Monday, December 31, 2007

The Beatles - Paperback Writer

(Capitol, 1966)

Were you wondering which Beatle single sits alone atop the mountain of greatness? Which wears the crown of bestness and holds the scepter of #1-itude while drinking from the goblet of kick-rumpery? You are wondering those things? WELL WONDER NO MORE, BECAUSE THIS IS THE ONE!! Congratulations, “Paperback Writer” / “Rain”! The facts: The A-side is one of their hardest-rocking songs, crunching along at a brisk pace with just a few stops for breath to let the group toss out some top-notch three-part harmonies. And then the dudes go full-on psychedelic with “Rain,” its crawling vocal performance and backwards ending giving it the most delightfully druggy feel yet on a Beatles record. Paul and Ringo really outdo themselves on both songs – those burbling, melodic bass parts are right up front; crisp, full-kit drumming powers “Rain”; and the gunshot snare-hits in “Paperback Writer” are, as the kids say, the bee’s knees (provided you like bees and their joints) (Wait! “Joints”! And this a “druggy” single! I sort of made a joke right there, didn’t I! I mean, almost!).

For a long time I believed that the more celebrated “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever” was the superior record, but now, listening to this one over and over, I admit the error of my ways; this is simply stronger all around – the writing, the singing, the playing. See, people change, people get smarter. Like how just last night I realized that I actually enjoy the Beach Boys’ 15 Big Ones album. It has at least five songs on it that I, my taste now totally in the toilet, would consider “good”: “It’s OK,” “Everyone’s In Love With You,” “Palisades Park,” “Susie Cincinnati,” and “Just Once In My Life.” We’re always growing and learning, friends, and top celebrities like me are no different, despite our millions of Euros and mustachioed good looks. This is a valuable lesson for all of us, and one truly worth remembering as the year comes to an end. So be sure to join me in 2008, when we’ll really get the comments section hopping with a detailed discussion of the political/social unrest in Pakistan following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto; a closer look at Harry Reid’s crafty use of pro forma sessions to prevent Bush from making recess appointments; and of course our continuing wall-to-wall coverage of Trent Lott’s retirement from the Senate. It’s gonna be another terrific year of politics here at I Think I Hate My 45s!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Beatles - Nowhere Man

(Capitol, 1966)

Another luv-lee downer of a character study – Dylan lite, perhaps – from the increasingly inward-looking John, with cowpoke Ringo twangin’ it up on the B-side’s c&w-informed throwaway “What Goes On.” There’s a Byrdsian fullness to the layered vocals and the lead guitar of “Nowhere Man,” but my favorite part of this song is a teensy touch that for whatever reason has always tickled me bigtime. At about 1:02 (OK, I cheated and checked the timing on a CD copy), there’s a single keyboard note that’s held as the solo ends and the next verse begins. I love that! And it’s not quite the same thing, but Rubber Soul has even more wonderful sustained-note keyboard biz on “The Word”; check it out! That stuff kills me! Yep, just hold down a key or two and I’ll be clapping my hands and giggling ’til bedtime comes.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Beatles - Day Tripper / We Can Work it Out

(Capitol, 1965)

Hey, this is the fourth consecutive single I’ve reviewed that has the word “day” in the title, and it’s probably the best of the bunch. The Beatles continue to push the thematic boundaries of Top-40 teenyboppery with these two non-love songs; the moptop era, already showing weak vital signs on the band’s last few 45s, is definitely over with this one. Rock-side “Day Tripper” (fave of rookie guitarists the world over) is about pulling out of an unhealthy relationship, while the considerably more optimistic “We Can Work it Out” is a plea for reconciliation – though featuring a grim-faced, cautionary (“Life is very short…”) middle section. The latter song, with its harmonium and prominent tambourine, slots neatly into the mellow, rich-sounding period that the group was entering into, and is an appropriate companion to Rubber Soul, which was released at the same time as this single.

A fellow named
Lee Moses recorded a supercharged instrumental soul version of “Day Tripper” that is well worth hearing; it’s on the Time and Place compilation (which also includes #1 ass-kicker “Bad Girl”), so please go spend your money immediately. In other music news, my neighbor is listening to a Kool & the Gang compilation at top volume right now. But I did stay up until 5:00am this morning blasting Trans, so fair’s fair I suppose.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Beatles - Yesterday

(Capitol, 1965)

Dig now Paul’s reputation-cementing ballad, which quickly became The Biggest Pop Standard Ever and kick-started the great/horrible 40-year career of McCartney as balladeer. As syrupy and overblown as he would often get on discs to come, give “Yesterday” credit for being sparse and tasteful; the string accompaniment takes a backseat to the warm vocal and guitar, and little touches like the spooky doubling of Paul’s voice during the first “…now I long for yesterday” are quite effective. Ringo’s twangy hoedown on the B-side – a cover of “Act Naturally” – makes for a jarring shift in tone, but, if nothing else, it does a nice job of showing off the band’s ability to pull off credible impressions of its influences (the best example being “Please Mister Postman,” which blows the original right outta the water).

Here’s an observation: Seems to me that Ray Davies was taking a shot at Paul and the Beatles when he wrote these lines in “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”:

Well yesterday was such an easy game for you to play
But let’s face it things are so much easier today
Guess you need some bringing down
And get your feet back on the ground

That song was recorded in October, 1965; “Yesterday” was released in August, 1965… Given the timing and the similarity between the lyrics, it’d sure be a funny coincidence if Davies didn’t have McCartney’s tune in mind when he penned his own ditty, wouldn’t it? Why you so prickly, Ray? And why am I the only person to ever point this out? Weigh in! Paul, let’s hear from you first.

The Beatles - Eight Days a Week

(Capitol, 1965)

Ha ha ha oh you krazy Beatles. First you go and misspell “Beetles,” now you get the number of days in a week messed up. Eight days?? EIGHT? There are only SEVEN days in a week, you nuts! Didn’t you guys KNOW that? I’m not sure how they do things in England, but it’s definitely always been seven over here in the U.S.A., and always will be, too. Jeez-o-man! The song itself? Oh, it’s, uh, it’s fine and everything, it actually sorta SWINGS (rather than ROCKS) and even though it’s super-duper catchy and all, it’s not an obvious jump forward for the group and is really one of the more disposable of the (late-period) Beatlemania singles. And what’s up with the fade-in on this song? Weird! Well, OK, that’s a cute gimmick, I guess; sure. But let’s admit that the acoustic “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” is pretty fuggin’ weak, even if it is emotionally complex and whatnot (you’re really plumbin’ the depths of male insecurity, John… wayta go!). In conclusion, whether you’re from Kirkland WA, Westminster MA, or even Calgary AB, you can surely agree that my neverending Beatles reviews are utterly worthless.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night

(Capitol, 1964)

Without fail, pulling an all-nighter upsets my stomach, and this year’s Christmas travel made necessary a sleepless Amtrak Sunday that had my insides churning for much of the following day. So as I watched the dawn puke itself all over the New England landscape this morning from a train window, I was already considering finding a paper bag so I could follow suit. Grim hours indeed. But happily, things were looking up after I caught some accidental z’s on a cousin’s sofa later in the afternoon, nog in hand (oh that nog). In my improved mood, I am able to mull how totally my railway experience stands as a pathetic contrast to the zany choo-choo boogaloo of those fun-lovin’ Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night’s opening sequence. Which is a convenient topic of thought, because that movie’s titular single is next up in our hit parade of reviews. How ’bout that!

The Beatles are completely locked in by now, operating at full power with a dense, exciting production that’s sandwiched between two unorthodox snatches of chiming guitar – the first announces the group with a powerful, ringing blast; the last fades away as the band sprints off into the distance. Ringo comes through yet again, layering cowbell and subtle, galloping hand-percussion tracks around his “hit it on the two and the four” rockbeat. On the tra-la-la front, Lennon handles the verses and McCartney the bridge, and DANG do their double-tracked voices sound perfect chasing after one another. In fact, the whole song has a chase-like quality to it, successfully conveying – aurally – the crazy pop-world rush of the film with which it shares its name. Very nice soundtrackin’ fellas, very nice soundtrackin’ indeed. On the B-side, “I Should Have Known Better” (also featured in the movie) gives us an early hint at the self-doubt John’s lyrics would investigate much more sharply on albums like Help! and Beatles For Sale. But the creeping maturity and self-awareness manage to heighten rather than dampen the fun on this single as new musical and lyrical possibilities are enthusiastically mined. You win again, Beatles!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Beatles - Love Me Do

(Tollie, 1964)

The first British single, yes, but not released on 45 in the United States until 1964’s frenzied post-Sullivan cash-grab. “Love Me Do” is an uncomplicated, harmonica-heavy number with a clomping beat, and it’s bluesier and far more constipated-feeling than the songs that defined the classic early “Beatle sound” soon to be in place. (The absence of tambourine on the recording indicates that Tollie chose to issue the Ringo version of the song; an alternate take, with Andy White playing drums, was – and still is – simultaneously available on the international market in LP and 7” form.) The smooth “P.S. I Love You,” on the other hand, feels a bit more assured, with the group coasting through this balls-free love song under some fine vocalizing by McCartney, who even cuts loose with a little soulful ad-libbing at the end. Certainly both sides of this disc are rudimentary efforts – the cave paintings of Beatle art – and better marked as safe pop-combo pap than funtime rock ’n’ roll, yet they’re still satisfying on their own merits, simply because these guys always knew how to write a catchy song, sophisticated or not. And that’s the name of the game, yeah?

It’s worth noting that, much later, two Beatles would revisit these tracks with embarrassing results: Ringo released a lame, gimmicky cover of “Love Me Do” on his Vertical Man album in 1998, while Paul, on the Flowers in the Dirt tour, combined both sides of the single into an atrocious dancepop number called “P.S. Love Me Do.” Recordings of that travesty appeared on a UK single and various live bootlegs, all of which should be avoided.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Beatles - I Want to Hold Your Hand

(Capitol, 1964)


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Beatles - She Loves You

(Swan, 1963)

And now we reach the Beatles, a band you’ve never heard from, of, or about. But I’m here to help, so take my www.hand and let me guide you through their wacky lives ’n’ times in the magical world of song! We’re talking about four canny guys from unAmerica who predicted the invention of eBay and so formed a rock group specifically built around the idea of releasing attractive picture sleeves that would, decades later, command high prices on the collector circuit.

“She Loves You,” which was itself reissued in 1964 with a nice red sleeve, was the third American single for the Beatles, released on Swan after the band’s split from Vee-Jay and prior to its signing with the big boys at Capitol. Opening with some thundering toms, this one is driven by an exciting, thumping performance – with a whole lotta cymbal on top – from Ringo. The lyrics are actually rather interesting, sung from the perspective of a mutual friend who is working to facilitate a reunion between a pair of exes by passing along news of the female’s continued romantic interest. This helpful fellow dispenses some sage advice to the male (“Pride can hurt you too!”) and is enthusiastic enough about the prospective coupling that he punctuates his reports of the woman’s expressed desire with some hearty “yeah yeah yeah”s each time. That simple vocal hook is justifiably famous as hell (and parodied as hell), and the whole package is so catchy and instantly-unforgettable that it seems inevitable that the disc was to kick the asses of the UK charts from day one. But not so in the US!

Weirdly enough, given its obvious HIT HIT HIT potential, “She Loves You” initially stiffed in the States, possibly because little Swan – unlike Capitol – just didn’t apply (or have available) the necessary promotional muscle ($) to push the group to the top. So did our heroic four-piece, discouraged and shamed by yet another American chart failure, disband and slink away from the music business forever? I’m a betting man, so I would wager YES. But be sure to stay tuned to this site, the world’s only place for the story of the Beatles, and you’ll soon learn the exciting answer!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Beach Boys - Mount Vernon and Fairway

(Warner Brothers, 1973)

The Beach Boys included “Mount Vernon and Fairway” as a bonus EP with the rootsy Holland album, but despite being labeled Sides 3 and 4 it has nothing to do musically or thematically with the rest of that LP. A fried, poorly-written – albeit clearly personal – fairy tale pieced together by Brian Wilson and narrated by Jack Rieley, the track sketches out the story of a prince and a magic transistor radio which is inhabited by the party-hearty spirit of the Pied Piper. Squelchy synths and sound effects make up most of the eerie, minimal backing music, though a few snatches of bare-bones, Wilson-sung songs pop up here and there. This idea possibly could have worked if the action had been developed further and it was issued in a more fitting context (as a stand-alone EP, perhaps, or as an extended LP project), but as it exists, “Mount Vernon and Fairway” is just a barely-interesting, half-baked failure that struggles even to rise to the level of charming. Given that the Beach Boys were trying to get hep and serious during this period, the addition of a goofy fairy tale to the band’s latest album – and Holland is definitely a self-consciously serious and “mature” LP – must have been mortifying to the rest of the group. Really, it’s hard not to get the sense that this was released merely as some sort of political concession to Brian.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations

(Capitol, 1966)

Lush, multi-sectioned, theremin-laced pop oddity that actually deserves much of the BEST-SINGLE-EVER overhype heaped on it for lo these many decades (and yeah, it is embarrassing to be earnestly weighing in, in 2007, on one of the most written-about songs in history). Soaked in sunny lovin’ and joyously stoned Spectorisms as “Good Vibrations” is, the entire mood is a shift from the introspective, self-doubting Pet Sounds bum-out that immediately preceded it. The song takes the standard boy-girl bit and psychedelicizes it with the lyrics’ gooey cosmic rah-rah; it’s a series of impressions and feelings rather than a straight events-based narrative. But in nodding to the band’s innocent-pop past while playing – adventurously – to its vocal/melodic strengths, the song manages to cram in everything that was right and good about the Beach Boys up to this point and also serve as the group’s final major leap forward. Soon after this record and the subsequent shifting of the band’s internal creative/power dynamics, there was to be years of awkward stylistic wandering as the BBs tried to find a commercial comfort zone. Sure, there were plenty of interesting – and occasionally tremendous – 45s through the ’70s (“Darlin’,” “Break Away,” “This Whole World,” “Honkin’ Down the Highway”), but “Good Vibrations” is the great death scream of the Beach Boys as a truly ambitious, progressive singles band.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Syd Barrett - Crazy Diamond

(Capitol, 1993)

Capitol released this EP to promote its unfortunately-titled Crazy Diamond box (if you’re gonna be crass, why not go all the way? Why not Mental Illne$$?), pairing two tracks from The Madcap Laughs with two from Barrett. “Octopus” and “Baby Lemonade” are obvious choices, being better-known “hits,” but the minor songs “Terrapin” and “Effervescing Elephant” are questionable picks. The idea, however, was probably to present a sampling of the many facets of Barrett’s solo sound, and to that end this record does a fine job. The charging “Octopus” is a nonsensical, wheels-barely-on-the-road rave-up, a lively contrast to the bluesy shuffle of “Terrapin.” The songs from the second album are more fleshed-out instrumentally, and “Baby Lemonade,” with its Rick Wright organ, Gilmour bass, and great one-line chorus, is as poppy and memorable as Barrett gets. “Effervescing Elephant,” meanwhile, is childish idiocy, a not-quite-clever nursery rhyme with jaunty tuba-and-guitar accompaniment.

One of the most appealing aspects of a solo Barrett song is that it almost never goes where you think it will: rhythms switch up unexpectedly, tempos move all over the place, solos fall apart, tracks suddenly peter out. Listening to the comparatively “normal” “Baby Lemonade” for the first time as a bright-eyed lad, I was shocked to hear the song doing things that it just shouldn’t be doing structurally. Twas a major ear-opening moment... crucial, even! It’s actually a little sad when one eventually becomes comfortable with this material; the initial shock of its charming weirdness is a whole lotta fun.

Bablicon - Chunks of Syrup Amidst Plain Yoghurt

(Contact, 1999)

Admission! I never liked Bablicon. Watched them in 2000 opening for Olivia Tremor Control and was bored silly by their Chicago post-skronk. Bought a copy of their debut LP and saw it promptly lost in the mail (a big OUCH in poverty-stricken undergrad days). Grabbed Oranged Tapered Moon and was turned off by the sub-Zappa jazz-rock wanksplorations. So surprise surprise, this single (which sounds good at both 45 and 33!) is half decent; A’s like crazy, drunken circus music over cheap beatz; hypno seasickness plus a few tripped-out sitar breaks. Catchy uneasiness the whole way through, and then a brief marching-band outro to seal the deal. Nice! The B-side? Who cares?? Izza lousy mess with an almost-worth-it elec-piano-driven conclusion. Whatever. Focus on the A’s early-Tortoise-isms and be happy. My many hyphens: are they OK??

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The B-52s - Rock Lobster

(Island, 1979)

Straight up: there’s nothing at all to dislike here. Nothing. Willfully brain-dead un-lyrics, trebly almost-surf guitar stabs, Yoko-infected girl-group backing vox, ham-fisted organ, crisp discopunk drumming… Yikes! And dig the way the song twists itself into truly nasty ROCK in the last minute. Never has an effective goof succeeded so beautifully, so monumentally. The backside (“Running Around”) is slight, but it’s still a reasonably exciting, garagey, skinny-tie dance-piece that’s about as far away as you can FLEE from the soulless camp of latter-day horrors like “Love Shack” and “Good Stuff.” What HAPPENED to these guys?? Check out this live video and report back a true believer. Self-parodic as the band has long since become, it’s entertaining and impressive to realize that this stuff, had it been fresh outta the womb, would’ve been ruling New York City party circles in 2007.

Azusa Plane - The Last of the Famous Electronic Playboys EP

(Motorway, 1998)

The A-side is synth bleeps and bloops over a buzzing drone; strictly bassy, low-end stuff that never really goes anywhere and falls, uncharacteristically, squarely into the ‘wank’ category. More – and better – subwoofer madness on the B, a pulsing, underwater thrum that is low enough to play havoc with the ears. New sounds are introduced gradually, and when the gentle layer of white noise finally appears it almost feels sunny compared to that relentless subterranean rumble. The whole play-it-loud earfuck is absolute aural disorientation, and almost – almost! – enough to redeem the entire record.

Look, I feel like a heel poo-pooing two straight Azusa Plane singles, cuz I really do like the band. But heck, when the title runs laps around the A-side, it’s hard not to get all outta joint. Especially when the disc in question happens to be a pricey Japanese import. Just skip this one and check out these twin discographical pinnacles: the glorious hum of Tycho-Magnetic Anomaly and the Full Consciousness of Hidden Harmony and the live (with drums and vocals!) Result Dies With the Worker. DO IT!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Azusa Plane - Comparative Receptions: A Study of Two Distinct Qualifiers

(Blackbean & Placenta, 1996)

Split into “Fender” and “Moog” sides – each a hypnotic, one-man exploration of said instrument – this is definitely one of the lesser Azusa Plane releases. “Moog” is mildly interesting in that it’s a semi-departure from DiEmilio’s guitar-based norm, but it and “Fender” (itself actually quite pretty, if shapeless) both sound like they are nothing more than excerpts cut from long, aimless bedroom blissout sessions. While the Azusa Plane typically made interesting and appealing work out of minimal sonic material, wringing a lot out of a little, it just didn’t come together this time. I, however, improvised an attractive curtain for my bathroom window this afternoon, using some suction hooks, a plastic rod, a small red towel, two clothespins, and some double-sided tape. A+ for me.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Azusa Plane - Lou, Nico, Sterling, John and Maureen

(Burnt Hair, 1997)

Two lovely and entertainingly-titled guitar instrumentals from Jason DiEmilio’s Azusa Plane. The excellent A-side has a dreamy, rainy-day sound that is broken in places by a smooth sheet of distorted guitar static; it’s part Landing, part Flying Saucer Attack. “This is Not Spacerock” feels a bit more freeform and unsettling, its shimmering, effects-heavy notes – wrapped in a layer of lo-fi fuzz – crawling along in a druggy haze before quickening nightmarishly at the end. Good stuff!

Thinking it silly that a “drone guy” would select the 7” as a primary way to release his music, I used to chuckle at the never-ending stream of 45s that came out of the Azusa Plane; seemed like he was in a race with Randall Nieman to see who could crank out the most split singles (and yes, the inevitable Azusa Plane / Fuxa split does exist). But there is something to be said for what DiEmilio was doing. It’s easy for such an act to get lazy on CD or LP, stretching everything out to 10+ minutes and needing to care little about flab or self-editing. The Azusa Plane consciously chose to release a great deal of material on a format where the time constraints are relatively rigid, and applying that necessary discipline to the drone-rock genre made for some tightly-constructed records where no moment was wasted… these are often, incredibly, actual singles in the classic sense, just filtered through an ultra-psychedelic non-pop sensibility. Smart dude. Needless to say, it would be fantastic to have all of these songs – and there are a lot of them — compiled in one convenient place.

The Asteroid #4 - Here We Go

(Rainbow Quartz, 2006)

Quite a surprise to see this one sitting in the sales racks in 2006. After skidding off the road into country-rock territory for the Honeyspot debacle three years earlier, I’d figgered Asteroid #4 for dead. Not so! These songs straddle the dense guitar-psych of the earliest material and the bright, peppy pop of King Richard’s Collectibles; even if it’s a retreat, it’s a definite step back in the right direction. Unfortunately, the hooks aren’t nearly up to snuff and the lyrics, as always, remain dreadful (one boneheaded verse is built on an around/down/found rhyme), so this doesn’t quite take gold in the comeback sweeps. Still, non-LP B-side “What I Really Want to Do,” the stronger of the two tracks, is passable dream/space-informed altpop with unusually fine singing, and it would’ve stood at least a fighting chance on college radio or 120 Minutes fifteen years ago.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Asteroid #4 - What A Sorry Way to Go

(Lounge, 1997)

For its second single,
the Asteroid #4 takes it all back to ’67 on “What A Sorry Way to Go,” droning, Eastern-tinged psychedelia with groovy pitter-patter hand-percussion. The fat bassline and strong vocal melody indicate that the sitars and such aren’t just startling gimmickry meant to distract from a non-song… this one is legit, and probably would have been a winner even without the layer of added instrumentation. But the rich, relatively intricate arrangement really does work; catchy and beautifully put together, it trumps similar material being churned out at the time by bands like the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Saddar Bazaar. Certainly the best original in the Asteroid #4’s catalog, and one of the better songs to come out of the whole “Psychedelphia” scene. The B-side guitar-drone – “Sometimes I Roll My Eyes Into the Back of My Head to See What I’m Thinking – is a throwaway, but it’s an appropriate sonic companion to the main event on the other side.

While it’s unclear whether there’s a physical release or if it’s digital-only, the band has recently gathered all of its singles and compilation tracks (including a great Spacemen 3 cover) on B-Sides & Singles 1997-2007. Freeloaders can stream the album

The Asteroid #4 - The CIA Took My Dog Away

(Lounge, 1995)

The Asteroid #4 is one of those groups that, as the saying goes, plays its record collection. Which is generally fine with me, because it has always seemed like there’s a lot of overlap when it comes to our fave-raves (but what was with that dire country-rock album, doodz??). The band ties its wagon to the early-90s shoegazers on its debut single, focusing on volume and density of sound as opposed to the strictly Floydian space-cadet moves the fellas would soon be pulling. This record actually sounds quite similar to Philly pals the Lilys’ contemporaneous Eccsame the Photon Band album – and whoa, DIG IT, the Asteroid #4 would work with Kurt Heasley in the studio and follow his group into Brit Invasion territory a few years down the road.

“The CIA Took My Dog Away,” with the gentle, quavering guitars of its verses and the churning, distorted guitars of the choruses, is your basic yet successful shoegaze-pop construction, and a fine way to kick off a career …even if those reverbed-to-death vocals are a bit much. On a rather less interesting note, the first half of “Mellow Beach” drifts and throbs, barely there, before the effects-laden guitars come rushing in to boot ya in the pants for the last few minutes. While neither song has anything of note going in terms of originality or structure (and “Mellow Beach” isn’t much melodically, either), it’s hard to be too grumpy about anything that gives you a few blasts of satisfying MBV-lite. Buck up; it’s a fine mess o’ aural comfort food.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Assassination - Snipercrust

(Get Revenge, 2006)

Swedish nasties crank out eight songs on seven inches. Breakneck tempos, non-stop drum-pummel…it’s fast and aggressive, yeah, it’s just that there’s not very interesting guitar- or drumwork anywhere. Everything bleeds together into this sodden mush, and it never gets the ol’ ticker thump-thumping the way such a record oughta. Granted, the dual vocals trading off lines on every song are an interesting touch – one guy has a scratchy, “evil” voice, the other has yer standard deep bellow – and some of the simple, vicious lyrics are entertaining. But I dunno. Coming at this as a non-genrehead, there’s nothing here that grabs me; it’s not fun enough, fucked enough, or over-the-top enough.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Archipelago Brewing Co. - Criswell

(Nuf Sed, 1989)

Archipelago Brewing Co. is (was) a buncha weirdos from San Francisco – including some of the Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 guys, Brandan Kearney, and “FOUR GODDAMN GIRL DRUMMERS” – and this is their one and only single. So let me lay some straight-talk on you: it’s a bona-fide doozy! “Criswell” lurches along to the dinosaur-stomp of those lady percussionists, and the rhythm guitarists thrash away in a delightfully repetitive manner while the lead makes high-pitched little squiggles atop it all. A slower, heavier TFUL282 is a fair enough (and lazy enough) description. The guitars get noisier and the drummers get buried – this record’s sound quality isn’t so hot – on “Fresh Fish,” a grim tribute to the titular ocean-dweller, while “Wussies-R-Us” is a pretty, watery-sounding guitars-and-samples tune. When the full band is a-thunderin’, as on “Criswell” and “Fresh Fish,” the music coming outta the speakers is certainly loud, but you get the sense that this must’ve been absolutely BRUTAL when heard live. Like good brutal.

The Amazing Criswell, who appears on the sleeve, was into the fantastic, so I wonder what he’d have thought of this tidbit: I had been searching for this 7” for quite a while, and when I finally did locate a copy, it was in a store in which I was killing time while waiting for band associate Neil Hamburger to take the stage at a club next door. Weird.

Wait! Before wrapping up, let’s get back to A.B.C. guitarist, tape-manipulator, and vocalist Brandan Kearney, a man about whom you can learn all sortsa interesting facts in this great interview. It’s going to be a while before I reach the “J” reviews, so I want to slip in a mention of another of the (many, many) bands with which Kearney was involved, Job’s Daughters. Those folks released a cover of the Cowsills’ “Prophecy of Daniel and John the Divine,” and it is THE BEST SINGLE THAT I OWN. Really. If you have the ability to hear sound, please do your listening-thingies a favor and find that doggone record immediately. It’s out there; I own two!