Saturday, January 08, 2011

You can tell this year is getting off to a snooze-like start given the following batch of writeups I've deemed worthy enough to actually present to the world (free-like!) and for purely self-serving reasons as usual. Yeah, I know that Janvier ain't exactly the up 'n at 'em month around here, but you'd think that I woulda done a whole lot better like I had on previous January postings which, if I do say do myself, are worthy of some kinda special blog award for "best post to get us through these bitter cold months" or something equally life-reaffirming. No luck this time, for it seems as if """""I""""" have succumbed to the same winter blahs that I've previously mentioned to the point where I feel like doin' the old Yogi Bear routine and cuddling up in a cave for the next four or so months! Well, better me than you I hear you say, and for that you're going to get stuck with the following biased opines that I'm sure will fit firmly inside your ever-expansive rectums which is undoubtedly where you're gonna put em!

Peter Hammill-NADIR'S BIG CHANCE LP (The Famous Charisma Label, England)

In honor of being about to obtain an actual vinyl copy of this for the phony record shop I plan on building in my basement here are my opinions regarding this album that thanks to Mister John Lydon himself is considered a classic 'stead of yet another prog rock shuck that sorta got pushed to the side once the likes of Lydon and his pals rescued us from the depressing doldrums of seventies rock music. Or something like that, but even if the formerly Rotten one didn't play this 'un on that particular deejaying stint which brought it to most of our attentions NADIR'S BIG CHANCE woulda made it at least lukewarm-like in punk-worthily enough circles. And who knows, maybe the rest of us peons mighta gotten a kick outta it as well.

In actuality this is a reformed (meaning they weren't gonna play slosh anymore?) Van Der Graaf Generator platter and yeah, I never did cozy up to 'em back when I first spun some of their material as a hearty fifteen-year-old but curiosity sure did get the better of me! And somehow I don't think age has mellowed my opinion of 'em even if boss rockscribe Kris Needs speaks highly of "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", but since Hammill took on the persona of the leather-jacketed punk Ricky Nadir before such a move would have been expected (1975 even!) a skeptic such as myself must admit that the punkitude is clearly in gear and it ain't that phony sorta thing that had ex-progsters jumping on punkwagons in a few year's time! And yeah, this album for all intent purposes is a punk rock record or at least about as much of one as we could get outta the likes of a Hammill back in the mid-seventies which I guess is way better'n hearing the usual "emote" sputtering from the man's lips. A smart way to spend your import bin money along with whatever Can collection happened to be coming out at just around the same time.

This has Roxy Music sway, early-Velvet Underground drive and a general ambiance to it that wouldn't sound outta place in some late-seventies ZIGZAG list even if the whole thing still does tend to have that Famous Charisma Label air of uppercrust Englishness marinated into it.

But wha' th' hey, the idea of an established English rock snob taking on the mannerisms of glam punk and releasing an album that succeeds on all fronts is mighty forward-looking indeed, up there with the early Neu! albums, pre-snooze Eno, Can, the Amon Duuls and CAPTAIN LOCKHEED AND THE STARFIGHTERS as far as early punk peckings in an industry-saturated music scene go. The songs kick butts 'stead of buckets (even the slower introspective ones which if I recall made up Hammill's modus opporandi in the seventies and carried him through quite a moolah-making career) and even with the more advanced playing and definite chops there's an underlying current of intensity running throughout the platter which only makes me wish that Van Der Graaf had taken more cues from the Velvets and Stooges like Roxy did and maybe they wouldn't be as ignored today as they are.

The punkers and the introspectives manage to envelop you in ways that labelmates like Genesis never could. Who'd've thunk that Hammill coulda spouted off words like the kind you find in the opening title track where his guitar is certainly gonna kill a lot more than your mama...couldn't see anything like that comin' outta THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY and I'm surprised Charisma didn't make Hammill turn in his sensitive singer/songwriter card after its's that important to the overall development of English spuzz attitude, y'know.
Fadensonnen-GREY EP CD (Fadensonnen)

Here's an unsolicited item I received in the mail today complete with a note that read "Hi Chris, High (Psychic) Energy Rock didn't die - it seeped into the waterways of Brooklyn. Hope you enjoy this!" Now, some might think that I would revert back to my true self and tinkle sprinkle all over this particular disque like Iggy's girlfriend would to Iggy himself, but I refuse to do what would come most natural to me and hey, will give this disque a more-than-decent writeup! Fadensonnen are a pretty hotcha group that kinda reminds me of some of those experimental aggregates of the past twenty years who have been springing up from some of the most bizarre places imaginable...Charlamanides 'r whatever they're called and some of the Japanese post-Rallizes Denudes acts come to mind. And (given the weirdo cover graphic reprinted above) a bit of the specter of Chrome seems to be looming high above as well. Hot electric guitar blare with psychedelic hints that remind me of post-Hendrix scronkings w/o the vocals, or any other instruments for that matter. A "PD" and "RD" make of the group and their wild feedback-drenched sound is enough to give heart and hope to this way-outta-it oldtimer who still follows Lester Bangs' dictum about feedback being the best thing that happened to the electric guitar (and all that Lou Reed did on METAL MACHINE MUSIC was take the guitar away!). You might think it's boring but personally I find the entire thing very intense, engaging, mesmerizing and invigorating simultaneous-like. And who knows, you might too! "Highly recommended" way for you to toss out more of your hard-begged!
GREAT LAKES' FIRST SUBMARINE: L.D. PHILLIPS' "FOOL KILLER" by Patricia A. Gruse Harris (The Hubbard Company, 1982)

You can really tell that I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel by reviewing this particular piece of historical snoozearama! Well, considering how I've been harboring an interest in submarines of the mid-nineteenth century ever since I began following the excavation and eventual raising of the CSS Hunley a good decade back let's just say that a book such as this certainly does come in mighty handy! And yeah, I know that the only thing most of you BLOG TO COMM readers know about submarines is what you do in the bathtub with a toy know the situation where the sub gets stuck in the underwater cave and you have to move it in then quickly put it in reverse repeatedly in order to get it out, but for once let's be serious about it, willya?

Slim volume featuring a whole load of information (and even some illustrations) regarding Lodner Darvontis Phillips, a shoemaker turned inventor who build a whole slew of underwater vessels (and designed a diving suit) in the 1840's and '50's while living near the great lakes and without any real formal training as to how to go about doing it the "right" way. In many ways it's a surprise that the man was so successful with his endeavors because his subs were undoubtedly a good fifty years ahead of their time and pretty advanced next to some of the vessels that were being created elsewhere on this globe. Considering how the authoress had to piece together loads
of information extracted from newspapers and family members piecemeal there still are a lot of gaps in the book needing to be filled, but the resultant spew sure delivers on more than most any submarine aficionado can get even online these days. Plenty of historical fodder even though there are some major omissions (por ejemplo, there's nada about the use of subs during the Civil War, the first conflict to employ these buggers in any noticeable capacity), and to read about what was going on in the world of these submersibles back when it seemed as if these sub makers hadda create a lot of the technology needed for these infernal machines especially if it wasn't readily available is pretty invigorating. One particularly funny anecdote from the book; in the early 1850's, Phillips wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy offering to build a sub complete with an underwater cannon like the one he was using to clear away debris, and got a stinging rebuke back mentioning that the boats in the navy sailed on, not under the water! Hope that secretary got his just rewards, mainly a naval Switzerland!

I'd assume that this platter is of little if any interest to the standard runna-da-mill BLOG TO COMM reader; however, regarding our ongoing discussion of the avant garde inclinations of Ellington from the mid-forties on the inclusion of the track "Tonk" featuring Ellington and longtime collaborator Billy Strayhorn should raise a few eyebrows. One of those numbers that had pointy-headed big-city music critics rushing to their thesauruses so's they can come up with sparkly words to describe this, "Tonk" is a surprisingly advanced number featuring the two dueling on twin grands creating a short yet to-the-point grabber that comes off about as much as a precursor of various late-forties experimentation as it does the previous half-century of jazz wrapped up and compressed into a three-minute composition. If you want a good idea as to where George Russell, Cecil Taylor, Lennie Tristano and Sun Ra were nurturing their own particular credos this could be the place. I seem to recall hearing this used as the soundtrack to some silent experimental short somewhere which is probably about as obvious a move as anyone could make.

As for the rest, this careens between some of Ellington's greatest and most popular works from the mid-forties but I know you readers could give about as much of a hoot about it as British subjects give about dental hygiene. Maybe I feel the same way too because if it weren't for "Tonk" I'd just be happy enough to experience the rest of these tracks via the web. Come to think of it, if you want to experience "Tonk" without having to pay for a Cee-Dee why not just click on the youtube link below and save yourself the pittance this platter would ultimately cost you:

PS- a big howdy doody to Serena WmS. Burroughs for posting "Fleurette Africaine" on his BUG ME LATER blog. Nice to see that there is at least one person out there who's got a handle on what this blog is all about and is willing to flaunt it as well!



Hi Chris,

Thanks for the glowing review, its nice to have your endorsement for our hard work - your writing has informed my REAL O-MIND for quite a few years now.

We'll be finishing up the EP trilogy soon - some real unhinged guitar action on future releases . . .


Serena WmS. Burroughs said...

I was never a big VG/Hammill fan, but I remember a Hammill concert review in "Melody Maker" in the early 70s that began something like "Then there's the instant Peter Hammill formula that goes like this: start each song with quiet chording on the piano, singing softly and earnestly for a few minutes, then cut out the music and shout something like 'I think I'm going to wash my socks!'"

My favorite upper-crust-does-punk records are the two LPs that Anthony Moore, a/k/a Anthony More a/k/a A. More, formerly of Slapp Happy did in the late 70s/early 80s, "Flying Doesn't Help" and "World Service." They are actually more in the post-punk vein, but I do recommend them.


When you get your record store up and running, I think you should get life-size cardboard stand-ups made of famous record store people such as Mike Weldon, Jim Jones, and Crocus Behemoth to put behind the counter.

Anonymous said...

I've been digging a whole slew of 1940s Ellington sides and "Far East Suite" over the past month or so, while nursing my sore gums - so there! Two more stereotypes quashed!

BTW, I love the joke that, if there were to be a fire at the Oscars, and the bodies needed to be ID-ed by dental records, to only folks they'd be able to name would be Steve Buscemi and the Limeys!


Anonymous said...

Is that because our teeth actually *are* our teeth?!

Christopher said...

Sure they're your teeth...after all you bought and paid for 'em after the first batch fell out, right???

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid we're just not that superficial!

Christopher said...

...or that hygienic!