love leads to a literally electrifying climax and I dunno about you, but I totally enjoyed the ending to this rather engrossing tale which actually made me feel good in a wholesome, satisfying way because...even in the world of underground flicks and all that sleaze found therein true love and happiness can be obtained if one looks hard enough. Won't give too much away, but I have the feeling this won't settle well with hardcore feminists one bit.
Also included on the disque are THE CRAVEN SLUCK, featuring a bleached blond housewife with a dullsville hubby (once again played by Cowan) who ignores her even after rescuing her from a suicide attempt (she later falls for a mop-topped stranger played by George Kuchar while walking Bocko the dog, yet another Kuchar regular who's seen here in a disgusting short scene trying to take a dump) and gets zapped by flying saucers for her troubles. (I gave the ending away because in this film it doesn't matter---Cowan also plays the handicapped and abused spouse of the cruel-beyond-belief Kuchar, who gives his ailing wife water straight from the toilet to wash her pain medicine down with!) THE SECRET OF WENDEL SAMSON is the fag one I mentioned earlier, with Grooms playing himself (a pop artist) who's torn between the gay set (in highlarious sequences that I'm surprised don't earn the ire of today's Stalinist gay libbers [rather than their praise] considering how they portray the idea of gay life/love straight outta some Charles Dannemyer nightmare!) and the straight stuff, all ending in a great shootout that's gotta be seen to be believed if you want me to be cornball about it. And they're all a hoot and seedy like NAKED CITY could get at times but not dirty one bit (I'd give all of these films a PG-13, and a fun PG-13 at that!) and if you had kidz you'd probably rather they sneek-peek this one as opposed to some message film that's going around making all the coeds misty-eyed and heart rendered. Well, it's a lot better'n watching the Edward Murrow/Joseph McCarthy story rehashed for a new generation of thumbscrewfreaks!
WOMAN, THE INCREDIBLE LIFE OF YOKO ONO by Alan Clayson with Barb Jungr and Robb Johnson (Chrome Dreams)
Gotta admit that I spent the latter portion of the seventies listening to the likes of Yoko Ono as much as I did everyone from Zappa and his kin to the Velvets, and if I didn't say that Ono's earlier musical stylings (which were becoming easy to find thanks to Apple's wares going cutout back in '76) weren't some sorta strange influence on me I'd probably be trying to hide more from you readers than I already am. And as I said way back in the now o.p. issue of BLACK TO COMM #23, the lady was like a real-life Lilly Munster/Morticia Addams in hotpants to me in the days when she and hubby John Whatzizname were acting like the bare hair bunch doing a lotta strange things that only made me wanna burrow further into the past of comic strips and television because the present was getting just a little too freaky, but I dunno, I kinda thought it was all "cool" even in my own suburban brat way. And as I grew up and started discovering different things on my own (instead of authority's, the media's or other kids') terms I started to see Ono as someone who was making a racket with music and art in a way that sorta connected with me as a guy who found release in things that were upsetting and confrontational if anything. Maybe that's why I have a soft spot in my heart for the early wails and moans Ono laid down on all those records that it seems nobody would ever give the time of day to, and although almost all of her later works (whether in music or art) were pretty pallid in comparison and only the most sissified of American (and World) "Manhood" seems to flock to her and the club remixes of earlier recorded endeavors Ono's making her megabucks with these days it's not like I'm totally tossing the dame off, even though she can be a pretty big pain to bear at times given her kneejerk opines on things I certainly don't want to know anything about!
It's those times when she isn't doing the old hippie pontificating that I'm more concerned with, and WOMAN deals with those moments just as much as it talks about every mis-step and career blunder Ono may have made down the line. The only problem is, the entire book is one big wooooooosh through Ono's life that seemingly mentions all bases but doesn't dwell on any of 'em. A lotta neat dirt we could've used has been expurgated and what's worse is that there's nothing negative about Ono anywhere to be found, as if she never made a bad album or said some things that might have qualified her as a class-A moonbeam, and really we know she's done both.
OK, I gotta admit that there are loads of interesting little shards of info especially detailing her pre-John days that I didn't know about (and two Deviants refs. including a mention of Mick Farren's clandestine recordings of telephone conversations with various London underground personalities [Ono included] that were planned to be used on PTOOFF!, and drummer Russell Hunter's description of Ono as "bossy" and "ordering everybody around" during her London stay in '67) but overall I was left wanting MORE. Which may be a good sign if at least there was a little satisfaction, but frankly I couldn't find very much if any. Lack of good pix also hinders the thing a bit...you'd think they would have dug up some long-unpublished oldies somewhere rather'n rehash the same old snaps! Anyway, if you're curious about Ono as a Beatle wife or as a beatnik this would be a nice book to get, but I would have preferred something more intense and in-depth, perhaps written by a master of the Old/New Rock Criticism that sprang from the pen of Bangs and Meltzer rather than this speedwritten (and come to think of it way too short) tome.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
A THREE-FOR-ONE SHOT HERE!