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Crawlin’ Through Space

14 Mar

As the 80’s turned into the 90’s, no local LA action captivated me quite like Eddie FlowersCRAWLSPACE did.

August/AfricaOceanSpherealityGod ZeeExquisite Beautyspiritof.jpg

My personal context for all this began while in college at UCSB – a difficult year by all accounts. But it did mark my first experiments with LSD and psychedelic mushrooms, spurred on by a wonderfully friendly fella who later got FUCKING MURDERED by fascist pigs at a GRATEFUL DEAD concert at the L.A. Forum. Yeah all this before I’d ever really been properly introduced to alcohol or pot. Go figure! These experiences did change me – at a deeply felt, sub-molecular level. And they’d also change what I’d come to look for in music.

It was around that time that I saw CRAWLSPACE live. They played with CLAW HAMMER – and maybe Rich Coffee’s THEE FORGIVEN? – at Be-Bop Records & Fine Arts in Reseda, summer of ’89. Only about 30 of us there, but when the lights went down, the drums started pounding, the gtrs started circling, and Eddie started a-nasallin’ . . . well, we all knew we were witnessing voodoo acid improv madness of a highly-rarified caliber.

But on to the records.

No disrespect to what came before, but in my estimation the improv-rock heyday of CRAWLSPACE had it’s roots in the “August/Africa” 7″ 45. Unlike their protometal beginnings, by this point they were slowing things down, letting their rhythms breathe, thus encouraging deeper consideration. They were also layering additional coats of sludge over the face of their always-feral riffs. And with “Africa”, Eddie’s lyrics were already pointing toward concerns of a headier, spiritual nature.

With their Crawlspace = You 7″ 45, you had a true force to be reckoned with. The cover, featuring the dreamy image of a DREAM SYNDICATE-era Kendra Smith nodding out, is a dead giveaway. Sure the A-side (“Solitude Smokestack Head”) was a great cruncher in that heavy-but-loose style of their late 80’s work, but oooooh man the flip . . . “Ocean=You” is Thee Dark Stuff. Here instrumental interplay overtook garage-rage as the guiding force around which things coalesced. It was on this recording that they began stretching things out past the 6 minute mark. And it was on this record that the lyrics began to sh-sh-sh-shatter and reform in an assbackward, nonsensical but totally intuitive way only the close proximity to something potent (like LSD!) can give rise to. This aesthetic approach formed the basis of their attack for the next 4 years.

The Sphereality CD followed, and for me, this was the ecstatic pinnacle, the peak of the trip. It was that moment when the rock core was still powerful, but when tastebuds flowered and neuronpistons fired into all 11 dimensions at once. At the time, it hit me as the logical continuation of what SACCHARINE TRUST had got up to on their beautiful We Became Snakes LP, had those boys been steeped in middle-Euro prog rather than jazz. 4 long tracks, the longest being 32+ minutes! Up to then, I’d never experienced anything so exploratory made in the name of heavyass, postpunk rock. The twin-gtr attack – courtesy of fighter pilots Mark McCormick and Keith Telligman – is unfuckingsurpassed. And this remains the only record I ever planned and executed a psychedelic mushroom trip around. (The fact that said trip was a real bummer ain’t really relevant here. What I’m getting at is: this CD is powerful enough to get mortal men to bow down during psychedelic experience. I sure did.)

After this came the God-Zee 10″, which acknowledged SAC TRUST comparisons – as well as White Panther Party allegiances! – with the inclusion of a really wiggy version of Ornette Coleman’s “Dancing In Your Head”. These are apparently from the same sessions as Sphereality, and sure sound it.

There were some interesting 7″ 45s and cassette releases in between, but the next major release would be The Exquisite Fucking Beauty of Crawlspace on Majora Records. This, for all intents and purposes, was their last stand. Drummer Bob Lee, though outta the band at the time, swooped down to rejoin for this one last, gone set. By this late date, Eddie’s ditched The Word almost entirely, choosing instead to loudly mumble his own, very personal language. It’s got a desperate sadness to it, like he knew this particular trip was dying, making this album kinda bittersweet. But oooooh so gorgeously rockin’.

And then . . . it was over.

Now Eddie and co. would continue tirelessly recording throughout the 90’s, but they’d leave rock (almost) entirely behind, diving instead headlong into the world of free-improv sound collage/creation. Much of that may be good/great, but I can’t comment – I fell away into other concerns as well. Though re-visiting that vast body of work is still high up on my list of Things To Do Before I Die.

But all of sudden, in 2006, the rockin’ CRAWLSPACE was back! Well, not exactly: sure they were playing like they’d never played their respective instruments before, and the whole shebang sounded like it was recorded on a C-60 – but WHO CARES! Hey they was doing SAINTS and DEEP PURPLE and PATTI SMITH and frickin’ O. REX covers and such. Naah no Bob Lee in sight, but this was nuts and these nuts I can understand.

Wait long enuf, and it all comes back around.

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And after all that, I gotta admit I’m one fella who wouldn’t be blogging today (in this manner/fashion) without reading many, many of the published words Eddie lay down in mags like FORCED EXPOSURE and on the backs of recs like THE LAZY COWGIRLS first in the 80’s. How he always manage to insert his erect middle finger into whatever the hell he was on about was a talent reserved for the kings. Though lots of others followed, he’s the first I’d read who comfortably straddled a deep appreciation for the violent musical expression of things like STOOGES & BLACK FLAG with the heady, exploratory jam-building of 60’s/70’s things like THE GRATEFUL DEAD & THE MAN BAND. In fact, I’d reckon that word “jam” appears in more Eddie-scrawl than in that of any other rock scribe on this planet! In the end, it’s his hyperbolic enthusiasm for rockin’ that I’ve unconsciously aped all down the goddamn line. Yeah the LSD did me right, but so did Crawlin’ Ed’s prose.

We’ll always loves ya, CRAWLSPACE, at Pig State Recon. Now go Space-Truckin’ for us, once more.