Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Down-Fi-AMERICA NOW CD (Gustav, PO Box 55512, Indianapolis IN 46205 or try CD Baby)

Izzit as good as Mirrors or Rocket From The Tombs? Ya gotta be kiddin', cuz how close to the mid-seventies hard-edged taproot can anyone (even some of the originators of the form) hopefully get these days? But as far as for being a representation of what '72-'76 (roughly) u-ground rock upgraded (not updated) for the last day of the oughts can be you probably can't find anything that much better than these Indianans. Former Mirror/Rocket mainstay Craig Bell (once a bassist, now a guitarist!) leads this quartet of mostly youngsters through some good mid-Amerigan pre-punque punk that sounds about as 1975 as it can that, despite the slickoid production, doesn't stop off off at too many eighties/nineties sideshows thus ruining the entire effect to all heck. In fact, once you get outta your mind that this is yet another "modern" effort that lacks the bared-wire intensity that once was seventies underground rock this is a downright surprising effort. In fact, as the days progress this one just might hold up a whole lot more'n some of those other grande returns that only proved that once you could afford to buy the old homestead (or play rock & roll in 2009) it was gonna be shot to crap beyond all recognition (or decadence just ain't what it used to be!).

Bell sounds a lot different than he did back when he was yowling for both Mirrors and Rocket, not exactly more "mature" mind you but his once youthful twang has been replaced by a more threatening growl. And the Down-Fi thenselves sound rather well-seasoned, at least enough for these thirty-something (I assume) guys to catch up to their fifty-five-plus leader who probably could give most of the competition a whole lotta aggravation not only with his singing but his inherent leadership and songwriting. The results are post-Velvets ca. 1978 kinda blended through too many self-produced singles of that era and filtered through the entire Cleveland/Boston scenes at least when they mattered. And speaking of the great gap in's funny, but back when I was actually in touch with Bell about two decades back he was crabbing that he and his wife were trying to form a band and some kidz just didn't wanna play w/'em because they were too old! Which only goes to show you how times change, or that rock & roll is so hard up such trivialities as ageism don't matter anymore.

Amongst the highlights...a new version of the Rocket "standard" "So Cold" and an ode to a Studebaker entitled "'62 Hawk" undoubtedly written during Bell's Saucer days since none other'n Seth "Dumptruck" Tiven's listed as co-author. (The original version might be on that Saucers Cee-Dee comp I reviewed awhile back...I'll hafta check.) The title track is also noteworthy if only for the great rock-riff drive, only "marred" by the lyrics which are kinda off-putting if only because it's strange listening to a current affairs rock song that seems timely on one hand yet perhaps way too overwrought on another. Of course we never let such trivialities like that bother us in our quest for pure rockism excitement, have we???


Bill S. said...

Hi, Chris.

Great to know that Craig Bell is still at it!

Are you still without a CD player?

I just purchased the 6-dvd "Big Band, Jazz, and Swing Shorts" box-set from the Warner Archive, and each night I've been sampling 2 or 3 of these strange pre-swing early 30s Vitaphone one-reel shorts featuring cabaret and radio stars I've never heard of, along with pre-swing bandleaders such as, say, Ben Pollack or Roger Wolfe Kahn (I also saw Kate Smith younger than I'd ever seen her, as if she were in her early 20s!). They are almost like musical versions of Educational Pictures comedy shorts. With almost every one I watch, I comment to Mary Anne, "boy, I wish Chris was here to watch this with us. He'd REALLY appreciate them!" Sometimes the "announcing"/comic relief is provided by people who seem to be right off the vaudeville stage. I keep hoping that Joe Cook's face will appear... :-) Shemp Howard (who of course was working at Vitaphone in this period--remember his classic shorts with Daphne Pollard? and his appearance in one of Fatty Arbuckle's "comeback" Vitaphone shorts)showed up in one the other night, as the overbearing manager of some radio singer.
Hope all is well...


ps, one of the shorts had a "plot" holding it together involving George Jessel (also younger than I'd ever seen him). Boy, how we need entertainers like George Jessel today!!! No one has ever filled those shoes... I remember seeing him on some tv chat show when I was a child, this elderly man with some young blonde wife in her 20s, a knowing wink in his eye and a laid-back sense of cool and a jaded "I've seen and done it all" kind of calm. I was impressed as an 8 year old!


Anonymous said...

-- off topic --
The Onion ( is using three surname combinations in its American Voices section. B2C readers may recognize some of the triplets.
=> Newman, Gilbert, Lewis
=> Wire;
=> Castellano, Bloom, Sarzo
=> Blue Oyster Cult;