Back on the Recon attack again, in somewhat typically SoCalCentric fashion. So what if I wear my musical obsessions on my shirtsleeve! Betcha you can’t beat me to the end of this post . . .
JEFF SIMMONS – “Appian Way” (from Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up, Straight Records, 1970; reissued by Collector’s Choice Music, 2008) There was this older, Seattle-born gtr player I once knew, he’d seen Jeff play with ETHIOPIA, a Northwest-based band in the late 60’s. And he swore that Jeff was actually waaay better on lead gtr than on the bass he played with THE MOTHERS throughtout the early 70’s. Now while I’ve always wanted to believe him, this record ain’t gonna set the record straight, since it’s Craig Tarweather (ex DAILY FLASH) and Frank Zappa himself who are ripping the killer leads here.
But I can see why both this guy and Zappa dug him: Jeff’s influences are vast, reaching back to 20’s tinpan alley, doo-wop, jazz/blues, Sunset Strip freak rock, all the while foreshadowing the restless prog constructions of the coming decade. His bizarre and wryly ironic observations (often about LA life) are beautifully crooned, getting me to think I’m listening to Richard “MacArthur Park” Harris belt out passages from John Fante’s Ask The Dust. Unlike Zappa – who half the time was just a fucking comedian – Jeff was obtusely humorous but actually quite poetic and self-effacing. This ultimately served a much less irritating, delicate artistic vision. If Emitt Rhodes succeeded in giving me a version of THE BEATLES I can actually appreciate, then Jeff has damn nearly done the same for FRANK ZAPPA’s aesthetic. Jeff, we wish you’d given us some more.
GROUNDSHAKER – “Abaseal” (from their self-titled LP on Red Lounge Records, 2007) First time this world’s been privy to this wild, early 70′s unreleased studio recording. Yep this LA by-way-of SF band clearly learnt important lessons from early BLUE CHEER recs, but the earthy gnarl is turned so far up on this one, you’d be forgiven to think this wasn’t a lost session by Houston’s god almighty DEAD MAN, or even an early PENTAGRAM set. The mood is dark and heavy, the vocal/gtr histronics way pronounced, the material better than average.
So I admit I don’t ask much more from my early 70′s longhairs than to get heavy, start screaming, and whip off a paint-peeling solo . . . but GROUNDSHAKER was more exciting than dozens of other bands that actually had contemporaneous releases back then. I’m now wondering who guys like this woulda opened for along the Strip back in ’72: STEPPENWOLF? Late era IRON BUTTERFLY perhaps? Maybe Arthur Lee’s rebuilt LOVE? I can’t think of too many others in LA willing to go to such dark places. Yet another record that’ll burst your Brian Wilson fantasy about SoCal in the time it takes to smoke the PCP cig that biker just handed you.
THE NERVES – “Hanging on the Telephone” (from One Way Ticket, Alive Naturalsound Records, 2008) Finally the world has easy access to the oeuvre of the most important just-pre-punk band LA ever gave the world. This makes that 80’s French LP on Revenge obsolete by pulling together their crucial ’76 studio/demo material, the unreleased ’77 BOMP single, a gaggle of live tracks, and a few stray NERVE endings (tracks by Paul & Peter’s BREAKAWAYS, the JACK LEE BAND, early PLIMSOULS, etc). It’s a grand total of 20 songs that take less than 40 minutes to listen to, but that’s ok cause it’s some of the best stripped down, DAVE CLARK FIVE-on-speed pop this world will ever hear. Forget about BLONDIE and check out any of the first half dozen songs on this baby – clean, razor sharp, and succinctly urgent, rarely has so-called powerpop ever sounded this raw and alive. Peter Case coulda shat bricks in his PLIMSOULS and I woulda still bowed down to him on this basis of these hallowed recordings. Trebly NERVES jangle will continue to light up my night sky for decades to come.
RHINO 39 – “Sleepwalking” (from their self-titled double CD on Nickle & Dime Records, 2007) RHINO 39’s “Xerox” 45 may have been the least crucial thing that Dangerhouse Records ever gave the world, but HEY: did your/my shitty band ever put out a record on Dangerhouse? I think not. By the early 80’s, they had morphed into something pretty damn distinctive. Like fellow Long Beach dwellers SECRET HATE, RHINO 39 displayed a loopy ambition that derailed any rote HCisms that might’ve otherwise crept in.
This 2-CD anthology is one loong set, collecting damn near everything they recorded. This includes their Dangerhouse recordings, an entire album of unreleased demos from 1979-80, unique contributions to the Hell Comes to Your House, American Youth Report, and When Men Were Men And Sheep Were Scared comps – pinnacles of individualistic suburban noise, those LPs were! – and their Flipside Records LP from ’86. Paralleling THE WEIRDOS’ musical development, RHINO 39 matured with time but with their underlying yahoo outsider stance intact, ringing true no matter how short/long their hair or how fast/slow they were bashing it out. While RHINO 39 may never be first tier, they were quite appealing in a wild, messy sort of way. No doubt they’ll help you flesh out that crazy SoCal HC punker jigsaw puzzle in any number of subtle but vital ways.
And on a separate note: the best band in England right now, WOLF PEOPLE, have signed to Jagjaguwar Records and are promising a new album in 2010. This means you stateside folk will soon be able to bask in their trippy, dual gtr JETHRO TULLy, TELEVISIONoid rocking in the comfort of your own homes/I-Pods! If anyone can succeed in restoring belief that London is still capable of creating distinctly powerful rock and roll, it’s these guys.