JUST DOING MY DOODY!
Which is an apt way to describe this week's post I guess. But what else can I say about my current sluggishness other than maybe the current warm weather situation is relaxing enough to make me want to revert way back to days of old and to what some might want to call happier times. This is the time of year that really brings back those old happy memories of a carefree if over-protected youth, unlike the cold autumn and chilling winter that usually remind me of torrid schooldays and putting up with the "man" (or in my case the "teach"). And what more than a sunny day can rush those happy kid memories to the front of the brain like nothing else outside of maybe a collection of old, long-forgotten comic strips or pre-relevance DC titles!
Ah yes, once the thermometer hits sixty degrees those halcyon times when all I had to worry about was getting out of bed early enough to watch the cartoons just come rushing back, as does all the fun I had visiting my now long-gone relatives whom I'll never see again which only drives in the point that maybe I should make good with what I have because who knows when I will be left all alone to rot! Ennui city y'know. A day like today also makes me wish that I was going with mom to the local department store (now torn down of course!) and making her buy me a toy car lest I cause a big fuss and embarrass her to all heck like any good decent kid would do! And while I'm there I'll also marvel at those body leashes that parents used to put their kids in so's they wouldn't get lost...I remember asking my folks to get me one because I thought they looked so cool and I could act like a dog while my folks would drag me around Mason's just like the rest of those unruly kids! Boy that looked like fun, kinda like that time when Rocket From The Tombs played the Agora and Craig Bell dragged Gene O'Connor onstage by a leash as the future Mr. Chrome scratched and snarled!
Of course afterwards we'd all go to Kiddie City at the plaza and take in a few rides before it was time to go home. Later on we'd stop at the Dog House across the street for a bite, another treat I sure would love to relive from my single-digit days early division! Sheesh, how I do cringe at the thought of those days being long gone and not only forgotten but loathed by people who could never have fun in a million years unless they were bitten on the butt, or at least had a tongue stuck way up it! And call me Dave Lang if you will, but I really do pity the young 'uns of today for not having the opportunity to experience life the way I did with tee-vee your best friend and a father to read you the (then high quality) funnies every evening, something which truly made me the man I am today and I'm sure inspires every little throbbing piece of muscle, bone and gristle in this very blog!
But enough of my rheumy memories which have been bulldozed over thanks to "progress" and life in general. You put-on decadent snobs who have nothing but raging hatred for midclass fun suburban living wouldn't understand or care one bit now anyway, wouldja??? But I'm sure the vast majority of you hairy-chested manly readers do. Of course!
***Various Artists-ARTROCKER AT CMJ 7-inch EP (Artrocker, UK)
I remember when the gig that produced the four tracks on this EP transpired during October of '03 at the CBGB Lounge that was next door its more famous big brother, and I must admit that even at that time I exhibited a bit of curiosity as to what the bands playing at this particular CMJ "showcase" were laying down amidst the rest of the flavors of the week that were performing. Naturally it was the term "artrocker" which was being used to describe the four groups here that originally grabbed my attention, and considering just how all-encompassing of the best and worst of that sound we know and love as rock & roll has been tagged as art rock how would I know if these particular acts were English (the nationality of these groups) progressive rock types to warm Chris Welch's heart, or much better yet the kind of art rock that had been transpiring on the New York scene since the early seventies. Well, there was one way to find out, and that was to buy a copy you pongo you!
I know that if you've read this far down the line that you're probably wondering whether or not the bands featured on this commemorative EP were performing the art rock of ELP or the kind that was being accredited to the likes of Patti Smith and Talking Heads during the days when even Bernie Kugel would put them on the cover of his magazine! Well, fortunately for you these groups aren't either grandiose pomp nor studious art student dribblings but downhome all-out rock & roll, the kind that drove a lotta people to ditch their ROLLING STONEs back in '76 and pick up Kay guitars at flea markets nationwide. True it's English (and you know how trendy they can get even if their hearts are in the right place) but it's good English, like the kind you got back when it was 1981 and you poured through the latest NME and Rough Trade catalogs for the newest in high energy musings that kinda cured your pangs of loneliness once that sixties clocked out. And I think I already know what you think you're getting from groups with handles like Gin Palace, the Two Tears, the Flash Express and the Hells (wonderful names all), but in this case you're not getting the worst aspects of English flash and instant obscurity but fun high energy hard pop rock & roll that would even make Spunky Spider blush!
All of these groups have a great sense of pop reality and hard rocking aesthetics. At times I'm reminded of the best of those eighties "psychedelic revival" outfits and Television Personalities-related groups that were the rage of the fanzine world then, only without the usually expected "twee" that detracted from the raw meat of it all. Other times the best of Amerigan seventies rock with a sixties soupbase that fueled the first two issues of KICKS comes to mind. In fact this EP is so outta left field surprising us all good that I'll betcha Alan Betrock himself coulda been fooled about its origin has he'd only lived long enough! This packs a punch, and really I can't recommend this enough especially with such wonders as the Hells' "He's The Devil (But I Love Him So)", the Flash Express' "Ride the Flash Express" (that one sound like it was ripped from the grooves of some unreleased Freakbeat compilation that Greg Shaw has sent us from the great beyond), or even the Gin Palace with their vocalist who seems to have learned how to sing from listening to Olive Oyl and capturing those wavering nuances just perfect!
So when you see the word "artrocker" don't cower in fear...these groups really do bring back a lot of the excitement that was missing from rock & roll since the seventies and nothing gets me all hot and bothered like a fast rockin' number to wash away the bogus pretension that I usually have to endure thanks to the likes of "Classic Rock" and other latterday answers to the Jan Garbers and Eddie Duchins of yore. And you can bet that as soon as I get this thing posted I'm gonna do some heavy-duty research on each and every one of these groups just like I did when I was ten doing a book report on Japan just so's I could get a peek at some of them topless pearl diver gals!
***GRAPHIC ILLUSIONS #6 (fanzine published by Robert Gustaveson, 1971)
In the wake of WITZEND there was a rash of what some would call more "intellectual" and "professionally-oriented" fanzines, publications that were less concerned with detailing histories of long-gone superheroes from long-gone publishers and bent on showcasing the works of artist both budding and popular which couldn't get into a mainstream mag if its life depended on it. These "upscale" fanzines would also include fare that might have seemed a bit more provocative and perhaps even "adult" (talking cursing and partial femme nudity) thus proving that the comic book idiom was beginning to attract an older, more (perhaps) phony sophisticated clientele. GRAPHIC ILLUSIONS was but one of these newer breed of 'zines, a professionally-printed and saddle-stapled effort that in many ways resembled an early issue of WITZEND with its portfolios as well as stories that not only surpassed the typical "crudzine" kiddie art of the day but the standard fanzine heroes who, although certainly worthy of praise in their own right, came off more or less like translucent imitations of the Golden and Silver-Age heroes these artists and fans undoubtedly worshiped.
The GRAPHIC ILLUSIONS that I recently latched onto (#6) is probably a typical one for the course. Nice layout and printjob here akin to the early WITZENDs and the rest of the higher-grade pubs, and for an "amateur" fanzine GRAPHIC ILLUSIONS spared no expense in putting out a quality rag even managing to use some red ink on the back cover as part of the MR. A. panel they had the good sense to use 'stead of a drawing of a superbunny or something equally cutesy. The use of color on this particular panel made for a wunnerful effect even though I don't know how this would have gone down with Steve Ditko, a perfectionist who wanted his personalist work to display a strong black/white imagery in order to relay his morality tales in the proper perspective. (I hope that editor Robert Gustaveson personally okayed the use of color with Ditko in advance, for it would seem the righteous thing to do in a situation like this especially considering Ditko's exacting standards.)
Speaking of MR. A., there's also a five-page story of his on the inside, the undisputed highlight of this issue not only because this is an important work of Ditko's but because this one was not reprinted either in the Fantagraphics collection of his work nor any recent exhumations that I've come across! Dunno why, but I guess that since the story and the moral being used have been part of the Ditko oeuvre for quite some time the editors in question would have felt it redundant to reprint it. Still, the saga of a man tightroping between good and evil playing it corrupt while assuaging his intentions is pretty neat, especially in these days when the story would probably end with the man either being totally forgiven (with the forgivers blaming themselves for the deeds of the corrupted one) or coming out on top getting away with his deeds since "everybody does it" I guess.
The rest of GRAPHIC ILLUSIONS fares "ok"-like, with folios that really don't tingle the visual cravings in us all as well as another history of the EC comics line that doesn't shed any new light on its subject especially next to the reams of EC fanzines (some of them of pretty exceptional quality) that have been coming out since the fifties. But still I really dig these self-produced efforts to the utmost just for the fact that they exist and continue to serve an important purpose that really hasn't gone away. Frankly, I discovered long ago that I can find more pertinent information in even the lowest-fidelity of crudzine than I can in any issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY so you know where my filthy lucre's going!
***Various Artists-THE ELECTRIC ASYLUM VOLUME 4 CD (Past & Present, UK)
On the heels of GLITTERBEST not forgetting my own personal CD-R collection comes this release which I assume is part of a series featuring rare European glam rock singles that somehow didn't make it to our mitts back when they were being churned out in the early-seventies. The compilers had the good taste to include a few rarities such as the Ning single amidst the familiar tracks that had already ended up on GLITTERBEST, but the inclusion of plenty of standard hard rock single sides only waters down the impact the good punkier stuff makes. Computer savvy people should just make their own platters for personal use, though given the lack of hard punk obscurities Purepop has been posting as of late it looks as if part two of my own personal collection's gonna hafta wait a good five or so years! C'mon Mr. Wills, I know you gotta lot more proto-punk up your sleeve!
***Ultimate Ovation with Force of Power-"It's the Weekend"/"Girl, You're All I Want" 45 rpm (Eleganza, no address but various mailorder outlets have it in stock)
Lastly but not leastly comes this strange surprise outta nowhere, a brand new 45 rpm complete with the big hole inna middle featuring this retro-soul trio that I and perhaps you have never heard of! And for a guy who thought that the self-made 45 was dead (and soul music was deader) this arrives as a breath of fresh air in a stagnant pond of music that pretends to be new and cutting but ends up sounds like every other mainstream product on the market at around the second trimester.
Both sides top just about everything I've heard outta the soul genre over the past x-teen years with a slow burning intensity that I didn't know still existed. There's a little bit of seventies reggae influx here/there as well, and naturally the overall garage production doesn't hurt one bit and in fact heightens the pressure gauge. Reminds me of some of the better acts that used to scurry around the CB's 313 Gallery scene in the early oh-ohs working a similar soul/rock hybrid and doing rather well at that. And the backing group Force of Power, not only featuring Detroit legends ex-Gorie Dan Kroha but Jeff Meier who used to be in the Detroit Cobras, provide more'n ample assist to the Ovation's guttural pleas without being overpowering. Scour the internet hard and it shall be yours for a mere pittance!