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Reissue Viability

29 Sep

No way to avoid it: I am getting old. I know, I know, I’m not that old, but still . . . it’s only all those Baby Boomers out there clogging up the 50 & 60-something age brackets acting like stupid teenagers that keep me feeling full-blown middle aged. The evidence? I wake up at the ass-crack of dawn without fail, and fall asleep during primetime TV shows. I got more grey hairs than I can reasonably paint over with my wife’s mascara brush. And I turn forty in a month. Four Oh. Damn.

I’m also one of them folks who spends his days rooting around older musicians and music, rather than checking out anything remotely current.

It’s not that music was better back when, really it’s not. It’s that modern corporate interests – who dictate popular taste – are no longer interested in anything that makes much sense or resonates with a fella like me, musically speaking. So it’s to the past I return, and frequently. Now I don’t know how long the past can keep producing things worthy of revisitation, but the tide of good reissues/archival releases definitely ain’t ebbing. So I suppose I can rest easy, at least until fossil fuels start drying up or thereabouts. And that’s, what . . . 5 more years at least? I remain a genuinely happy man. So dig what I been digging, in no particular order:

PETER PERRETTWoke Up Sticky . . . Plus (2007, Edsel Records) This was Peter’s step back into the limelight in 1996 after 15 years of pushing street drugs and chasing horrible addictions. If it’s to be believed that THE ONLY ONES had been a sort of British TELEVISION, then this ain’t no chilly solo Verlaine disc by a long shot. Peter sounds as languidly appealing as ever – my wife sez: “did the guy from VIOLENT FEMMES steal everything from this guy?” His lyrics are less coy and even more biting with age, and tunes that are as catchy and rockin’ as back in the day. Odd he’d pen a great original called “Shivers” – what, does every junkie have a song with this title? The drawbacks, though, are two-fold: first, there’e the annoyingly slick/brittle 90’s Britpop arrangement and production, dating what could’ve been timeless. Second, there’s the lack of any other musicians with the soulful depth his old bandmates gtrist John Perry, bassist Alan Mair and drummer Mike Kellie used to bring to the table. Yes the band here is pro, but of course that misses the point when you’re backing a guy who was always content to be slightly flat and linger casually behind the beat. Shouldn’t keep you from checking this out, it’s really good, better than anything his hero Lou Reed has dropped since I dunno when . . . but you luddites’ve been warned.

THE PLODNeo City (2010, Rave Up Records) Where do these things wash up? Martin Newell, he of 80’s English low-fi cassette pop-genii CLEANERS FROM VENUS, once rocked in an early 70’s glam band known as THE PLOD way out in Colchester. The story of these guys – and it is a great one – is chronicled in his memoir This Little Iggy, thankfully repressed by Wivenhoe Books recently. But a proper view of this band has never been afforded us – we’ve had to extrapolate from their lone demo on that Velvet Tinmine comp. from a few years back. Now the full recordings ca. 1974 have arrived: 6 songs with tape hiss so heavy that Martin’s Bolanesque pouting has acquired a noisy sort of lisp to it. But still . . . these blokes were damn effective. The band is at least as loose & energetic as STRAY on their early 70’s LPs, and the songs! Damn! Ain’t too many glam acts at this humble level had this kinda songwriting ambition. Despite the fidelity, I find myself listening to this over and over, imagining how amazing it must’ve been to see Martin in full makeup & drag live in some shithole Essex pub all them years ago. For glam newbies this won’t register as much, but if you’re name is Jeff Dahl or indeed Pig State Recon, this gets 4 1/2 out of 5 glistening stars.

THOM STARR & THE GALAXIESSouth Bay Surf (2010, Sundazed Music) Technically not a reissue, since these recordings had to wait 47 years for general consumption. But oh boy are these puppies vital. Thom was a Mahattan Beach surf gtrist whose head was blown by SoCal locals THE BELAIRS and DICK DALE at the beginning of the ’60s, after which he promptly started laying down reverb trails of his own. His band was modelled on the twin-gtr/sax attack of THE BELAIRS, though Thom’s wisely added bass gtr to flesh out the sound. His self-penned instrumentals are as good and full as any you’ll hear, and should really be standard fodder for all surf bands going today. Many of these rough-and-tumble firsttakes approximate what their live gig must’ve sounded like, and the energy and immediacy displayed here actually beats dozens of the more well-respected (but staid) classic surf recordings available. I’ll forgive the inclusion of a photo of the Pavilion Ballroom in Huntington Beach in the CD gatefold (this was the South Bay, not OC!) – since the cover image, broken up into 4 bars, is more than a little reminiscent of the BLACK FLAG logo. Pettibon oughta be getting commission.

CHUCK PROPHETDreaming Waylon’s Dreams (2010, Decor Records) Originally available only to fans at gigs and on Chuck’s website, this 2007 recording finally sees a wider release. And for my money it beats Chuck’s most recent ¡Let Freedom Ring! CD, though that one wasn’t half bad neither if you’ve got a sweet tooth for vintage Tom Petty recs. This is a song-for-song cover of Waylon Jennings’ 1975 LP Dreaming My Dreams that shows how loving and imaginative Chuck is with his music. I realise this guy can lean a bit too hard on the adult contempo Americana pedal for some of yous, but hey! He proved his worth for me in GREEN ON RED ripping really hardass/heartfelt leads, and so he get’s my permission to do what whatever the fuck he wants to now. Here Chuck’s thought long and hard about how best to reinterpret these songs in his own image – which, really, is the only way to do justice to somebody else’s work anyway. Doesn’t hurt to have ex-SLEEPERS/TOILING MIDGETS/AMC drummer Tim Mooney helping out on a bunch of cuts here . . . but really it’s Chuck’s willingness to revere and mess with the tried and true C&W formula that makes this a particularly great and powerful set. His individualistic take on Waylon’s “She’s Looking Good” sums up the beauty of his vision perfectly.

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A Naked Green Hurricane

17 Apr

THE PEDESTRIANS – “Tropicana” (from An Evening at “Pearl’s” Hurricane, San Jacinto Records, 2000) A few years after Nicky Cacavas regaled me with the story behind Tucson’s first punk show, I finally get around to hearing the recorded evidence. And lemme tell ya: I am blown away by the sheer depth of this 31 year old cassette recording. At this point (July 7, 1979) this sweaty, stringy-haired group – made up of guys who’d go on to form bands like GREEN ON RED, GIANT SANDWORMS, NAKED PREY – were still honing skills, finding voices, and sticking primarily to cover tunes. But the teen spirit at work here is fucking powerfully indeed! The rage fuelling their versions of CLASH and STOOGES songs is barely containable, and the moxie it took to make TALKING HEADS and DEVO tunage their own shows just how inspiring kids playing their first real gig can actually be.

Listening closer: Billy Sedlmayr’s histrionically modern vocals remind me of Fritz Fox from SF’s THE MUTANTS, while still sounding totally his own. John Venet’s gtr leads are damn near as powerful as they would be 15 years later in NAKED PREY, and Dave Seger ain’t too shy to push his bass up front ‘n’ center when called for. Chris Cacavas can already toss off DOORSian keyboard cascades with the effortless ease of a natural born musician. And self-penned songs like “Tropicana” display that burning gnarl we all came to love about great 80’s Tucson rock bands, albeit without the roots/Americana moves many later groups traded in. Ultimately, I agree with ex-SUSPECT Brian Smith in his liners: THE PEDESTRIANS weren’t so much Tuscon’s first punk band as they were the first group ballsy enough to incorporate punk influences into an identifiably-regional rock form. Little wonder, then, that decades of beautiful AZ rock and roll can trace its origins back to this heated moment.