Durocs: Durocs

Clever late-70s studio rock finally rescued from obscurity

The Durocs 1979 debut (and, as it turns out, album swansong) was a singular combination of collaborators and the times in which they collaborated. The two principals, Ron Nagle and Scott Mathews, had already been working together for a few years when they signed a deal with Capitol in the late ‘70s. Nagle had co-founded San Francisco’s Mystery Trend in 1965, playing key venues and releasing a single on Verve. He went on to record a Jack Nitzsche-produced solo album, Bad Rice, in 1970, but garnered his primary renown as a ceramicist and university art professor. Mathews was a songwriter and producer whose multi-instrumental talents made him something of a child prodigy. The pair wrote songs for other artists and produced audio for film soundtracks, leading them, via their connection to Nitasche, to Capitol.

Nagle and Mathews produced the album with Elliot Mazur, in their own San Franciscostudio, overdubbing most of the instruments and vocals, and adding selected guests, such as sax player Steve Douglas. Their thick production sound brings to mind Todd Rundgren (both as an artist and producer), the Tubes (for whom Nagle co-wrote the signature “Don’t Touch Me There”), and Phil Spector’s later work on the Ramones’ 1981 End of the Century. Nagle explains in the liner notes, “restraint just wasn’t our forte at the time,” which explains both their over-the-top production and the enthusiasms of their lyrics. They’re equally unbridled confessing the shame of a cuckold as they are reveling in the connections of a successful relationship. They excoriate the excesses of ‘70s self-empowerment as easily as they offer reassurance to a partner in need.

The album gained fans inEuropeand on college radio, but failed commercially, despite two inventive promotional videos. The Durocs slipped through Capitol during a brief moment of major label adventurousness, and the band’s inventiveness is finally rewarded by this reissue, thirty-three years after the fact. Real Gone adds eight bonus tracks that fit stylistically with the original album, highlighted by a cross of Mitch Ryder, Mink DeVille and a modern rock guitar on “No Big Deal,” the baritone-guitar country twang “Drinkin’ One Day at a Time,” and Ernie K-Doe’s bizarre autobiographical monolog on “Nawgahide.” The two-panel slip-sleeve has a microscopic reproduction of the lyrics, and an eight-page booklet includes liner notes by Gene Sculatti. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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