Saturday, February 28, 2009


Don't be dismayed, for this ain't gonna be one of those typical weekend gangbusters megareview writeup posts guaranteed to keep you on end for hours and hours unless I pad it up a bit (and I will!). It's not exactly my fault this post isn't as gigundo as they can come...I mean, I have been listening to the hot stuff as of late and enjoying every bit of it to the fullest as well, but unfortunately (for you) most if not all of the sounds I have been osmosing as of late have already been written about in depth on this blog and rather than bore you with yet another re-re-rehashing of something you can easily enough look up here yourself I thought I'd do the next big thing and write about something that has been moiling about in the ol' collection but I haven't touched upon in ages! What better way to give you a refreshing new outlook on an item of yore, even if I might have gabbed on about it during my former life as a fanzine editor! In fact, in picking out an item for review today I, in typical kiddie fashion straight outta first grade, merely closed my eyes and stuck my hand into a box of Cee-Dees and voila, out came a disque that even I haven't played for nigh on seven or eight years that I know even the most nascent of BLOG TO COMM fans would want to know about! And just to prove what an independent thinking kinda guy I am I'm not even gonna peek back into whatever issue of BLACK TO COMM I originally wrote this thingie up in just so's I can cover my buttocks up in case any wild discrepancies might arise 'twixt what I originally jotted down and what I am about to spake today! Howzat for foolhardy reckless abandon which would do in any lesser blogschpieler who dares to "play it safe"?????

But before we get to the meat and potatoes of today's writeup-in-question here's an announcement regarding yet another new linkup (see column at left) to a website you might have some interest in perusing. Alien Planetscapes Foundation is its name, and it is also the name (at least the first two words) of the En Why See-area space rock group that was led by one Doug Walker, a guy who I assume was a big wheel in whatever space rock scene there might have been in the city and its surrounding vistas at the time. Not being familiar with either Walker or the Planetscapes I must say that I was originally intrigued by a piece he wrote on Amerigan space rock that I chanced upon which, besides dropping the names of such national standbys as Chrome, Peter Laughner-era Pere Ubu and Von Lmo, mentioned such NYC-area groups Third Sun and Master Radio Canaries who had been treading both the avant garde jazz and CBGB circuits during the music-active year of 1976. Piqued by the piece (given my interest in even the more obscure yet deserving groups of the seventies underground) I emailed Walker asking for more information on these bands and surprisingly enough the man wrote me back. Walker was obliging as well, telling me that he was on the lookout for recordings of these groups and would certainly tip me off when the opportunity arose.

A year or so later I wrote back to Walker asking if he had any success obtaining any recordings only this time I did not receive any reply. Oddly enough for once in my life I did not take this as a typical mean-spirited slight like I do with every other slight in my already over-slighted life which turned out to be a good thing because only now have I found out that Walker had died since that fateful email and was not giving me the bum's rush like way too many people out there in benevolenceland have. I am positive that if he had lived Walker would have eagerly written me back regarding both of these groups perhaps dishing out some crucial information in the process, but for now I guess I'd just have to look elsewhere in my quest for information that you just can't get at your fingertips even in these days of instant satiation via your favorite computer.

Or can you? Let's just say that ALIEN PLANETSCAPES FOUNDATION clears up a lotta the questions I've had regarding these space rock groups while creating some new ones in the process. Well, there was one thing I found out after giving this one a good perusal, and that is Walker, not being just merely a fanatical onlooker on the space rock scene in New York, was actually involved with both Third Sun and the Master Radio Canaries to some capacity albeit he was probably more or less just a loose fixture with the latter, their brief description making them out to be perhaps one of the more fringe-y concepts to have graced any New York stage in the mid-seventies or beyond for that matter. (It's funny, but the listing I have for a Master Radio Canaries show at Max's Kansas City from August of '76 has 'em billed with Boston pop rockers the Walnut Band and heavy metalloids Guardian amongst others which probably made for the most incongruous gig at that club since Kongress and Suicide shared a bill with Chicago power poppers Pezband!) Walker seemed to have a more stable fixture with Third Sun, a group that he described as sounding like "Van Der Graaf Generator playing the Art Ensemble of Chicago songbook" which sure sounds like a mouth-watering experience especially for a guy who was raised on descriptive rock group comparisons such as these and still tends to fall for 'em despite should having "known better" ages back.

It's no big surprise that Walker was also the prime mover behind the more recent aggregation Alien Planetscapes whom I guess had quite a publicized and notable career in the space rock milieu, and for a guy who didn't pay attention to this stuff probably thinking of bad seventies symphonic rock groups out the wazoo I gotta say that I was impressed mightily with what I heard from the many Planetscape samples available on this site. Far from the fru fru-ness of a Genesis or Gentle Giant, Alien Planetscapes were a brash mix of drone rock with the heavy electronic buzz mixed with a good portion of avant garde jazz thanks to Walker's vibraphone, sax and flute playing. The results are engaging enough, at time reminiscent of such eighties wonders like F/i (a great group even though I would never buy any of their current wares considering the jerkoff label they are now involved with) and at others like the long-MIA Noisetet Obscure whom I believe petered out around the same time the CBGB Lounge free jazz shows sorta went the way of the bustle, the Edsel and microwave shakes. Even more impressive were Third Sun, who appear numerous times on a couple cassette releases of various early Walker bands (no Master Radio Canaries unfortunately) that were self-released in the seventies. Recorded live at such avant hangouts as the Brook and Environs, Third Sun certainly live up to Walker's descriptions of a free jazz/prog merger in a good way w/o the dippy trammels of what progressive rock was and doth wrought for years to come. Imagine a mad Hawkwind/krautrock fest with some of the best loft jazz players of the day joining in and you'll get an idea of what Third Sun sound like. An interesting aside: at the time these Third Sun gigs were played (1976) the group boasted none other than future Los Microwaves member David Javelosa in its ranks.

As soon as I can figure out how to download and burn these dad-blamed mp3s and whatnot I'm gonna cook me up a mess of Walker/Alien Planetscapes recordings for my own personal night-time pre-beddy bye usage, but until I do I'm gonna just settle back and osmose myself into Walker and this Alien Planetscapes site as long as my li'l ol' interstellar mind will take me.

Oh, now back to Fiction! Remember a few years back when Jay Hinman was ragging on me because (amongst other things) I was championing the likes of Von Lmo and the Plastic People of the Universe, people who Hinman deemed too one-dimensional and paper thin for his own "mature" tastes which include such acts as XYX, Sic Alps and Tilly and the Wall? Well, that would beat all considering how Von Lmo's majestic return to the performing world in the early-nineties was one of the greatest comebacks since Nixon and that the Plastic People were a group to be admired, facing a greater threat to their well being than any of the sissy rock acts (and their sycophants) in San Francisco living in the lap of socially lax decadence ever will. And really, what kind of a HEATHEN would dare sully the image of either act especially considering the vast amounts of high energy jamz both have kicked out over the past X years back when such people as Mr. H were probably still sucking thumb (amongst other things?) to Joe Jackson albums!

Well, I will say one thing about the Plastic People of the Universe, and that is this Czech underground rock group might have created some vital energetic psychopunk spew during their early days which even had Robert Christgau oozing Pere Ubu comparisons, but just like every other crucial seventies rock act as soon as time crept on and the dreaded eighties arrived the quality of their music just didn't measure up to them past accomplishments! Let's face it, those latterday albums like MIDNIGHT MOUSE are quite dispensable, and even if the revamped band going under the name Pulnoc had a certain verve about 'em they were still too latterday slick to appeal to the fans of the legendary EGON BONDY album like myself. And while the Plastic People of the seventies seemed to be geared towards the same level of Velvet Underground homage and energy as just about every other righteous group of the day, by the nineties that Velvetism had, along with almost everyone else's, faded into a new morass that made most of these variations on the original form sound rather pallid especially compared with the feral energy that not only the Velvets, but any dozen late-sixties groups influenced by their drone, could have cranked outta any suburban garage during the day.

Fiction unfortunately fall into the same chasm with this tribute, which has all of the sullen ennui of the nineties Velvets appreciators and none of the high energy of the seventies form. Led by former Plastic People bassist Milan Hlavsa, Fiction might mean well with their covers of choice Velvets favorites but just like every other Velvets cover since what...1980 or so their tenth-generation appreciation seems to have lost a lot in the transition. Not only with the glossy sound quality which certainly does not help the music but the performance in general which has the same flyspeck-free cleanliness and freckle-faced "aw shucks" feeling as just about every other kid who got in on the game twennyfive years after the fact and thinks that modern rock music began with that folkie cover of "Sweet Jane" he heard at some freak hootenanny last year. I mean, how many silky-smooth covers of "Femme Fatale" have you heard these past few decades, all sounding the same with that quasi-lounge female vocal and perhaps the right amount of processed cheese digitalis to make this one a cooker on whatever is left of the College Radio market? Do we need any more??? I mean, isn't one J. Neo Marvin bad enough?????

Funny, I kinda remembered that I did like this 'un back inna day, but listening to it now just made me feel even queasier than I did the time I decided to wash two dill pickles down with a can of Cream Ale. Maybe I am just getting older, too old enough to remember that fresh young world with all its musical promise that drove me to fanzines and phone pestering just about anyone within sight back when this music really seemed to speak to me in an everyday, suburban slob way? Maybe not, but if the sound of Fiction is supposed to be where Velvetisms stood in the nineties and beyond, then just gimme an old copy of ARCHETYPES with its sub-sputum pressing and call me an old reactionary! It might make me look retrogarde now, but a thousand years from now I'm sure I'll look a whole lot more sane than any of you!

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