Jimbo Mathus – most famously known as a founding member of Squirrel Nut Zippers – has long championed a bushel of roots music, including gypsy jazz, pre-war swing, ragtime, blues, country, folk, string band, soul and southern rock. With last year’s Confederate Buddha and this year’s new six-song EP, he’s meshed (or perhaps mashed, if you consider the southern origins) his influences into a rock-solid brew topped by soul-searing vocals. The title tune opens as a confessional before the downbeat kicks it into Allman Brothers territory for a chase down a stretch of blue highway. The ‘70s vibe continues with the electric piano and guitar of “Fucked Up World,” unloading the fed-up lyric, “I’m tired of living in a fucked up world / I with the man would get his shit together.” Mathus’ Southern roots thread throughout the EP, adding rustic soul to theChicago blues “Ain’t Feelin’ It” and rolling swampy waves under the garage rock “Haunted John.” At only twenty minutes it’s a short set, but a sweet one. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]
Posts Tagged ‘Garage Rock’
For those who weren’t there in ’66 and ’67, the oldies radio shorthand for the Electric Prunes has been their one big hit, “I Had to Much to Dream (Last Night),” as anthologized (as the lead off track, no less) on Lenny Kaye’s legendary Nuggets compilation. The few strokes of shading inclues their chart follow-up, “Get Me to the World on Time,” and an oft-anthologized ad for Vox Wah-Wah pedals. It’s an abbreviation that shortchanges the band’s recorded legacy. Reissues of their albums along with single- and double-disc compilations (including Birdman’s Lost Dreams and Rhino’s Too Much to Dream) expanded the group’s posthumous reputation, and are now joined by this collection of twenty-four mono single mixes. As a group whose tenure spanned across AM Top 40 and the birth of underground FM radio, their singles are just as interesting as the stereo album tracks.
Like several other groups of their era, including the Chocolate Watchband and Grass Roots, the Electric Prunes name was applied to several wholly different aggregations of musicians. The original lineup shifted subtly through the group’s first two albums (I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) and Underground), but with their third, the David Axelrod-produced orchestral Mass in F Major, the original band essentially broke up. The album was completed with studio musicians, and its follow-up, Release of an Oath, was produced similarly by Axelrod. The final album released under the Electric Prunes name, Just Good Old Rock and Roll, was recorded by a newly recruited group of musicians, wholly unrelated to the original lineup.
The singles gathered here span all three eras of the Electric Prunes – variations of the original lineup on the first two albums (1-12, 15 and 24), the Axelrod years (13-17), and the “new and improved” lineup (18-23). Original members James Lowe and Mark Tulin appeared on two of Axelrod’s productions (“Sanctus” and “Credo”), but the compositions and productions are so far divorced from the group’s earlier garage psych as to be nearly unidentifiable as the same band. The new lineup held on to only hints of the original group’s roots, bringing hard rock, boogie, funk and soul sounds to the Electric Prunes name.
As latter-day prune Richard Whetstone notes, the group’s identity remains anchored to the garage psych of their hit single and first two albums; the follow-on material remains more curious footnotes than integral parts of the legend. The collection’s rarest find, the one-sided single “Shadows” (from the film The Name of the Game is Kill) turned up on Rhino’s earlier compilation (along with mono mixes of the band’s early A-sides), but here proves itself the last gasp of the original Electric Prunes sound. Getting the group’s entire legacy of mono singles (including the bleeped-for-airplay version of “You’ve Never Had it Better”) is a great find for collectors, but those new to the group’s catalog should start with the first two albums. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]
If a band’s name starts with “The Electric” – The Electric Prunes, Flag or Toilet, for example – they’re likely to fit somewhere in the continuum between 1965’s garage rock explosion and 1967’s ballroom acid tests.New York’s The Electric Mess, with their ear-piercing Farfisa, raucous guitars, driving rhythms and sneering vocals fit easily into the first half of that transitional period, echoing the surge of original punk that rocked a thousand suburban basements. The omnipresent organ riffs suggest earlier revivalists like the Lyres and Three O’Clock, period inspirations Question Mark and the Mysterians, and half the bands who’ve appeared on Nuggets and Pebbles collections. Great original songs, blazing guitar riffs with neo-psych shades, and vocalist Esther Crow spits out lyrics with the ferocity of Paula Pierce. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]
Recorded in Parker Griggs’ basement in 2003, these twelve tracks prove to be parts that would be more smoothly assembled on the band’s official 2007 debut. The ‘60s punk vocals, blues riffs, fuzz guitars and psychedelic overlays are all here, but they feel disjointed – like ingredients that have yet to jell into a final dish. On the other hand, the ferocious first press of a musician’s discovery is something special, and even the lack of longer jams (nothing over 3’30) or actual band interplay (Griggs plays everything here, though quite convincingly) can’t take away from the burst of energy that is the raw capture of a small town punk-rock teenager’s world. This was released in very limited and local quantities in 2004, and finds its first national distribution with this reissue. Fans will enjoy this peek at the group’s embryonic start, but those looking for the heart of their catalog are recommended to Brain Cycles and later releases. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]
The Australia-based Puta Madre Brothers bill themselves as a “triple one-man band,” and indeed they each play bass drum and assorted percussion along with their guitar or bass. Their garage-surf is heavily tinged with an ersatz mariachi style as they kick up the buzzing instrumental “Putananny Twist,” the electric Flamenco “The One Legged Horse (Race),” and stomp the lights out of “Malaguena.” Their stinging electric guitars, triple kick-drum backbeats and instrumental emphasis triangulates somewhere between Los Staitjackets, The Arrows and Thee Swank Bastards, which is a very fine place to be. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
Mike and the Ravens, local heroes of the early-60s Northfield/Plattsburgh rock scene (see Heart So Cold: The North Country ‘60s Scene and Nevermore: Plattsburgh 62 and Beyond), made the unlikeliest of comebacks with 2008’s Noisy Boys and 2009’s No Place for Pretty. Forty-five years after their stomping frat-rock singles made them a Saturday night draw at Rollerland, the band reassembled to revisit and extend their legacy. Amazingly, they still carried the fire and adolescent abandon that made their earliest records so exciting, and even more impressively, they had something new to say with their music. This third, and apparently final, comeback album isn’t as frenetic or savage as their original singles or initial comeback, but lead vocalist Mike Brassard still sings with plenty of wild-eyed grit, the percussion section lays down heavy, dark beats, the guitars add plenty of buzzing riffage, and the rock vibes are extended with strains of blues and psych. The band’s covers of traditional folk tunes, “Jack of Diamonds” and “Pretty Polly,” are a lot more threatening than the versions you’d hear on the summer bluegrass circuit, and guitarist Steve Blodgett’s originals rock hard. The bluesy desire of “Helen Jones” is emotionally flip-sided by the abandoned wreck of “A Real Sad Story,” and a cover of the Dad’s early ‘80s pub-pop classic “Trailer Park Girls” rolls like a freight train. Hopefully the end of the group’s recording renaissance doesn’t spell the end of their reunions for live shows, as these guys are clearly still carrying a lit torch. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
This fantastic French foursome is back with a new EP of 1960’s-inspired boogaloo, freakbeat and swinging R&B. Isabelle Lindqwister (from Rodeo Massacre) provides the title track’s guest vocal, but it’s the hot, soulful Hammond and driving rhythm section that really heats things up with the instrumental “Emma’s Theme.” There’s a new dance step stomp, “Do the Jungle Jane,” that perfectly transplants a riff from the Munster’s theme, and though the tempo slows for “Lion Club Boogaloo,” the temperature doesn’t drop a degree as the ride cymbal adds a soul-jazz backing to the organ’s heavy chords and throaty stabs. This band has so authentically recreated the mood of mid-60s discothèque, it’s almost scary. Available as a vinyl 7” (email the band for info) as well as a digital download. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
For their second album (their debut was 2009’s Time Machine), this French quintet continues to create garage and beat sounds that echo the R&B of the Animals and Small Faces and revivalists like the Miracle Workers, Fuzztones, Lyres and Chesterfield Kings. The driving bass, reverbed guitars, hard-blown harmonica and whining organ will be familiar to fans of the Nuggets/Pebbles/Boulders series, even without the scratchy patina of original 45s. You pretty much know what you’re getting when there’s a pentagonal Vox Phantom guitar pictured on the album sleeve and the band has the taste and knowledge to cover the Gentlemen’s Texas punk classic “It’s a Crying Shame.” The Norvins make good their vintage equipment and give you the soundtrack for the hottest yoga session of the year. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
This Los Angeles combo continues to make some of the most unexpected music of the decade. Formed in 2001, Dengue Fever grew out of organist Ethan Holtzman’s interest in 1960s Cambodian rock. Originally setting out to cover the obscurities he’d collected on record, the addition of Cambodian vocalist Chhom Nimol gave the band an elevated sense of authenticity and set them evolving into something more original. Nimol originally stuck to singing in her native Khmer, but here she takes the step to switch between Khmer and English as the each song demands. The music remains anchored to the mix of psych, jazz, pop, garage, exotica and Indian flavors that came together in 1960s Cambodian popular music, and the seamlessness with which it all fits together continues to amaze.
The album opens on a cool note with “Cannibal Courtship.” The guitar and electric piano initially riff quietly behind Nimol’s cooing, but a bouncy, wordless chorus ramps up the volume and tension as the vocal gains passion and the music explodes into a buzzing, electric backdrop. The group overlays deep bass lines with hard fuzz guitar, free saxophone solos, and group vocals that recall the Jefferson Airplane’s ballroom days. Nimol snakes her vocal around the guitar and bass riffs of “Uku,” with finger cymbals and a flute solo adding a period feel. The group edges into the mood of spy jazz with “Sister in the Radio” and late ’50s exotica with “Kiss of the Bufo Alvarius,” leaving the listener to wonder not just what they’re listening to, but even more beguilingly, when. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
Troy Gregory (Killing Joke, Dirtbombs) formed the Witches in Detroit in the mid-90s, and over the course of a decade this loose aggregation, including fellow Michiganders John Nash and Jim Diamond, produced the five little-known psych-inflected rock albums sampled here. The opening guitar riff of “Everyone the Greatest” suggests Paul Revere and the Raiders before the rhythm section add a heavier bottom end and the vocal shades to a 1960s drone. Gregory’s songs have the hooks of garage and rock bands that broke through to AM radio in the ‘60s and ‘70s, tipping their hat to the Byrds and Flamin’ Groovies with “Lost With the Real Gone,” Love with “Sprit World Rising,” and T-Rex with bass-and-handclap rhythm of “Down on Ugly Street.” In contrast to fashion-plate revivalists, the Witches showcase an amalgamation and evolution of their influences that keeps these tuneful echoes fresh. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]