Saturday, January 09, 2010

SMEGMA SURPRISE!

Smegma are (at least as far as anyone who follows my particular/peculiar brand of rock & roll aesthetics go) perhaps one of a hand-full of remaining musical aggregations that continue to ooze needless yet involuntary hyperbole out of me and my keypad. Sheesh, I remember first chancing upon the name via an LAFMS advert. in CLE #3-A thinking that their moniker was supposed to be some strange play on the Frog progsters Magma (of course I knew what the stuff was for a long time even though I am a victim of that ancient Jewish operation which I didn't ask for)...little did I realize that these Smegs were pretty much a boss hard-edged "experimental" (in the least pretentious mode possible) rock & roll group who could switch from free noise to free jazz to garage band rock at a moment's notice! This mere feat certainly made them a punk gryphon as Michael Koenig of TAKE IT! fame might have said. To boot, Smegma were also making sounds freakier than Zappa even at his most "look-how-dada-I-can-be!" pretentious (never mind that the guy had gone total fusion by the time Smegma was being birthed in the barren Los Angeles underground of 1973), but then again I doubt that Zappa would have had the gumption to make pure grate sound carnage the likes that Smegma had been excelling in nor could he ever dream to whip out a cover of "Rumble" as good as Smegma's (theirs being almost but not exactly "quite" on a Flamin' Groovies level). And while I'm at it, how many acts can you think of that were easily enough able to withstand the memberships of everyone from future Dream Syndicate drummer Dennis Duck to Wild Man Fisher to R. Meltzer himself ifyoucanbelieveit...

True there are a few Smegma moments (and entire albums) that kinda woosh past me...f'rinstance the joint effort with Japan's Merzbow doesn't quite ignite me the same way that album with Wild Man Fisher on the Birdman label did. However, for every dud this bunch might've farted out in the name of free-minded experimentalism there must be hundreds of ICBM-influenced direct targets hitting you all in the most fertile parts of your minds so it's like I'm not COMING DOWN on 'em in any wayshapeform.

Personally, I couldn't think of any higher accolades to print other than this bit from Meltzer himself written sometime 'round when he joined up with this particular act (and he was proud enough to have his publishers mention his membership on the sleeve-jacket to one of his late-nineties reads so don't go sayin' he's only in it for the gash!):

Now in their 26th year of existence, Smegma are a so-called "noise band," if not exactly by their own designation. Not that they would deny it, mind you--noise as a station of sonic oompah certainly doesn't rankle their metamusical ass. It's simply that other things figure more prominently on their collective agenda: group improvization with a heap of Unfinished Sixties Business factored in (the real-time-from-scratch multilayered equivalent of "I Am the Walrus," let's say)...Free Music in its grandest, and least superficial, sense (a la the denser moments of Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz)...a ritual fusing of any and all musics and non-musics at the level of the hum, the blap, the tink, the boom. By design as well as chance, every performance is an utterly NEW sonic event, one capable (some nights, anyway) of changing the way an audience will actually hear. (Y'know, forever.)
I mean, could you think of any higher praise for this seemingly infinite group of punk noisemakers and I mean punk in the truest 1969-1975 BACK DOOR MAN/Nick Kent/Charles Shaar Murray fashion which has fallen into disuse and abuse for quite some time! Not only that, but could you find any other paragraph on the entire web which I have used as the basis of my own writings on Smegma yet I dare not call it plagiarism?????

MORASS LIVE is a reissue of a live gig (+ more) that originally made it out back in the late-eighties during the height of the "cassette culture" that the people @ OP used to tell us was in full bloom at the time. Well, I for one am sure glad that it has been vinylized here in the teens rather'n later on in the twenties because this is a hot slice of live Smeg cassette quality and all, having the raw live urgency of a fantastic bootleg or at least an early seventies legit live album trying to ape the manic intensity of a live bootleg album. As usual the great ball of influences and music is tossed together and spurted forth in an even more random format than my sock drawer with hard musique concrete here and free jazz imitation there, not forgetting a few treks into great hot rock & roll proper which always seems to satisfy at least my preconceptions of what this music really is all about. My fave track on the whole kaboodle just happens to be "Happy Baby Rhumba" which utilizes sounds of happy post-natals cooing in abstract relation to the already dada music being played...kinda neat to hear that there are some pro-baby forces out there in the here and now!

When you're all done w/MORASS you might want to give this newie a try. SPLIT is not the Groundhogs album we all know and love but an actual split album, one side being Smegma doing three separate tracks (one from '75 sandwiched between two recent endeavors) and the other featuring Kommissar Hjuler and Mama Baer, some kraut noisemongers in their own right who really know how to destroy a tape recorder when they get their hands on one. The Smegma side is typical of their tape-loop/found sound/electronics numbers sounding like the lost side of TWO VIRGINS that made John and Yoko wanna put their clothes back on or better yet (while I still speak in Beatle-mode) the further explorations of "Tomorrow Never Knows" had the Fab Four decided to take that concept to its furthest reaches. (Okay, once again I might just be tinkering with the original source a little too much [re. the above Meltzer quote] especially if one if bent on substituting "TNK" for "Walrus", but I believe these sentiments to my soul and besides maybe it's like...smart minds thinking alike dontchathink???) If I had to state any negative feelings I might've had about Smegma's side it would be THE LACK OF MELTZER ON LEAD VOCALS but maybe he'll pop up on the next one.

Surprisingly enough I find the flipster from Hjuler and Mama Baer to be just as enticing with Hjuler playing his guitar while Baer (who I guess is the guy's real-life wife) does the singing, and it's all distorted way beyond belief and'll drive you even battier with Hjuler doing the same riff over and over while Baer moans and whines to it all. The quality is akin to that time I was fiddling around the family's old 1950's stereo set and was flipping around with the dials until I got this crazed sound made by turning the volume all the way up and motioning the tonearm to make all sorts of weird screeches at times even touching the needle for additional scronk! That didn't wreck the thing...what actually did was a clarinet blast of Dave E's made while I was playing an Electric Eels tape (number being played was "Pleasure Boating", and I believe it was an Eclectic Eels track which ended up amongst other cuts from both the original and attempted regrouping), and that was a good five years later!

Interesting paste-on color cover concept (just like an old bootleg!) and ltd. to 177 copies (yours will be numbered with a bit of plastic tape label!). Volcanic Tongue still has 'em for sale in case you somehow got moved by this article and want to dish out the dinero for a copy of your very own, but if I were you I'd like..hurry up because they're bound to sell faster than rat traps in Sheboygan!

2 comments:

thedaydreamnation said...

Years ago I taped a cassette with Smegma on one side and Harry Pussy on the other but mislabeled it with the wrong bands on the wrong sides, so for years I thought one was the other. A typical moronic move on my part that went unnoticed until the internet days brought and end to my confusion.

Serena WmS. Burroughs said...

The WFMU blog has a new interview with Ju Suk Reet Meate of the band..."Smegma officially began on November 19th, 1973, at 361 Adena, when, after a wild jam, we were determined to come up with a name for our "band without musicians." Magma was playing in the background, and Gerry Bishop (later president of L.A.F.M.S.), learned man that he was, suggested “Smegma” as our name -- and the rest is history."