Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Various Artists-CBGB RECORDED LIVE OFF THE BOARD (red and yellow label CDs) (CBGB/Portrait Japan)

I dunno if this is true 'r not but am I the only one in the world who liked that 1976 LIVE AT CBGB album? Y'know, the one that sorta permeated the record bins of shopping malls nationwide until sometime in the early-eighties when record thrill-chills certainly were getting harder to find? That one seems almost universally loathed by people both then and now (f'rinstance Don Waller in BACK DOOR MAN refused to review the entire album 'cept for the Mink DeVille tracks) but I know that there were some fans of that legendary twofer flying around here and I recall one person (who shall remain nameless lest he re-enter my life to say how poorly I remember what he actually did say!) who compared Manster (for me the set's def. highlight) to Pere Ubu no less while another once-colleague seemed very impressed with Manster lead vocalist Warren Stahurski's handling of the Yardbirds classic "Over Under Sideways Down" saying that the guy was actually STRANGLING himself whilst uttering those once-classic lines. Of course that's all wishful thunk since Stahurski was merely affecting a Wally Cox in the amorous rapture of Marlon Brando voice while the music was more or less being performed by young guys under the influence of fusion who didn't quite have the finesse to translate their DOWN BEAT aspirations with crudzine capabilities. PUNK mag hated 'em as I assume did a good portion of Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch, but my two passing acquaintances felt Manster rather top-notch, and obviously so did I.

In fact, I liked Manster and a good hunk of the LIVE AT CBGB set enough to review it TWICE in the pages of my hallowed fanzine and in two issues in a row! The first time was in issue #20...the thing (in its original two-disc format) just happened to pop up into a pile of platters and I figured wha' th' hey, while by the time the next ish was well under way a promotional CD happened to chance its way to my door and if you don't think that was kismet I dunno what is! Anyway, I doubt that there was anyone else on the face of this earth who gave LIVE AT CBGB as much of a rah-rah as I have even with all of that decidedly non-new wave sound which undoubtedly bummed out all of those rock mag-reading thrillseekers out to glom some of that lower-Manhattan decadence only to get hit solid with some admittedly great AM poppage, progressive aspirants with garage band budgets and maybe a few off-kilter punks thrown in just to dirtify the thing a tad bit.

Ten years after LIVE AT CBGB made the entire rock world emit one collective yawn came a series of live cassette tapes featuring some of the bigger upstart names that were playing the club inna mid-eighties. It sure was nice of Hilly to help plug these local bigtime wannabes by slappin' 'em on his own label, and it was even nicer of him to finally release a slew o' product after years of mis-starts (and about two schlepped-up LIVE AT CBGB VOL. 2 attempts), and I gotta admit that these cassettes were pretty neat-o in the ROIR/cassette culture vein that was so hep at the time. I even bought a couple of 'em (Damage and Ed Gein's Car) direct from the source and sure didn't regret it. At the time I also didn't regret passing on the rest of the produce that CBGB was hyping to the hilt...after all, with names like Rude Buddha, Rods and Cones and Chemical Wedding these bands could only be watered down even more gnu wave losers who might have sounded nifty back in 1979 but six years later seemed an even more embarrassing joke than glitter did in '78, savvy?

Well, now that a good twennyone years have passed and I'm (ahem!) a bit more mature than I was back during those whacked out days of rage perhaps it's time to reassess these mid-eighties attempts through a well-honed critical eye, eh? Well, I did exactly THAT when I reviewed the vinyl version of the series sampler collecting choice tracks from these tapes a few ishes ago, but now that those innovative Japanese have reissued these discs in the digital format what better excuse for me to review 'em again just like I did with that original CBGB sampler well over ten years back! I remember really liking those platters, and although I already expressed my opinions on 'em earlier this millennium ya know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna be sporting and review these disques w/o looking back to see what I originally thought about 'em, keeping my opinions fresh and perhaps contradictory as well! Now don't go sayin' that this freewheelin' ol' blog o' mine ain't one to TAKE CHANCES!!!!

Anyhoo these disques come in two volumes, one being "red" and the other "yellow" and like the original CBGB sampler this one seems to be about as good a representation of what underground rock was like in the mid-eighties as opposed to in those pre-hate dayz. Maybe the end point of where the '76 set began, instead of with classic FM rock and AM pop swipes plus Van Morrison/Lou Reed homage the music is def. early-eighties new wave and post-hardcore moves with a few smart pop refs tossed in here and there. As far as the "red" album goes I actually found myself enjoying the harmony-laden pop of Jupiter Jets (odd because I found the tape of the entire show to be rather heavy on the Police influence) and even Rude Buddha's new wave seemed more rooted in the better portion of what the late-seventies was offering with regards to this particular style. I even found Connotations rather entertaining even with their obv. VILLAGE VOICE-inspired anti-gentrification number (though as we all know, maybe they were right at least with regards to the evil outcome of such upwardly mobile upscaling...mainly the closing of CBGB itself!) though Ludichrist was just another sign of hardcore's eventual post-burnout stance. Still it wasn't like I was bored or offended by the electronic pop-rock (which really isn't that far removed from the early-eighties version of Kongress albeit without the intense streak) which is odd because back when this stuff was coming out I wanted to garrote everybody involved with it! I mean, even when I should have been offended (like with Connotations' "I Do Not Think I Would Have Some Fun" which does its best to dredge up some instantly-irritating early-eighties new wave cliches) I wasn't, probably because my hide has been toughened to the point where the slings of such coy arrows do not necessarily have the pow'r to penetrate.

I actually prefer the yellow edition of this set which seems to have more bang for the buck, complete with efforts by Damage and Ed Gein's Car (two of the better practitioners of the form that would be called grindcore within a few years) as well as some interesting moves from the likes of Chemical Wedding and Rods and Cones which I should dislike strictly on principle but I find sound rather pleasing especially after being bombarded with some of the 80s/90s drek that makes stuff like this sound all the more necessary! Strangely enough my faves on this platter are the offerings by Jing and Tulpa...the former are perhaps the only band on these disques that have any connection with the CBGB of yore since they featured former-and-future Shirt Artie Lamonica as well as one of the guys from the Laughing Dogs who had some good AM-inspired pop rockers on the CBGB disc as well as two Columbia flops of their own. (LATER ON I JUST DISCOVERED THIS FACT MYSELF NOTE SO DON'T WRITE IN TO COMPLAIN ASIDE: the Shirts' Myspace page mentions that Chemical Wedding also had ex/future-Shirts involvement which I believe I do recall from the slew of ads promoting those cassettes so long ago but had forgot o'er the years!) Whaddeva, Jing released a full-length studio album a few years after this which I heard and promptly sold dispite the presence of one track that seemed heart-felt enough...however on the two numbers present herein Jing manage to crank out halfway-decent seventies pop rehash ("World Gone Mad") as well as some should-be-irritating new wave commercialism ("After The Rain"), but since I found it easy enough to let my guard down enough to enjoy the most recent Shirts album maybe I can let this one pass through my ears w/o protest. An even bigger surprise were Tulpa, a group that cluttered up many a CBGB gig listing in the mid-eighties opening shows for the likes of Michelle Shocked, Living Colour and (most importantly!) Binky Philips and the strangest thing about it is that they ain't even from En Why See but Toronto! That's in Canada and when I asked Bruce Mowat what he thought about 'em he seemed utterly surprised that I would wanna pay attention to such an act in the first place! I guess it's time for me to turn in my membership to the Imants Krumins Fan Club for making such a fox pas, but sheesh, I really dig them guys! Well, I gotta say that with tracks such as "Wolves" (a nice slow creeper that recalls everything from Pink Floyd to Harry Toledo's "Knots") and "Myrtle Street" (early-seventies guitar jangle that owes more'n a passing resemblance to Simply Saucer's "Bulletproof Nothing") how could I ignore 'em! I didn't care for the album that Midnight in England (as opposed to the New York outlet) released about a year before they made all those New York treks, but after giving these numbuhs a go I'm more'n apt to give that 'un another spin. I'm also on the lookout for the entire tape from whence these tracks were culled...should be another surprise winner here at BLOG TO COMM central! Tulpa also have a Myspace page which you might wanna look out for in case this review jangled your neurons even in the slightest.

Booklet notes ain't any help unless you know Japanese, but the obligatory lyric translations are available and as usual are a total hoot, esp. when the unlucky fellow hired to decipher the vocalese here gets stuck with making sense of Damage's vocal bleats! Really, the lyrics as imagined by whomever transcribed these are funnier'n your last bowel movement, though at times they read so esoteric they sound like ancient pearls of wisdom set to strange poetic meters found only in the Far East. Maybe these guys shoulda sang what the poor latimer thought they were uttering from that now-caved-in stage but who knows, the original lyrics might be just as good!


Anonymous said...

I saw Manster in 1976 when the Rat in Boston hosted some CBGB's bands one night. I was an art school hippie, and they blew my daishiki off. With their lounge lizard polyester and martinis they looked like they escaped from Margaritaville. But when they played!! I have never heard anything like it. Those crazy guitarists could play these john mclaughlin riffs and Walter was screaming like a banshee- it was mind blowing. With the Shirts and the laughing dogs, it was a night to remember.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Christopher,
Recordings can be a jewel in Time. We used to drive down from Toronto in a station wagon with a little u-Hall. Hilly offered us a show and then we had many more. Then he asked us to record for his Label. He treated us great. It was a great time our New York Period. Thanks for writing about us. I think i have the only tape left of us. Should get it re-mastered.
Hilly lost all the tapes to most of off the board stuff.
I remember mixing the tapes with Ron of the Shirts starting at 2am and finishing at 8 or 9 and the cleaner would show up. Just wanted to say thank-you.
John Bottomley