Saturday, September 13, 2008


I've often remarked about just how much of a humongous chunk outta my free time that reality takes, and this weekend is no exception. However, rather than bitch and moan like I am most apt to do about my travails (thus giving you readers a cheap laff at my expense) I decided to pull myself up by my bootstraps and present what I hope will be a half-decent weekend blog consisting of a few reviews and a fine movie picture for you to take in, all of which is guaranteed to make at least 75% of the usual readers scratch their beanies in typical befuddlement. In other words, what else is abnormal???

John Terrill-FROWNY FROWN CD (Family Vineyard)

When I got this Cee-Dee a few months back I immediately pushed it under a pile of chairside disques and, as wont my behavioral makeup, preferred to just fergit it! Y'see, this Terrill guy who rec'd these songs twixt '88 to '98 was also the ozob who was in Indiana's Dancing Cigarettes and if you ask me that doesn't amount to him being Indiana's answer to Brian Sands! I gotta admit that I found the Cigs to be pretty much in that "patented" gnu wave style of the early eighties, the kinda sound that drove me into the arms of KICKS and an active flea market lifestyle with a general approach that reminded me of all of those once-precious "save the world" groups who made it into that sorry decade with a precocious attitude coupled with a watered-down take on the previous fifteen or so years of fringe accomplishment. I guess these groups figured they were doing their job because they were more exciting than the Rolling Stones, but really, was that saying much if anything???

So that's why I find myself surprised that I actually like this neat "reish" despite the double whammy of gnu wave guilt by pomposity that plagued most all of these discs. Sounding little like anything one would associate with the reams of failed attempts to recapture past glories while trailblazing for uncharted territories that clogged up the arteries of eighties underground rock, FROWNY FROWN's actually a hot li'l piece of midwestern introspective personalist music that sounds more like a successful attempt at remolding seventies accomplishment for the new decade than it does rehashing the Human Switchboard's and B-52s' songbooks until it is all rendered meaningless. Terrill still sounds like an earnest enough upstart with this stripped down music that recalls everything from the better moments of solo Richman (I JONATHAN comes to mind) to Skip Spence wandering around aimlessly at the oar house, and danged if the use of harpsichord didn't plum recall that forgotten late-sixties classic BEFORE THERE WAS...TIME and how often are you gonna come across anything that recalls that recent addition to the annals of boffo forgotten sixties goodies as that! For one of those guys that people like me and Bill Shute thought were sellouts who had forsaken the Big Beat for safe kitsch, boy and I surprised! May I bow in your presence Mr. T???
William Hooker-HARD TIME CD (Squealer Music, PO Box 229, Blacksburg, VA 24063-0229)

As of late, I've been wondering exactly what it was that made some of these respected avant garde jazzguys wanna go and slum with the punk rockers of the very late-seventies at clubs like CBGB and Max's, back when concepts like punk rock still seemed to be a fresh concept in the wild and woolly world of rockism. At the time it seemed likea dream come true, with one form of atonal, oft-loathed music crashing into another, but after some thought on the subject I started to ponder exactly why it was that hardened black jazzguys pushing forty were willing to play in groups with suburban-raised whites a music that seemed to clash their John Coltrane with the caucasians' Velvet Underground. But clash on it did and boy am I glad about it, for if these same suburban whites weren't dabbling in their own variations on various post-bop forms and if the black avant garde didn't find some sorta affinity with it would we have a whole slew of groups and records to enjoy this far down the line???

As far as jazzy punkisms go William Hooker was one of the best dabblers in both forms, even moreso than Sonny Sharrock, Billy Bang or Luther Thomas. In fact, the guy was so omnipresent on the underground rock scene at one time that I thought he just hadda've been some new punk upstart on the scene who fortunately latched onto enough positive reviews and notice to rise up the ladder of hipster underground success. Only after I discovered some pretty good early albums of his did I realize that William Hooker was in fact a long-standing drummer who had worked in a number of genres both on a professional and under-the-counter fashion and what I did hear was pretty engaging, even if it probably would've been scoffed at by a good majority of the current-day jazz world. Come to think of it, being a black avant gardist performing in basically white clubs with white musicians taking your energy and ramming it into their would only add up to even more brownie points in my book, iconoclastic poseur that I am!

Not surprisingly recorded live at CBGB, this decade-plus-old disque features Hooker and his mid-nineties band which not surprisingly features Borbetomagus guitarist Donald Miller as well as a number of players who for the life of me I have no recollection of. But they're all fine cogs in a free jazz/rock monster, creating this surprisingly driving electronic sound as synthesizer splatters electrode puke and guitars do their best to create an aural equivalent of Jackson Pollack (please excuse the hippie jargon being is the middle of the night!). WIth the lack of an acoustic bass and only a single horn player (saxist Richard Keene) this still has enough freedom to help snap your brain syntaxes, but think something closer to FUNHOUSE if you dare as opposed to Chaz Parker.

At this stage in the game HARD TIME should be an inexpensive snatch up at the usual big deal ebay stores, or if you're a real penny-pincher just wait for it to go on auction like I did and try to latch onto a copy for even less. It may not make your ears bleed, but it sure sounds like an explosion in Kryten's lower colon and who could pass up a recordings like that!

Sometimes I think that the only reason UGLY THINGS magazine exists is to be in cahoots with a variety of record distributors and bigtime ebay dealers who, in trying to move their enormous back catalogs, pay the likes of Mike Stax and especially Johan Kugelberg to write about certain acts of the past who just ain't pumping up the charts in order that a whole lotta backlog can be moved. Why else would you think that I'd latch onto this Cee-Dee reish of the British SWEET FANNY ADAMS album, the very same disc which Capitol decided to chop shop into the best selling DESOLATION BOULEVARD over here inna states other than because of all the seed Mr. Kugelberg spilled on a batch of old Sweet singles in the current ish of that hallowed mag? Of course long time followers of the form will remember that I blabbed on a good three-fourths of a page on this band (and DESOLATION BOULEVARD) back in issue #24 of my own mag, a copy of which can be obtained if you only dare to click here and dish out the few bucks it would take to buy the thing if you weren't such a cheap skinflint!

Since I rattled off enough in that issue I'll attempt to be brief with regards to SWEET FANNY ADAMS, a rec I remember seeing in the import bins of the seventies on more than a few occasions yet it never occurred to me to snatch one up then. But whadevva, I gotta say that I really enjoyed listening to the songs here again, since my Sweet Cee-Dee collection is buried under about five boxes of tightly-stored disques which will be excavated during my quarterly Cee-Dee trolling session sometime this Autumn.

"Sweet FA" of course remains a heavy metal classic (Kugelberg wasn't the first to draw comparisons between the Sweet and the Detroit energy scene boys have been doing that even when they were sticking the hard rockers on the flipsides of Sweet teenypop singles in the early-seventies!) and tracks like "Rebel Rouser" are so straightforward rock that they surpass a load of the flotsam that eventually appeared in the Sweet's wake!

And true, some may prefer to lump Sweet in with Queen and a load of prissy musique acts of questionable sexuality, but I happen to know for a fact that Imants Krumins is a big fan and considering what a finicky aficionado the man is that surely must rank as a compliment! And besides, does Krumins go around buying froo froo rock records anyway? Only his closet knows for sure.

Because the original album was so short RCA decided to pad it out at the end with some winners like "Blockbuster", "Hellraiser" and "Ballroom Blitz" (not forgetting their equally fine flips!) and they sure sound swank in such lovely company. And rilly, who other than the most horse-blindered post-hippie out there could deny that the Sweet were the LAST of the good AM rockers before the tide turned totally over to the singer-songwriters and hippoid leftovers with only a few "new wave" tidbits tossed in to give the illusion that these young upchucks, er, upstarts were "saving" the music industry. Considering that the thirtysome years since the Sweet stopped having the hits and AM began its steep decline (let's face it, the kids sure aren't being decadent like they used to, and I blame their yuppified parents for raising them this way!) all I gotta say is...WE NEED MORE SWEET THAN WE DID EVEN WHEN BACK DOOR MAN SLAPPED 'EM ON THE COVER!!!!
Before somebody decides to take it off youtube ne'er to be seen again, here's your chance to see SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS in all its bohunkus beauty!


Anonymous said...

The CD reissue of the UK version of "Desolation Boulevard" has "I Wanna Be Committed" and a live version of "Teenage Rampage" as bonus tracks. It also has "Breakdown", "Medusa", and "Turn It Down", superb tracks not on the US version, and a decent cover of "My Generation". OTOH I could live without the cover of the theme from "Man With The Golden Arm" (essentially a jam complete with obligatory drum solo - Sweet were better off sticking to what they were good at, and that wasn't long meandering jams)

Anonymous said...

Hi Christopher,
I wanted to thank you for the nice, albiet a little bit skewed, review of Frowny Frown. I understand where you are coming from with your criticism of 80s underground and I'm glad you pointed out that Frowny has no nostalgic relation to that. It would be good to note that I was the drummer for the Dancing Cigs -- I kept the beat not the quirk. Before that I was living and breathing the "big beat" for years (since I first heard Yummy Yummy Yummy on the radio when I was in 7th grade). Don't get me wrong, I loved the Dancing Cigs and if you would have had the chance to see us live I think you might have come to a alternate conclusion about how totally rocking the early 80s could be (believe it or not people used to dance). But Frowny is different. It came out of my desire to try and blend what I had learned from the music of the 60s, 70s and 80s into something that I could latch my own personal worldly observations onto. I'm happy with Frowny and I think it succeeds. If you heard some honesty coming through the songs well let me assure you it's there. It is always a great honor when someone can go to the root of music I produced and come up with the hidden pearl. So, instead, may I bow in YOUR presence Mr. H. Thanks for the review!

PS- wasn't sure where else to leave the comment. It really doesn't refer to the above post.