MAD RIVER CD (Edsel UK)
As you'd probably know from reading my various articles, reviews and whatnot these past twenny-five years, there are a lotta things out there in this world that get my goat and get it GOOD! Yes,believe-it-or-not but a whole turdload of people from asinine rock critics and back-stabbing bloggers to glad-handing liberals, turncoat conservatives and libertine libertarians have made my life a verifiable hell, but one of the biggest things that has really caused me to rent garments and gnash teeth over the past quarter-century or so of existence has been the consistent hippification of what was once known as a punk rock lifestyle/credo/what-have-you. Yeah, I shoulda saw in comin' when none other'n Lester Bangs himself (not quite the quintessential punk mind you), in the midst of some early-eighties blabbing regarding the alleged "Bomb Iran" bleatings of a few punks he had encountered, was somehow heartened by this punkette who decided to show her affiliations with a "War Sucks" badge. (Perhaps a sign of early Crassisms taking hold on this side of the ocean, and I do know that Bangs was somehow familiar with those communal types since they got name-dropped in his "If Oi Were a Carpenter" muddle of confusion!) Only a short time after Bangs' late-in-life proclamations came (SURPRISE!) none other than MAXIMUM ROCK 'N' ROLL and their various imitators (BRAVEAR comes to mind) who pushed what could only be called a hippie-punk platform featuring reams of anti-establishment rants, raves and Ronald Reagan biting the heads off babies collages mixed with conspiracy theory as fact dogma that seemed straight out of some early John Sinclair-inspired underground fishwrap! Y'know what I'm talkin' about, the same ol' Hate Ameriga FIRST!!! ire so in vogue with the early-seventies radical brigades that was so transparantly phony from the beginning that even the underground cartoonists of the day couldn't help but poke fun at the "movement" (as in bowel???). And, sad to say, from there this cancer of (selective) peace and love spread to just about every facet of punkdom extant to the point where today when you see some anti-capitalist/WTO demonstration or general flapdoodle directed against the so-called "Good Old Boy" structures on the tube or comp-box you're bound to eyeball more'n a few aging punkoids smashing and bashing along with their hippie brethren. And lemme tell you, at times you do need a scorecard to tell the two groups apart.
If anything, this sad state of affairs only goes to show you that the more things are diametrically opposed, the more alike they eventually become! When it comes to punk rock, it sure is a sick sight to cram down the throat the fact that it really didn't take punks that long to become hippies! And for someone who saw punks (and punkism) as a great strike against the encroaching walls of hippiedom into just about every facet of Amerigan living (for me, the concept of punkism was pretty much on the same sainted level as OZZIE AND HARRIET and flea markets filled with Silver Age Marvel comics) I gotta say that in retrospect it sure is sickening to think that I actually LIVED to see punk go from punk to punque and become just as predictable and as domineering as the entire hippie "culture" it sure seemed a healthy antidote to. I know this won't mean a hill of beans to a lotta you kiddies who have been more or less born and bred long after the whole hippie mire got its mitts on kultur but for a guy like me who hadda grow up with rap sessions, BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN, "Things Get a Little Easier (Once You Understand)" and Joan Baez singing "Amazing Grace" while cowboys got shot up onscreen you can bet I held high hopes for punk rock reversing the general civilization from this sorry state of affairs back to a healthier, more Spiro Agnew-inspired snarl and growl approach to life.
What does all this have to do with Mad River? Plenty, for these San Fran denizens stuck inna middle of terminal hipdom at least had a fine ROCK & ROLL sense of being which a lotta the punques had totally jettisoned in favor of a more comfortable, secure existence. And for being "hippies" or perhaps even hippie/punks in the best David Peel fashion this certainly was a pleasant surprise, not to mention an asset. On this debut platter originally released on Capitol way back in the Glory Days of '67 (forget about their followup PARADISE BAR AND GRILL despite Robert Nedelkoff's rave in his Mayo Thompson piece for CLE #3-A), Mad River are anything but settling into either punk utopianism or hippie visions of the Old West (leave that for PARADISE)...naw, MAD RIVER is a great slice of what promise that San Fran held for a good portion of people with their heads unmired by the promise of good karma and vibes galore, the SF that Gene Sculatti said it was in his infamous '66 CRAWDADDY scene report without any of that rose-colored Jan Wenner jive that helped boost the burgh from hype to hack long after that scene had any meaning outside a few wavering burnouts.
Televison once popped up in a discussion of the Mad River oeuvre and though I can hear the Verlaine/Lloyd interplay easily enough I should tell you that I espy a lotta the San Fran that the krautrock bands from Amon Duul (both I and II) to Ash Ra Tempel obviously lifted ideas from. As far as other SF groups, perhaps some Big Brother, and maybe Quicksilver or Redwing show up in the Mad River DNA albeit I'm not positively sure since I haven't heard either of them, at least in the past twentysome years! (I have a live Quicksilver Messenger Service disc all lined up to play one of these days and am "planning" on seeking out Redwing solely on the advice of not only Sculatti but DENIM DELINQUENT's very own Jymn Parrett!) Whatever the sound, it is a killer sans any of the pretensions that have plagued SF rock...straight-ahead killer music that, had Mad River only gotten together with Moby Grape and the Flamin' Groovies, coulda wiped all that "hey man" swill off the map and established the place as a high energy rock spot to do battle with Detroit as far as any late-sixties centers of positive rockism attention went.
Lawrence Hammond's vocals are fitting for this music, strained yet still teenage-sounding enough to make you think he was some runaway denizen escaping a nightly whipping from dad for the hip confines of the new civilization. Lyrically, Mad River are on tops as well with some great free-assoc. splat which you would expect from some heavy-duty psycho gems as "Merciful Monks" (I like the part where they sweep the nostrils into the sea!) and especially "Amphetamine Gazelle" which is at least the second ode to speed to come outta the lysergic portals of SF. Coupled with the highly-intense music which seems to bely the image that eventually befell the city (with more tasteful applications of Eastern raga coupled with flat-out 1967 hard-play) and you've got a classic surprise winner here at the BLOG TO COMM abode, a verifiable wowzer that thankfully deep-sixes all of the cliches of "hippie-rock" and makes more than one staunchly anti-flower power freak wanna mutter "where did they go right???
I could go on, about how I even heard a bitta Umela Hmota here and some slabs of proto-punk inspiration there (and how they were smart enough to ditch the hare krishna chant stuck inna middle of their otherwise-great EP version of "Wind Chimes" for this effort), but I guess anyone who has been in on the trip can find out these nice li'l nuances for themselves. As for me, all I gotta do is say that yes, if they could find at least five fine fellows in the City of Sodom they could find at least five great rock & roll bands in late-sixties SF, Mad River being just one of 'em. I can always use more of these rock surprises in order to keep my spirit going, and if the current state of affairs just doesn't suit me fine then these blasts from the past are what I'll have to sustain myself on until the next big putsch! And you really can't get blastier than the debut Mad River album, unless Shadoks or Normal Records manages to dig up some unreleased recordings by yet another pre-punk panzer division guaranteed to get my glands in an uproar but I'm not gonna hold my breath, at least until Volcanic Tongue updates their website!
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
MAD RIVER CD (Edsel UK)