Sunday, April 09, 2006


Stand by for some more half-backed theorizing, mindless Velvet Underground worship, substandard writing and a generally lackadaisical effort to attempt at revealing to you just exactly why you should or shouldn't purchase the various items that had the misfortune to be mentioned below. As Lindsay Hutton once uttered, "Every one a Maserati!" but in this case I don't think I've even reached the lofty heights of a Subaru 360.

Big Star-#1 RECORD/RADIO CITY CD (Ardent/Stax)

As Edgar Breau once said, "these guys sound like they've spawned a lot of imitators." Of course he was talking about the Ramones, but as far as Big Star is concerned we can say purty much the same ol' thing. And, as Brian Eno once said, only a few thousand albums were sold, but everyone who bought one formed a band. To which Billy Miller added, "they all suck." Of course ol' Brian and Billy were talking about the Velvet Underground but the same thing can be said about this classy early-seventies mid-South wonder which took everything good that the mid-sixties and early-seventies hadda offer and didn't come off like amerindie forgettables in the process. And even with all the altie wannabes ripping Big Star off from here to San Diego and back I gotta admit it sure holds up better'n all the turds it spawned.

Mick Farren-MONA (THE CARNIVOROUS CIRCUS) CD (Captain Trip Japan, available through Slippytown)

Farren himself referred to this as one of the worst albums ever made, and considering that John and Yoko actually mentioned that MONA was one of their faves maybe Farren did have a point. Still, I gotta admit that Farren's contractual obligation disc sounds a lot better to me now than it did twennysome years back when I first heard it, with a good gruff dirge like quality to it that woulda come off bee-you-ti-ful if it were interspersed in between the Deviants' debut masterpiece PTOOFF!. The Hell's Angel interview at first turned me off faster than a chastity speech at a gay bar, but considering that PTOOFF! was to've had clandestine telephone calls (including one to Yoko herself!) mixed in with the music maybe MONA is just a belated take on what might have been, eh?

Hackamore Brick-ONE KISS LEADS TO ANOTHER CD (Mr. Nobody)

Well, the long-time bargain-bin classic and subject of a major Tim Ellison article in the last issue of his MODERN ROCK MAGAZINE has finally gotten a reissue, though don't start panting too heavily Rover. The lack of a bar-code, in-depth liner notes and the presence of audible if you turn it up just enough hiss (not forgetting the general third-generation sound on their single-only "a"-side "Searchin'", a radical reworking of the Coasters classic) all point towards an illegit release but still, it's good to have this wowzer in a format that sounds much better'n your old reliables and only a total dullard'd doubt that ONE KISS LEADS TO ANOTHER remains a hot one long after other then-contempos had worn out their welcome on your turntable. And boy, could I go into the wonderful inner workings of this classic garage band ranker, like not only how Hackamore Brick predate Patti Smith's early live and recorded efforts by a good three years but how these whoosh-where-did-they-go? guys encompass the entire career of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (including their early experiments up through their mid-range folk period until the final days when they revisited their early roots through an early-seventies sense of pop!) mixed in with the best of the British Invasion and that Neil Young album everybody likes...but I won't.


These items were jetted my way by a noted musical entity to be named at a later date NOT necessarily for review purposes, but for my own personal pleasure. Well, that's all fine and dandy, but I thought I'd give 'em a mention not in order to show just how "all-encompassing" I can be when it comes to music that doesn't fall outside the usual no-chord thud, but as a challenge which I thought would be especially "involving" but not totally disgusting like trying to tackle writing about the KEITH EMERSON PLAYS THE CLASSICS WITH HIS THIRD LEG album or something equally pretentious.

Yeah, I gotta admit that SARGE PEPPER ain't exactly been one of my favorite Beatles outings, and I've been telling everybody within earshot exactly that for the past few centuries! However, since I must admit that I haven't even heard the blasted disque in its entirety ever since Jillery packed up her records and split for parts known and since album tracks glommed on "Classic" FM radio don't necessarily tell the whole story I figured why's a freebie y'know?

And if you think that I'm going to tell you that I've experienced some great epiphany and that SGT. PEPPER is in fact one of the best albums to ever hit the bins at Ernie's Stereo Mart then I'll tell you that you've been mixing a little something in with your sterno. And if Billy Miller could spout off that the Velvet Underground were a great band that spawned substandard emulators I can say that SGT. PEPPER was a overblown and way-too-self-conscious album that led to even worse art rock that sorta gave the following decade a huge dank demeanor that a thousand VON LMO's couldn't wash away. And yeah, I know that such admirable people as Sterling Morrison (and probably the other Velvets) as well as Richard Meltzer himself have waxed eloquently about SGT. PEPPER, but that doesn't mean that I have to like it. But who can fault 'em anyway...I mean they were the Beatles and given that the only bloke to give the thing a huge thumbs down at the time was Richard Goldstein and everybody knows he's a snooze maybe Sterl and Richard had something going for 'em, y'know?

Yeah, it's "art" and not rock which should disqualify SGT. PEPPER on a whole load of bases, but in order to say something "good" about it (in the same fashion that certain people love to say nice things about bad "that Hitler sure knew how to build a Volkswagen!" or "Chris' new web site has some interesting posts about music sometimes, and he got me curious about a modern Japanese compilation a few weeks ago"...y'know, real patronizing fluff that serves no purpose whatsoever!) I'll say that I thought "Getting Better" sounded slightly bouncier and even more eloquent than I remembered, but maybe that's because Don Fellman once ranted on about how he could relate to the lyrics of that one! Anyway, before I get a deluge of response crying "Sellout!" lemme just remind you that for the most part I still believe that SGT. PEPPER is pretty tiresome, non-rocking, and sure to disappoint the garage-bred primates amongst us. As it has for almost four decades awlready!

Regarding MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, I dunno why a lotta goofs bust on this one because it sure sounds better than its predecessor. And for a throw-together consisting of an English EP set and some newies it seems a lot more cohesive than PEPPER's "bo-de-oh-do"...after all, the familiar tunes on this one at least come closer to a Floydian sense of psychedelic construction than it did on PEPPER, and I gotta admit that tracks like "Baby You're a Rich Man" and even "Penny Lane" have much in common with REVOLVER's sense of 1966-styled rock experimentation fortunately not forgetting the "rock" which seemed in such short supply on PEPPER. Not only that, but do I detect the influence (no matter how slight) of a Velvet Underground repeato-riff on "Flying" or is it my over-Velvet-saturated imagination at work again? You tell me...I just wondered, because at the same time these tracks were being laid down the Beatles were also engaging in a session of avant-garde musique concrete that reportedly bore a heavy resemblance to what the Pink Floyd and Velvets were up to at the time. Don't be so surprised...after all, you gotta remember that Brian Epstein was snuggling up to Lou Reed telling our favorite perv that he and his boyfriend listened to THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO during their holiday, and another report had Eppie and John Lennon himself doing the juke box jury thing with the debut VU platter so I wouldn't be that surprised if Lennon had swiped a few tricks from the Velvets playbook! And not only that, but Sterling Morrison claims that none other'n Hari Whatzizname did his own pinching, this time a solo right off THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO and straight onto MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (or was it "You Know My Name"???) so maybe all that talk about the Velvets influencing all the biggies and while they were still around is more than just idle thunk onna part of a buncha rockcrit wannabes? It certainly is something to ponder, and if someone out there has the time and backing to do a book on the vast Velvets influence maybe an interview with a well-plied Paul McCartney would be in order???

Rust-COME WITH ME CD (Akarma Italy)

Forget the actual why as to the reasoning behind me scarfing up this particular disque, but I'm at least relieved that I hadn't made yet another one of my pig-in-a-poke purchases along the lines of the time I bought an album by the eighties British group Japan thinking they were going to sound like early Roxy Music, or for that matter Dead or Alive just on the basis of a NEXT BIG THING piece back in 1981. Anyhoo this mystery group is pretty on-target for an unexpected newie...I thought they were from Texas since they had a sorta 1969 hard rock appeal that sorta jetted out from the 1966 psychedelia scene there, but the pic of 'em on furrin' cop bikes had me fooled. Whatever, this is okay late-sixties garage-psychedelia transmuting into hard rock with heavy pop undertones. Nice enough to at least get pushed to the back of your collection.

Open Loose-COME AHEAD BACK... CD (Koch Jazz)

Sax/bs/drms trio that I learned about through the Freestyle Series back when it was gurgitating at the CBGB Lounge a few years back. Nice mid-range sounds that don't quite grab you as much as some of the other bands who are playing the same circuit, but I find it a lot more involving than a lotta the other music getting rubbadubbed on ya out there. Nice background engager that stimulates your inner workings to the point of "say mama!"


Y'know, I must admit that I've been a bit suspicious of The Ageless One (that's Mike Stax to you) and this hot-off-the-press disque by his band the Loons. Y'see, I had a feeling that this new entry in the long-line of Stax-related releases was gonna be more of that Pretty Things ripoff bloozey stuff Mike really goes for but I'll admit has me looking for the nearest Sky Saxon album within a few spins. Well, I was wrong, because this new Loon gooner is a pretty hot straight-ahead rocker that believe-it-or-not reminds me of what the Droogs were doing in the eighties when that pack of garage band miscreants were one of the few aggros out there on God's Great Map trying to produce THE GREAT AMERIGAN ROCK ALBUM inna tradition of the MC5, the Flamin' Groovies and noneother'n the same Hackamore Bricklayers mentioned above. Melodic, powerful, emotional (without abusing it!) and coulda been as wild as the Droogies' own KINGDOM DAY if Stax worked at it but I guess there's always another album. Bad point: gurl member ruins the great sexist imagery of these garageoids plenny but I guess they needed somebody to hit the high notes.

Got other newies like the Jook collection, the Mustangs and the Metal Boys' TOKYO AIRPORT (plus a few oldies I'm sure) I'll clue you in on either next time or a few times after that (or both!). Until then, have fun, keep a-rockin' and remember not to take any wooden langs!


tim ellison said...

Yeah, honestly, I don't think a lot of Sgt. Pepper is that far removed from Revolver either, but people seem to look at the whole thing as being Music Hall or being overproduced or somethin'. The title song and reprise, "Lucy," "Getting Better," "Fixing a Hole," "Mr. Kite," "Lovely Rita," "Good Morning Good Morning" - how is this stuff any further removed from Revolver than the stuff on Magical Mystery Tour??

Christopher said...

At least MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR has more of a rock & roll base to it. Not exactly Beatles 1959 mind you, but enough to at least keep my blood pressure up. A song like "Baby You're a Rich Man" is pretty prime psychedelia, while as I've mentioned "Flying" is a nice cruncher that I'll bet can trace its lineage straight to the Velvet Underground. For being a non-album stuck between PEPPER and THE WHITE ALBUM it's very enjoyable, the Beatles' variation of Can's SOUNDTRACKS. For me SGT. PEPPER is too much of an art project and way too self-conscious of itself to even be considered a good rock & roll (or even "rock") album. The inner workings of the group got the best of them, and for that a whole slew of concept albums and overwrought classical elements just hadda be thrown into the rock spectrum. And for someone who endured whether he wanted to or not everything from late-seventies/early-eighties rock radio to peers who frankly didn't know any better because they were never offered choices, I sure hold PEPPER responsible for not only British older-brother music, but bad AM pop and a whole lotta things that might not have happened had that monstrosity not been unleashed!

tim ellison said...

Stuff on Sgt. Pepper that is easily more rocking than "Baby You're a Rich Man": "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Good Morning Good Good Morning," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)."

Stuff on Sgt. Pepper that is comparable in the amount that it rocks to "Baby You're a Rich Man": the four-four parts of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Getting Better," "Lovely Rita" (if one accepts piano tunes as potentially rocking as much as electric guitar tunes) - even "Fixing a Hole" is close (check guitar part).

And one more thing! The only thing the Velvet Underground ever committed to wax that was as ferocious as the lead guitar on "Good Morning Good Morning" is the solo on "I Heard Her Call My Name!"

Christopher said...

Never considered the three you mentioned to be what I would call especially "rocking"...maybe mid-level rock but nothing near what the Beatles were doing on MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Maybe more proto-progressive rock than anything as opposed to psychedelia. Even the second batch of tracks you relay were more or less kitsch music with rock overtures I guess that "may" have been pleasing, but really tame when compared with a good portion of psychedelic rock coming out of England at the time like Pink Floyd or even Tomorrow. And as far as the Velvet Underground laying down a "ferocious" guitar solo on wax (comparable to the one on "Good Morning Good Morning") about the one on "All Tomorrow's Parties" or "Sister Ray" not to mention "Run Run Run" (I could go on...).

tim ellison said...

What in the world is so rocking about "Baby You're a Rich Man???" Seriously Chris, compare and contrast! The "Sgt. Pepper" theme has the brass band overdub and the crowd noise, but the basic track is much more of a rocking song (and the reprise even more so). "Good Morning Good Morning" is way more of a corker than "Baby You're a Rich Man."

I will listen to those VU guitar solos and see if you are correct!

Christopher said...

"Baby You're a Rich Man" may not be some total all-out rocker, but it sure goes down smoother with the clavioline and general psychedelic loop than the whole of PEPPER which still sounds like a half-assed attempt at art, or, as McCartney wouldn't quite admit, a recreation of the Mothers of Invention's FREAK OUT on Swinging London terms. I find "Baby" and just about all of MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR more on-target as far as pop or rock & roll than anything on PEPPER (the title track on that one sounds way too forced/stilted to achieve just about anything on a rock level, even if you take away the over-produced overdubbed audience and the horns which come off as so much gimmickry!)

By the way, Brian Sands' cover of "Baby" on his REHEATED CHOCOLATE TANGOES album from '79 is perhaps better than the original!

tim ellison said...

You know, I don't like a lot of the cornball old-timey stuff that a lot of psych bands did, but the Beatles ... nailed it. I even really like "Honey Pie" and "When I'm 64" and "Your Mother Should Know," as I am sure you know ...

What do the title track and its reprise achieve on a rock level? Grunginess and energy, I would say. I always think of that story of how the Jimi Hendrix Experience played it that time right after the album came out, opening their set with it with Paul McCartney in the audience.

Christopher said...

Well, of all the ones you've mentioned I like "Your Mother Should Know" the best maybe because it's the least cornball and calculated of the batch. I never did like "Honey Pie" (I remember the first time I heard that one vividly jumping for the stop button on my tape player!) and "When I'm 64" was so overplayed when I was a kid that I've probably lost all aesthetic conception of it, but at least "Your Mother Should Know" has this eerie edge that saves it from being just another late-sixties nostalgia trip. (By the way, I remember when I was a wee one and that very same twenties/thirties/forties nostalgia jag which sprang from albums such as these as well as the whole hippie infatuation with everyone from the Marx Brothers and W. C. Fields to the BONNIE AND CLYDE feature was in full force, and my mother hated it because she thought it was nothing but the younger generation mocking the older one with their granny glasses and equivocating zoot suiters (who weren't exactly LOVED amongst the populace) and hippoids! Years later I kinda wonder whether or not she was right!!!)

Even without the horns and studio FX I'd find the title tracks from SGT. PEPPER pseudo rock/grunge. The entire context of which the numbers are presented and framed (including the cover I guess!) makes it more or less a big production number as opposed to a rock & roll album. But I can go on about this forever...after all's said and done I'll probably still side with the people at KICKS in thinking that of all the wrong turns rock music made, this one mighta been an out-and-out DETOUR!

tim ellison said...

I think "Honey Pie" has somewhat of a haunting edge, too.

For me, a lot of the old-timey stuff psych bands did was very kitschy and lame. It lacked the vision of contemporary pop as a kind of new energy music. But McCartney's stuff has so much vim and vigour. Os Mutantes did it as great surrealistic new pop energy music, too!

Anonymous said...

As did the Kinks

Anonymous said...

Mick Jagger's backup vocals on "Baby You're A Rich Man" (they're mixed up high enough to be quite noticeable at least on the stereo MMT - don't know about the mono MMT as I've never owned it) also give the song a quality unique to that particular Beatles period - i.e. putting it more int6 Satanic Majesties territory.....