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Comp Time

19 Apr

Been off work for a bit, sick as a dog – only just now pulling out of it. As a way of testing how together I’m actually feeling, I wrote reviews of a few new-ish compilation CDs that I’ve been digging on lately. I’m happy to see they all came out relatively coherent, but if you feel any of em still smack of fever dream, do let me know and I’ll rethink my plan to return to work tomorrow.

kidcreoleot_goingplac_101b1. VARIOUS ARTISTSGoing Places: The August Darnell Years 1976 – 1983 (Strut Records, 2008) – Yes I realize this blog may paint me as some sort of hairy heavyweight doom rocker type. But really I’m nothing but an ass shakin’ pansy who loves disco and glittering lights as much as I do WINO’s new solo CD. Recently blogged about this man’s moustache, but dammit if his music ain’t worth some attention too. There was a time a decade or so ago when I was searching hi/lo for every August Darnell (aka KID CREOLE) project I could find – boy, were there alot of em. This one documents his early days with glistening examples from all his greatest achievements: DR. BUZZARD’S ORIGINAL SAVANNAH BAND, GICHY DAN’S BEACHWOOD NO. 9 (where’s that long promised reissue?), DON ARMANDO’S SECOND AVE. RHUMBA BAND, THE AURAL EXCITERS, CRISTINA, and of course KID CREOLE & THE COCONUTS. Along the way James Chance, Pat Place, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, and Walter Steding all lob in choice bits of skronky noise, Sue Who and Taana Gardner out-Brooklyn Rosie Perez in the whiny sass department, and Cory Daye and Lourdes Cotto earn my votes as Ruling Disco Diva Queens forevermore. What can never be denied was the KID’s talent for penning great lyrics that were goofily silly as often as they were pointedly biting. And only Arthur Russell ever thought to confuse the dance by inserting so many loopy sonic non sequiturs into the basic 4-4 disco formula. If this don’t make you wanna hustle, I don’t know what will.

zzthankyoufriendsthea_101b2. VARIOUS ARTISTSThank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story (Ace Records, 2008) – Only ever been to Memphis once, and all I really remember was checking out Beale Street with this attractive Spanish gal from the youth hostel who was unavailable since she was “getting over Cristóbal”. Baaah. But I do remember listening to ALEX CHILTON’s Lost Decade cassette – which corralled stray cuts by Alex with forgotten tracks by outsider Memphians Alex had produced in the 70’s – over and over on my shitty car stereo down highways/byways all over the city and beyond in the beautiful Tennessee countryside. That comp made a great case for the true genius of Alex laying well outside the confines of his more renowned contribution to BIG STAR. It remains for me the best way to get acquainted to this gentleman’s singular talent and the unique social landscape that nourished it.

But along comes this Thank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story compilation that expands exponentially on the original Lost Decade concept, busting beyond Alex to sample much of what came out of Memphis’ Ardent Studios dating back to 1960. What’s trippy is how a studio sitting smack dab in this Southern cradle of country, rock’n’roll, and soul produced so much English sounding pop/rock throughout it’s heyday. At times it’s positively uncanny: THE AVENGERS sound like an early Joe Meek production, SID SELVIDGE like a haunting PROCOL HARUM outtake, and more than one of these bands like something Keith Relf coulda fronted and pretended were THE YARDBIRDS. The second disc is made up of lots of BIG STAR alt versions that don’t really sound too alt to me; anybody else wanna admit to thinking BS are just a tad overrated? Me I’m more interested in odd, peripheral acts like ROCK CITY, THE HOT DOGS, and Tulsa’s amazing CARGOE, who even Jody Stephens conceded could best BIG STAR live. But taken in total this smashes all preconceived notions about Memphis and its musical legacy, which I guess means somebody put this set together right.

featurebold_beginnings_cd_coverimg_3. VARIOUS ARTISTSBold Beginnings: An Incomplete Collection of Louisville Punk 1978 – 1983 (Noise Pollution, 2007) And here I thought the Louisville underground began and ended with Tara Key’s ANTIETAM . . . this collection proves just how wrong I was. Starting with the dissonant, minor key howls/wails of NO FUN, you get to pay witness to everybody from THE ENDTABLES (sizable midwestern chunkstyle riffs fronted by a neat David Thomas clone) to the BABYLON DANCE BAND (totally cool, post-punk WIRE bass churn) to THE MONSTERS (FLIPPEResque 1/2 speed noise nod) and on to MALIGNANT GROWTH (fullblown MINOR THREAT-aware HC punk). The CRIME-like BLINDER gets points for Best Song Title (“This Isn’t My Mother’s Car”), YOUR FOOD and awesome named SKULL OF GLEE allow arty dudes to herk and jerk with the best of em, and THE DICKBRAINS take limey worship to new, uncharted Appalachian heights. Only STRICT-9 are a bit forgettable but HEY petty quibbles don’t matter, since soooo much of this is top rank stuff. You only wish your shitty city had this much crazy punker madness still to exhume.