Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Simply Saucer-HALF HUMAN/HALF ALIVE CD (Sonic Unyon)

Sorry, but my review of the Groundhogs' THANK CHRIST FOR THE BOMB will have to wait until the next post (perhaps). True that's a good one and a disque that certainly deserves its own day in the sun or on the blog as it may be, but this is STOP THE PRESSES material we're talkin' about today, hotter'n anything else that might care to woosh across the laser launching pad as of late and (perhaps with a little luck) one of the TOP TEN...nay...FIVE RELEASES OF THIS YEAR and its release certainly is a momentous occasion in the annals of underground rock hipsterisms which warrants a humongous mention not only on this but every other blinkin' blog on the face of the earth!!! Which of course it won't get so excuse me if I get puffed up about it even a little bit?

It's hard to review a disque like this without leaving all of my personal feelings aside. After all, ever since Bruce Mowat hipped me to Simply Saucer a good twennysome years back and actually wrote a cover story for my own crudzine on these guys back in '88 they've been one of those wowzer groups outta nowhere that sorta came and took jaded as a whore ol' me totally by surprise. And also considering how Simply Saucer were a group born and bred in the mid-seventies of early u-ground rock upheaval (from the same fertile compost heap that spawned all of those classic "proto-punk" acts that I've been writing about whilst everyone else was more concerned with the latest bilge comin' outta amerindie USA) only made me froth over 'em even more than I would have had Simply Saucer been the latest 'zine flash o' the day. So please excuse me if I do lapse into blabbering droolpits of unbridled enthusiasm for this new release...just imagine it as my own reaction to your own brain syntax snappings whenever you get your faverave queercore compilation complete with a complimentary tube o' KY, and I don't mean Kentucky!

Hmmmm, nice package. The cover artwork by J. D. King conjures lots of tasty images and prophetic vibrations regarding this platter. Avant garde yet traditional, just like the music. I'll betcha that a good portion of the money put into this release went into paying King to do this neat saucer motif cover. Well, like much of this album artwork that reflects what's in store once the needle hits the grooves or the light hits whatever it is on Cee-Dees, it does make for a nice compliment to the actual sounds at hand sorta like Warhol's Banana on THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO, the Marvel Comics pop art poster fold out that came with the Deviants' PTOOFF!, or Mario Shifano's stars that graced the Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano package, three peas in a psycho-delic pod if you ask this wizened rock fan!

The music's no slouch of course, and considering how many of these underground group reunions are too little too late affairs this 'un seems to take up exactly where Simply Saucer left off which certainly is a pleasureable experience especially in these days of sixty-plus retirees trying to relive teenage glories in their long-gone garage bands. And true, you never can really "go home" again, but listening to this new disque is just like movin' in next door. Edgar Breau's voice may sound a little more strained and haggard than it did on those thirty-plus-year-old recordings we all know and love, but it's still "there" in its perverse eeriness. And besides, considering all the kids he has you'd think he'd be straining it yellin' at the top of his lungs alla time!

All joking aside, this is a wonderful release, half studio and half live which this time doesn't seem to bother me one iota. "Exit Plexit" starts things off (which is no surprise since this reportedly is the first song every written by the band!), and if you ask me it sure comes off like an instrumental from MX-80's late-eighties period. With the energy kinda turned into itself and made even more intense. Almost heavy metal, or perhaps even HM proper if you were one of those types who subscribed to the CREEM mid-seventies concept of what was and wasn't metallic flange.

"Takin' You Down" is another (presumably) newie from the group, with a sly "Dance the Mutation" swipe and a particularly gnarly vocal courtesy Mr. Breau. If it didn't sound so clear and professional (which in this case helps out overall) I woulda sworn this was some forgotten mid-seventies recording.

"Almost Ready Betty" has funny late-sixties scat vocals and a general sound that reminds me of 1968 pop going underground. Y'know, stuff like the Head Shop and a few other 99-cent shopping market albums you sneered at in 1972 but ten years later you sure wish you snatched 'em up at such low prices. It could have been a track on the BEFORE THERE WAS...TIME album even! Nice middle break which sounds like the best late-sixties Southern California guitar move you never heard.

"Now's The Time For The Party" reminds me more of late-period post-electronic Saucer which would figure since this one appears in a live form on the "other" Sonic Unyon Saucer release, the redo of CYBORGS REVISITED with all them extra tracks added on so's people who bought the original release would get it again. Actually, it is nice hearing it in a studio setting.

Following "Party" comes "Clearly Invisible" which is another song from the early electronic Saucer days. If you have the latest issue of my fanzine BLACK TO COMM and actually played the Cee-Dee that came with it rather than tossed it out like at least one dorkoid out there did you'd get to hear how this song sounded back in the proto-punk glory days of 1975. This new version sounds quite different than the "better known" version you can still find with a little ease, kinda like some long-forgotten krautrock number from 1971 that was done by a bunch of Munich longhairs stoked on 1968-period Pink Floyd and the early Velvet Underground (two nifty cheap ref. pts...hope you don't mind!) I could see Can performing this one easily, or at least the early-seventies variation of the band back when Hot Scott Fischer was calling 'em Germany's answer to the Stooges. Beautiful music this is, and frankly the use of modern electronic gadgetry to re-create the early-seventies synthesizer sound is pretty funny in itself, sorta reminding me of the way it cost thousands of dollars to do the same type of Sci-Fi effects in the old ED WOOD movie that Wood only spent pennies on! Wait---the credits do say that guitarist/electronics man Daniel Wintermans is using old analog synthesizers on this platter 'n not the digital remakes I thought he was! As Catherine the Great would say, "That's a horse on me!"

After this sonic assault to your system comes a nice acoustic surprise, "Dandelion Kingdom". Now don't go puking your pablum at the thought of Edgar Breau and company going soft schmalz, for this Shadows of Ecstasy (Breau's under-appreciated 1990-vintage band) leftover is great Syd meets Ray meets Michael Hurley whimsey and I don't even think Breau has even heard Hurley! I'll bet it woulda fit on HAVE MOICY! easy!

Now we're onto the live goodies...the guy announcing the band sounds familiar, wish I could place the voice. (it might be my "close personal friend" Imants Krumins, but the ears couldn't quite make it out!) The audience sounds sparse, but what would you expect these days even though you'd think a Simply Saucer gig in this day and age would pack the place to the rafters! Anyway starting off the set's "Low Profile" which also popped up on the CYBORGS reish a few years back, and yes, it does remain as much of a slow-burning intense number as ever.

If you wondered what "Mole Machine" from the original CYBORGS album would sound like live, here's your chance. Nice electronic quivver thanks to presumably the "Moog Theremin" that Wintermans uses. Mid-section kinda reminded me of "Interstellar Overdrive" which I'm sure Mr. Breau would be pleased to read about even if he probably didn't intend for it to.

"I Take It"'s yet another one from the late-seventies CYBORGS demo groove sounding just as bizarroid fresh as the original, perhaps with a bit of early-seventies kraut and UK "People's Rock" tossed into the guitar interlude. Judging from what I've heard so far, this must have been thee live show of last year!

Breau kinda sounds like Mick Farren on "Get My Thrills" and come to think of it, the song sounds like it coulda ended up on one of those latterday Deviants albums. It pretty much gallops along like some long lost sixties punk anthem, and the use of electronic whirls reminds me of what the Peter Laughner-manned Pere Ubu were coming up with their mix of mid-sixties budget tunes and similar synth washings. (Meaning that if you ever claimed to even owe slight alliegence to the original Pere Ubu sound you shoulda bought this 'un long ago, and no excuses will be accepted!)

Hmmm, the flipside to the groups' first single entitled "I Can Change My Mind" shows up next. I remember how Breau was remarking about a review this one got in the old O. REXTASY fanzine where Solomon Gruberger compared Saucer to Moby Grape, and although Breau really likes the Grape he said it wasn't his intention to cop anything from this venerable San Francisco band. Listening to it again all I gotta say it, Edgar you sure must let your subconscious get the best of you sometimes!

Closing this live sesh's another one from the original Saucer playlist, "Illegal Bodies". But wait, this time Saucer's starting it out slow-like and building it up to a neat "Sister Ray"-ish pace sorta sounding like a cross between that infamous bone-crusher and the Pink Fairies' "Uncle Harry's Last Freakout" which in itself was a "Sister Ray" swipe! Talk about a show-stopper! I'm glad that there was nobody following the Saucer that night because after all this you know that the hapless headliners would get booed off the stage!

And what else could I say? Definitely a contender and one of those all 'round offerings that satisfies the true high energy maniacs amongst us not only with the awesome music contained therein but the top-notch packaging as well! Nice photos (love the ones with Breau standing next to some stained glass that I only wish were large enough to appreciate) and boffo informative notes as well including some great bits of reminiscence from Breau himself talking about David Nelson Byers spinning a freshly-procured copy of TAGO MAGO and fainting a few minutes into it! That Breau is such a great guy, and I like him not only because he is one of the few truly "politically incorrect" (in the purest BLOG TO COMM sense) people in this scummy rock & roll biz but because he's one guy who stood firmly in my corner when I certainly needed a li'l boost during a particularly trying time in my life (and I'm talking about more than that particular kerfuffle which can be seen vibrating throughout my blogposts even this far down the line). For that I'll always be indebted to the one called Breau. But don't let that put you off...this Cee-Dee, it really is that great, and what more could anyone say other'n this is one of the most adventurous, exciting and purely uninhibited rockism recordings to hit the boards in quite a long time. And what are you gonna go, keep snuggling up with your Dirty Three albums the rest of your born days?


ufo said...

YES YES YES a great album! ....listened to it on a live stream at Pitchfork and indeed thought it was well worth purchasing!
i was one of the 'those' who didn't purchase the redo "Cyborgs..." w/extra tracks, as i already had the vinyl and CD + didn't feel like getting it a third time. Glad to have some live blasting on this one as a consolation prize.
By the way, i was in Plan 9 long ago and always appreciated the good things you wrote about us.
....and to all out there in space, hunt down/buy/steal/read BLACK TO COMM!

Christopher said...

What do you mean "steal"??? Updated BLACK TO COMM post of available back issues coming up soon!

bf mowat said...

Thanks for the kind words! I will be relocating soon & will pass on my new addy , (which is less mole and more buzzard, btw) > And yes, that IS the voice of the Val Doonican of Hamilton< Imants 'sport editor' Krumins, you hear. Altogether now; "everyone in the car.."

J.D. King said...

Ah, yes! Methinks Squire Stigliano doth favour yon CD!