Sunday, June 10, 2012

Something must be going wrong (or right)...I don't have anything special to piss and moan about this week! Therefore, on with the reviews!


At long last comes this collection of single sides and demos from legendary Gallic heavy metal group Rotomagus, an act who singlehandedly disproved the common fallacy that French rock makes for lame jamz. Many people (myself included) have frothily written these guys up o'er the past few years, and you can betcha bottom dullard that this release has been as highly anticipated  'round these parts as the Rocket From The Tombs download from a few months back which only goes to show you that there may be hope for us high energy rockers in the upcoming months, if not years!

This comp shows that Rotomagus were, if anything,  a bunch the more or less flung themselves straight into the hard rock dungheap after performing  a more commercial bent pop music that lives up to the prejudices many have towards French rock. But even at their most oo-la-la Rotomagus had more going for 'em than the competition...take the flip of their Polydor debut "Nevada" which is good enough "Beatle Rock" for everyone from Ritchie Unterberger to Tim Ellison to scrutinize and might have earned at least a paragraph in an issue of JAMZ if it had only gotten around back then. The CBS single roared on like a continental Deep Purple (???) shoulda while "Fighting Cock" continues to amaze with its definite punkian overtones that just mighta given the Imperial Dogs a run for the francs. Still, it ain't hard to discern that Rotomagus were drawing their energies from the more commercial Anglo and Amerigan acts...fortunately they were savant enough to take their cues from everyone from the Mamas and the Papas to Led Zep while still coming out smelling like "punk gryphons" just like the Sweet did, and that ain't anything easy to do! It may seem strange to you, but I find this approach a whole lot better (and fresher) than the various upstarts of the late-seventies/eighties who gobbled the entire Velvets/Detroit/New York saga and proceeded to churn out some of the lamest,  most anti-rock 'n roll music to have made it out of the decades to come.

The nine demos recorded for the group's final label Butterfly are flat out engrossing even if they don't quite pack the nuclear punch of their swan song (eh, but I guess they were just "run throughs") and what I guess was an unreleased single (one side complete with Chipmunk vocals!) deserved to remain in the can all these years. But I ain't arguing with having 'em all on one nice shiny platter even it woulda been grand if the post-Rotomagus Phoenix album with those Led Zep covers was slapped on here as well. Why bitch when the music is some of the best representation of hard-edged rock recorded during a time when most people were jumping on the peace train and listening to Melanie albums. When prodded hard enough Rotomagus were probably one of the better straight-ahead high energy rock groups that came outta the continent at the time, and although I couldn't rank 'em up there with the Stooges or Groovies I might be able to muster up a good argument 'bout their standing in the rock pantheon of fun trash alongside Black Pearl or the Up (they were certainly miles ahead of Stepson), and that ain't small potatoes either!

Various Artists-MICHIGAN MELTDOWN LP (Coney Dog Records)

No doubt about it, the early/mid-seventies just weren't as conduit to rockist concerns as millions of hardcore rockers wished they were, especially when compared to the over-the-top mid-sixties when the music had made such a big inroad into the collective psyche that even stodgy college professors and aging beatniks were paying attention to it. Well, at least there were more than enough hard-edged, high energy groups around back then to keep all of you true rockers afloat, right? Right, but only a few of 'em pop up on this sampler of rare Michigan rock sides that I sure hope woulda kicked jams righteously but hits and misses all over the place.

Unfortunately I gotta admit that most of the acts on MICHIGAN MELTDOWN echo the socially aware Grand Funk aspects of the era 'stead of the anarchistic radicalization of the MC5. Thankfully that don't mean they're all a bunch of FM rock losers; in fact most of this album is warp drive even if some groups tend to waft over into the hippoid relevance and boogie blahs that were so common at the time. So amidst the Sabbath ripoffs and pseudo-voodoo numbers that appear you get some goodies like a mellotron-laden garage thumper by Apparition (featuring Scott Campbell, later of local punk faves/Max's Kansas City semi-regulars the Sillies) not forgetting two sides of the Flying Wedge single which was way closer to the Detroit rock taproot than the horn laden Tribal Sinfonia even if the drummer sounds like he's banging on a whole passel of bongos 'stead of some fifty-gallon oilcans.

For me, the album highlight is Metropolis with their "Age of Evolution," a track which only goes to show you that if you thought the MC5 could take basic rock 'n roll and reduce it to no-chord avant garde music, these emulators could do 'em one better! This track is to "Starship" what the Greek Fountains' cut on BEYOND THE CALICO WALL is to the medley on GOD BLESS THE RED KRAYOLA AND ALL WHO SAIL WITH IT and that's no lie! Coulda used a whole album of tracks with the same energetic quality, but with the vast amt. of late-sixties Detroit weirdities floating around perhap I can make my own compilation on a personal shiny disque and leave the dross on this platter, where it belongs!
OMNIVORE LP (Feeding Tube Records)

Omnivore's actually Glenna Van Nostrand, a Mass. performance artist who I guess likes to fiddle around with tape loops and telephones to interesting effect. Unlike a good portion of her fellow artistes Glenna can sure makes some downright entertaining if not enchanting sounds on this platter which features her overdubbed voice doing some of the most out-there femme acapella vocalese I've heard since "Music" on the second Red Krayola album (which, as you can tell, is a disque that has been laying heavily on my mind). Accompanied by nothing more than her telephones being used for keyboards and electronic percussion, Omnivore creates a fine choral music that reminds me of Phillip Glass's NORTH STAR album, or at least that vocal track that had Joan LaBarbara and Dick Landry amongst others doing some jazzy scat which coulda been used to a bank commercial. If you like being mesmerized by repeato-riffage (which has always made up the best rock 'n roll, as if monotony can't be a manifestation of genius) I'm sure you'll like this. If wary, try some youtube vids first.
Blanche Blanche Blanche-OUR PLACE LP (Feeding Tube)

Housed in a sleeve highly  reminiscent of  those early-seventies neo-nostalgia covers a la Harvey Mandel's BABY BATTER, the Blanche Blanche Blanche duo pop out snat little odes that, while not quite as catchy as Omnivore's rhythmic musings, still please the same way some of those early-eighties art projects did before they became way too self-conscious for my tastes. Short and sweet, these femme vocals backed by cheap organ and guitar have a more Ameriganized feeling than the Rough Trade booty I believe they were emulating, and dagnabbit if a good portion of this don't come off like some of the better AM radio commercial produce of the past, the kind that Erik Lindgren used to make his moolah with in the morn while working on Birdsongs of the Mesozoic in the evening. Smart, intelligent music that certainly comes off a whole lot better'n similar-minded gunk that filled up miles of cassette tape in the eighties (and is bound to be lionized by someone who doesn't know better in a few short years from now!).
The Phantom Keys-THE REAL SOUND OF THE PHANTOM KEYS CD-E (Screaming Apple)

Heading towards the bottom of the McGarry package, this time its a Spanish buncha guys doin' the Mike Stax r 'n b approach who are gettin' the well-deserved BLOG TO COMM spotlight.    Oddly enough this brings back a whole lotta memories, not of the original mid-sixties beat boom mind you but of the early-mid eighties "garage revival" phenomenon which seemed to have had so much promise, energy and a lotta hard work put into its music and fanzines yet got ignored like just about everything else that was good about that rotten decade. Like most of these latterday groups aping the early-sixties English blooze scene there's a whole lotta Pretty Things refs to be heard and definitely loads more approach and attack'n what has been passing for the "blues" scene lo these many years (mainly aging white ethnic guys trying to find the same thing in Robert Cray that they found in Howlin' Wolf). However, for some strange reason I get the feeling that if I were to spin this one for some typically aging blues aficionado I'd get a bullet neatly placed through my skull...well, did you ever think you could reason with 250 pounds of craggy bent toothed b.o.-laden unemployed steelworker types who could drink enough Canadian Club to drink Canada dry???
Cheap Time-WALLPAPER MUSIC CD-R burn (In The Red)

Another one from the McGarry pile, this time of a current act (originating from Tennessee) who do a pretty good job recreating various seventies punk concerns for a world that couldn't give a fig anymore. Frankly, I usually couldn't give a fig about any of these new acts anymore myself, but at least Cheap Time are grabbing enough in the way they mush up various aspects of hard pop, Amerigan punk and even some British post-Barrett psych and present it to you and new and innovative. And it is a refreshing change o' pace even if the whole thing reminds me of one of those boffo eighties punk rock acts that sorta got forgotten amidst the gnu wave, lite metal and hippiecore that was so prevalent then. I guess WALLPAPER MUSIC is old stuff done in a new way, or maybe a new rendition of old p-rock concerns whipped up with some new flash in order to make it seem less old-sounding or... Aw shucks, just go 'n download a copy yerself!
The Pagans-BURIED ALIVE LP (Treehouse)

The latest in a long line of albums to rise to the top of the pile like scum onna pond, this late-eighties wonder "might" have been made obsolete by the vast array of Crypt Cee-Dees that came out in its wake but I ain't cryin'. All of the single sides and more (comps etc.) are here making this a handy-dandy collection for you late-seventies punkophiles who fondly remember browsing through the various Dromes searching out booty such as this while pondering whether to spend your last $2.99 on Teacher's Pet or some Buzzcocks single. And man it's boss hard Amerigan punk of a '77-'79 variety that hasn't and will never let us down unlike a load of the gunk that came in its wake, a hard and driving sound that should prove that, as far as rock 'n roll concerns go, Brian and Mike were the real Hudson Brothers 'stead of that bunch we used to see on television alla time back inna seventies! Guaranteed to make any trueblue BLOG TO COMM fan dribble in pure addled erotic joy as the music slams you up against the wall and slithers through your sphinctor, and its better'n a good portion of the English stuff that was gettin' the high five at the time not to mention a nice hunk of what was passing for "precocious" and "visionary" back inna days when even a brief mention of the Pretenders in some weekly hippie read was considered a step forward! Yeah I know I'm overdoin' it, but this platter was the one thing that got my batteries on "recharge" this afternoon, and I ain't gonna be comin' down in quite a long time!

Bonus liner notes from Tesco Vee, Johnny Dromette and Byron Coley 'mongst others are bound to bring back the pulse and stamina that goes with the sound and vision of these forgotten boys. And hey, if anybody out there has a tape of the pre-Pagans Mad Staggers passing out while opening for Milk at the Willoughby Ohio YMCA please forward it to me asap!
THE COMPLETE DICK TRACY VOLUME 13 has finally made it out and, as you can already guess, has captivated me for the past few nights to the point where I've been having dreams of being stuffed into hospital sterilizing units and being steamed like a hunk of fish*. If you think thirteen's a bad luck number this volume's the one for you, not only when Tracy and Tess' new million-dollar home (how he could afford it on a cop's salary I'll never know!) burns to a crisp but when noted stinkpen BO Plenty gets shot in the chest and teeters between life and death for weeks on end! And, in a plot twist perhaps foreshadowing the Moon Maid episodes of a good fourteen years after, Tess gives birth to a strange mutant with an enlarged head and marmoset eyeballs that even gives a stoic iron-cast stomached person like myself the creeps!

Oddly enough, when you consider that by the time these early-fifties strips appeared the famed forties era of TRACY with the best-known villains and infamous twists and turns were pretty much behind us, TRACY seemed to be improving not only with better artwork but gnarlier plots and enough grotesque happenstance that might've even gotten the most notorious child molester a li'l sick inna stomach. The scene where Tracy's hair's set ablaze while searching for Junior in the burning inferno is memorable (all that hair tonic he uses must've ignited), as is the part where Crewy Lou's mute accomplice Sphinx gets crushed to death in an elevator shaft! And really, who could forget the time some badski kills himself by jumping out the window while trying to take Junior with him (you never see kids get offed, so that was quite startling!).  However, most striking for me was the brief passage where Tracy prays at the bedside of a dying Plenty asking God for mercy on the ol' pooperoo, a scene milked to cornball peak perfection but somehow perfect amidst all of the violence and brutality that was part and parcel to the strip!

Don't know why this volume hadda end right in the middle of the Crewy Lou saga (they coulda made it a bigger 'un) because these cliffhangers always make me feel sooooo cringe-y and I'm gonna hafta spend the next # of months just wondering what's in store until the fourteenth volume eventually makes it out! (And I thought it was bad as a kid watching BATMAN having to wait a day before discovering if the Dynamic Duo were gonna survive the Joker's nefarious death trap!) Of course I could sneak down into the basement and refresh myself as to what did happen via a slew of long-forgotten DICK TRACY MONTHLIES/WEEKLIES I lapped up well over twenty years ago, but I'd be cheating if I did a nefarious thing such as that!
BEFORE I GO, a quickie mention regarding the recent suicide of none other than former Fleetwood Mac member and solo star in his own right Bob Welch. Funny, just last night I had yet another wacky dream* where I was watching some ancient rock clips on television and what was supposed to have been the early Mac (and I mean very early, like perhaps 1964 because the band members had short hair and wore suits and ties giving them a more early-sixties BMOC look) were performing, complete with a bassist who did not quite resemble John McVie playing what looked like a huge guitarron-sized bass guitar, hollow bodied yet with distinctive Rickenbacker-styled cutouts (a close-up revealed a bridge that looked closer to an actual string bass, or at least a cello). Not only that but this version of the Mac were doing choreographed moves that were so akin to many of the acts of the day! Anyway, I only bring up Welch's demise because frankly, all I wanna know is am I the only guy who noticed that the riffs from "Ebony Eyes" and the opening of Pere Ubu's "Street Waves" are identical??? I caught the similarities way back when but nobody else ever mentions this, perhaps out of terminal hipstertude if anything.
*Speaking of dreams, last night, amidst a long wowzer of one that had something vaguely to do with a LEAVE IT TO BEAVER episode where Wally falls for some weird record-a-record scam that included filming a "video" with members of the Association and some fair maidens in a strange ROMEO AND JULIET burlesque, I had envisioned that Eddie Haskell was a member of the Beach Boys who got to sing lead on a number that sounded strangely like "Do It Again"! Not surprisingly, I find that such a song (as rendered in the dream) really fit in with the (perceived) vocal talents of Ken Osmond making me wonder why the longtime teenage star wasn't offered a recording contract like they did with Johnny Crawford and Shelly Fabres! Now you know why I get more of a kick outta things happening in my dreams than I do with real life, and with these kinda whacked out dreams wouldn't you too?

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