Hat Trick

6 Sep

As the following 3 groups have unwittingly soundtracked dozens of walks down the stretch of the Grand Union Canal I live near, I now feel compelled to say a few words. Yep I’d recommend any/all of em wholeheartedly. It’s a coincidence that all the covers are in black&white – I’m not a colorless miserable fucker, really.

1. FACTRIXArtifact 2-CD (Storm Records, 2003) Astounding sonic terrorists born in a sparsely-inhabited, rotting bit of late 70′s San Francisco. Revisionist history has it that these guys were SF’s answer to THROBBING GRISTLE – which is valid to a point, given the close ties they forged with Monte Cazazza. But that angle ignores the actual music that made FACTRIX so compelling; they exhibit dozens of near-rock impulses every which way ya wanna turn. So it’s not uncommon to find sound-poems built around minimal but insistent JOY DIVISION-like basslines, or mistake a couple songs for better DEAD C. material, or even hear a distinct HOT TUNA influence in the gtr/bass jams found on their one and only LP (included here in its entirety). Nor is it too far-fetched to compare Bond Bergland’s beeline soloing to that of ROXY MUSIC’s Phil Manzanera (Simon Reynolds did here). Bond even drops the occasional power chord into the fray – usually just one, but a power chord it still be – before bending/tearing at his strings in DNA-like fashion. It all lets you know these guys understood this rock thing – in ways Genesis and co. didn’t – even if said interest was pretty peripheral at this point. Smarter punker types will recognize that the Quaaluded vibe exuded across these 2 CDs is of a band who could’ve played with THE TOILING MIDGETS as comfortably as they did at SURVIVAL RESEARCH LABORATORIES showdowns. “Industrial” descriptions be damned; this is simply my kinda act.

2. U.S. CHRISTMASEat The Low Dogs CD (Neurot Records, 2008) You might think these guys sound like HAWKWIND playing CRAZYHORSE riffs and leave it at that. But me, I’m kinda speechless . . . since I’m still coming to terms with the fact that they’ve decided to drag the long-forgotten, tortured ghost of Arizona’s Van Christian and his NAKED PREY into glistening, majestic, post-NEUROSIS territory. This is a great thing, as I always dug NP’s harsh and feral desert esthetic something fierce. These North Caroliners build huge, sunbaked pyramids of rock sound using simple but very effective minor key gtr riffs, desperately strangled vocals (Van Christian I tell ya!), and a mighty but tightly controlled rhythm section. Add an Area 51 tone oscillator stolen from Dik Mik’s attic, hit the lights, and brother: you’ve got a major force to be reckoned with here. Simpletons will inevitably called this stoner rock, but U.S. CHRISTMAS take things far beyond mere retro-heavy, particularly with their darkly apocalyptic, Michael Gira-esque lyrics. Smoke too much weed while listening to this, and your ass will come to believe the Grey Aliens have implanted receptors in your head you can’t never give back. Raysrealm gave at 10 out of 10; I agree wholeheartedly.

3. NRBQInterstellar 10″ (Sundazed Music, 2003) – two unreleased 11 min.+ live cuts recorded way back in 1970, documenting early excursions of these then-young men diving headlong into realms otherwise only travelled by SUN RA & HIS INTERGALACTIC ARKESTRA. They do RA’s “Rocket #9″ and “Next Stop Mars” – both which segue into Terry Adams compositions – in ways only kooky whiteboys who dug RC Cola, Mad Magazine and professional wrestling could’ve come up with back then. This performance of “Rocket #9″ is the wildest I’ve yet heard – varying dramatically from the brief, cotton-candied version waxed on their debut LP as well as the more solidly rockin’ version on their Ludlow Garage 1970 disc. Had this been NYC and Lou’s VELVET UNDERGROUND, nobody would’ve batted an art school eyelash at such moxie. But hell man – these were hairy/goofy Kentucky & Florida boys, and they was getting outside for teens in fucking Cincinnati. Nuts! Recent explorations into all things ‘Q have been totally rewarding and consistently surprising for me; I’m now convinced that their uncanny, eclectic slop-pop looseness was a direct inspiration for THE SCENE IS NOW. But it’s this rarely showcased, atonal jazz side of em really has me flabbergasted right now.

5 Responses to “Hat Trick”

  1. mark September 6, 2008 at 7:27 pm #

    Dammit, Row, I don’t have the money for new CD purchases right now! Agh!

  2. mrowster September 6, 2008 at 7:51 pm #

    Do what I do: download the stuff illegally, pro-rate the fun, and then in a few months send a check for the amount straight to artists. It’ll make everyone happy.

  3. mark September 6, 2008 at 8:17 pm #

    You’re an inspiration!

  4. Dave Lang September 7, 2008 at 2:48 am #

    Like the NRBQ-The Scene Is Now comparison: spot on! I’ve been belatedly discovering the gems of early NRBQ of late, and they’re a band worthy of some serious rants (though I think Phil Milstein has already done it). US Christmas sounds good, too… Damn.

  5. mrowster September 7, 2008 at 9:54 am #

    Dave: It was in reading your blog earlier this year that I decided to revisit THE SCENE IS NOW – much thanks for that.

    Re NRBQ, I’ve come to believe everything up until Big Al Anderson bailed in the 90′s is worth spending quality time with. But that cutoff point is probably arbitrary . . . I gotta draw the line somewhere, or I’d be penniless! NRBQ never fail to be so delightfully out-of-step with prevailing trends, they end up sounding like nobody but their weirdo selves.

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