Music

Off The Beaten Track: Music Reviews & Musings by Mary Leary

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TURNIN’  GREY  SKIES  TO…  NEON  GREEN?

The La’s:  Breakloose 1984-1986 – The Lost La’s (The Viper Label)
The Ultimate 50’s Rockin’ Sci-Fi Disc (The Viper Label)
Marcelo Radulovich:  Vertigo at Lunchtime (dPulse Recordings)

When you’re in a very dark funk ‘cause a huge oil monster’s sucking up everything in the Gulf of Mexico; let alone some varieties of Po’ Boys, & the budget for both your work sources has been cut, & although you paid a couple of stupid parking tickets (one wheel 18” from the curb, my ass) you didn’t know you got the tickets because your car was parked in another neighborhood, so the fees mushroomed, & once you sent a check, the DMV took forever to cash it, & then it bounced, which never happens, but now, when it’s affecting registration, it has; so even though you’ve also sent the registration payment, you’re waiting for that to clear before you can go to the DMV to take care of the parking tickets again, but your registration check still hasn’t cleared, so you can’t, & besides, as a helpful clerk informs you on the phone: For the last few months, the Calif. DMV is closed nearly every Friday (more budget cuts), so now your car’s just sitting on the street with its unregistered ass hanging out for all to see; waiting to get more tickets.

Today, after calling the DMV to find out the replacement parking ticket payment still hadn’t cleared, I (dropping the “you” thing) felt pretty frustrated. But once the light dawned — I wouldn’t have to spend the afternoon at the DMV — I dove into some at-home productivity, along with Homer Simpson/Stan Laurel mode. Before legging it over to the weekly farmer’s market, I’d already started laughing. Like: I have no money, so I’m going out to spend a few dollars and tell a few jokes.

But what about those times when one can’t shift into a better mood of one’s own devices? Those times when (back to) you’re in such a funk, you don’t even realize the sun’s warming your face. Or you walk right by The Ultimate 50’s Rockin’ Sci-Fi Disc 50 times without realizing it’s just the ticket.

Viper Records is a Liverpool-based label that releases so many amazing things, my enthusiasm could swerve toward the manic. So, a few examples:

1.  A CD devoted entirely to songs about chickens.
2.  A CD packed with rockabilly about cats.
3.  All You Need Is Money, a digital compilation of American songs from the ‘20s-‘50s.
4.  Live Captain Beefheart recordings.

The Viper guys are both from the defunct La’s, which did that lovely “There She Goes” pop trifle before the Cranberries covered it. And no, the two label-starters weren’t the front men, or writers of this song, but who cares? The whole band was cute in that pale, questionable-teeth, ugly-pretty, Brit way. Frankly, I’m considering hiring a detective to find out if they’re in relationships, if the relationships are complicated; if they like women, or goats, or… whatever it is, I’m prepared to supply it … I want access to ALL THE VIPER RICHES.

Since we’re now in La’s-land, I might as well say something(s) about Breakloose – 1984-1986 – The Lost La’s, a passel of demos and four-track ditties reissued with six bonus tracks by Viper last year. Dropping expectations for the subsequent “There She Goes” era, much of this is nifty in a raw, classic punk/new-wave way – for ref. points, there’s a bit of a Fun Boy Three/Delta 5 feeling. While lead vox/scribe Lee Mavers’s tasty harmonies and hooks are mostly here as foreshadows, the more laid-back approach is also appealing — “Get Down Over” is still spliced with Beatlesque harmonies. Tasty single guitar notes feel pure as the late ‘50s-early ‘60s on “Sweet 35;” soft, spoken word adds a new wave veneer. “Open Your Heart,” which starts out with something like, “If the sun was shining light within,” feels like the air after a really hard rain, when, yes, the sun reappears. Per Mavers, it’s “a plea to the cold-hearted in the Thatcher era.”

The one that made me go, “Oh, yeah – sweet boyos,” is the poetic, catchy “My Girl Sits Like a Reindeer.” “What Do You Do?” is lovely power pop. I also like the Kinks/Jam-ish “Space Rocketry,” and the choir-boy (if Richard Hell and a Spanish-influenced guitarist invaded a boy choir) beauty of “Moonlight.” The additional tracks are generally low-fi. There’s no single round hole when songwriters are this creative. Describing “Midnight Shift” might build expectations for more stuff that sounds like Lux Interior on a bathroom floor with a towel over his mouth. Outlining “You Don’t Say” could make readers pine for a uniformly Richard Hell-ish La’s. And damn, the minimally-tracked bonus rendition (which further underscores the lyrics) of “My Girl Sits Like…” makes me miss my old Tascam 424.

So many directions, even I’m getting dizzy – and grateful I didn’t set up any numerical-rating mandate for OTBT. Jeez, if the above doesn’t tell ya enough, just make some grape Kool-aid & watch the “There She Goes” video until you get a salt craving.

The Ultimate 50’s Rockin’ Sci-Fi Disc breaks through the clouds with Eddie Cletro counting, “Four…three… two… one!” into “Flyin’ Saucer Boogie,” which would just be kickin’ boogie rockabilly except there’s a sporadic scream, kind of like Jayne Mansfield on “Rock the Rockpile” (A Girl Can’t Help It,) and the guitar’s making swirly “spaceship” sounds. Have I died and gone to heaven? And what do I mean, “just kickin’ rockabilly”? Who wouldn’t sympathize with a guy singin’, “Oh, there they go – it’s those doggoned saucers again”?!

Since the Viper jedi are apparently completely bonkers (in the good way), there are 20 tracks here. Each one can’t be worthy of the entire world’s stopping what it’s doing to make flapjacks to “Flyin’ Saucer Boogie.” But since they’re arranged artfully, no problem. A decent Jimmy Lloyd rendition of “Rocket in My Pocket” is trailed by the meatier “Satellite Rock” by Joe Tate and The Hi Fives.

More than a few moons ago, I boogied my behind off to Link Wray and Robert Gordon spitting out “Flyin’ Saucers Rock ‘n’ Roll” at the Bayou (Washington, D.C). Of course Billy Lee Riley and His Little Green Men’s original is here; as slam/bang/zippity-assed  as ever. BTW, if you’re prone to multiple martinis, saying “Billy Lee Riley AHLGR” over and over might be a way to sober up prior to crossing a police line… just remember to stop before you get to the authorities.

Wesley Reynolds

It’s astounding (in the good way) how many hillbillies felt compelled to dip their toes into the atomic age/spaceship genre. Sounding like they’d be most at home singing this between feedin’ the pigs are Ray Anderson and the Home Folks with “Sputniks and Mutniks.” “Trip to the Moon” (Wesley Reynolds) and “The Little Space Girl” (Jesse Lee Turner) are pocked by those effect-driven, ear-splitting, high-pitched vocals that sporadically haunted AM radio for the next 20-some years. By contrast, The Rebelaires’s “Satellite Rock” has such a hepcat slouch, it’s hard to believe anything unusual is goin’ down.

Since it’s remotely possible there are readers who don’t share the kick I’m getting, here are just a few more notables: A touch of possibly misplaced class occurs with Ella Fitzgerald’s jaunty “Two Little Men in a Flying Saucer.” Joe Montgomery’s “Planetary Run” would be cookie-cutter hick rawk if it didn’t add new wrinkles to desperate single-dom. Buck Trail’s “Knocked Out Joint on Mars” has that raw slink I crave from down-home guitar pluckers. Nelson Young’s “Rock Old Sputnik” brims with roadhouse vigor.

Billy Lee R. and Nelson Y. might have been truly spooked had their imagined extraterrestrial encounters included Marcelo Radulovich. I’ve known him for about 13 years – before migrating to Japan last year, our mutual friend Marcos Fernandes helmed the Accretions experimental music posse/label from San Diego. In a pool of Mensa-level sonic talent, Radulovich has often been the lightning bolt cutting a  swath through shows and compilations.

Critics and outré devotees throw roses at his feet. When he tunnels down from his North County digs, he’s lucky if 15 people show up. Maybe that’s ‘cause seeing Radulovich is like learning to swim again: a certain loss of psychic control accompanies the choice to dive in.

It also says something about San Diego’s hunger for truly unusual performance that isn’t hooked into a trendy (i.e., youthful) and/or university scene – there ain’t much. And nearly all of the Accretionists have departed for greener pastures. Meanwhile, Radulovich also puppet-masters or participates in Me Me The Moth, Titicacaman, Gunther’s Grass, and the Assholes. Like a shifty-eyed eccentric who’s tapped into some odd, unnaturally green energetic source, he pops up now and again to unfurl a cornucopia of field samples, industrial/pop/hip-hop/Spanish and South American beats along with visuals, with the whole so well alchemized, the only nutshell into which it can squeeze is World Class Performance Art.

Yes, he feels like a distant receiver of Harry Smith’s hieroglyphics. Yes, the Chilean-born and Communism-experiencing artist points up the absurdity of just about any political or social system. Yes, it’s Dada poetry. Vertigo at Lunchtime — probably about the ninth release for  Radulovich as such — continues an expansive journey yielding paranormal delights.

My dear readers (or snorers) – hey, what do I care, as long as you’re facing the screen (diabolical laugh),

http://www.the-viper-label.co.uk/
http://www.marceloradulovich.com/

Mary Leary is a poet and spoken word/music/performance artist who has been obsessed with sound for as long as she can remember. She edited and published one of the first New Wave 'zines, (the) Infiltrator (Washington, D.C.), and helped introduce New Wave and other alternatives through her radio shows at WGTB FM (Georgetown U.). Her poetry has been featured in numerous publications and at many venues, including KPBS FM and La Mama La Galleria, and in anthologies including: Hurricane Blues: Poems About Katrina and Rita, Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend: Women Writers on Baseball, The Unbearables, A Joyous Season, and The 2008 San Diego Poetry Annual. Her poetry is featured online at Creekwalker.com, The Melic Review, Gypsy 3, and ALittlePoetry.com. You can see her 2008 third-prize winning poem at Bookhabit.com. A poetry chapbook, Pretty Scary Jack O'Lanterns, is available through http://www.breadandlightning.net. Her short-short story collection, Cher Wolfe and Other Stories, is available on Amazon. Upcoming work includes a poem in A Walk In The Clouds, an anthology about the Obama election, and in The 2009 San Diego Poetry Annual. Her music journalism is featured at Daggerzine.com and at the San Diego Reader site, among others.

26 Comments

  1. Francoise

    May 27, 2010 at 1:09 am

    It’s about time there was more extensive (as you have done here) coverage of Marcelo R. Fantastique!

  2. Jasoneffinb

    May 27, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Was just looking for info on Radulovitch’s latest and found this. “Why” is bangin’ funny, great & wierd. & tx the heads-up on Viper – wanta check the Beefheart

  3. laurie gennaro

    May 28, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    RAWK! I’m all about the hillbiilly rawkers! Boo-yah!

  4. laurenmcbride

    May 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Totally relate to being depessed about the oil slick – I love the La’s – I think I like this version of the song more than the Cranberrys – thanks!

  5. Steve Metz

    May 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Great article. I love the LA’s and got a chance to see them live. Sci Fi Rockabilly hey I am all over that. Cool stuff.

  6. winner7

    May 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Quite a wide range of stuff and I enjoyed reading it all – very (san diego?) entertaining – no, really, this is one of the better music blogs, I think

  7. Oggy Witherspoon

    May 28, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Love the La’s. Beats the Cranberries version.

  8. gerald carson

    May 28, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Yeah, yeah, yeah – hint to others – turn speakers up for the Marcelo videos, especially Comunistas – gracias, me gusta mucho!

  9. Michelle

    May 29, 2010 at 1:58 am

    First this brought a smile to my face .. then I was laughing out loud! And did you realize that the Marcello video mentions oil slicks, which is how you started this article? Pretty damn creative – I’ll be back! Is there a way to get alerts when these are posted?

  10. Marshall

    May 29, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Bummer about the DMV crap~I dig the tunes & yr writeup, tho!

  11. Mary

    May 29, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Marshall – wow, that’s a real friend (noticing the DMV stuff). Michelle, I think if you create an account here you can get an alert – or you can just find me on Facebook – I alert interested parties there when these are published. Thanks!

  12. Dave Kelso-Mitchell

    May 30, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Love it. The La’s “There She Goes” is one of my favourite songs of all time – still gives me the shivers. And the Sci-Fi rockabilly sounds peculiarly contemporary, in that future-retro ‘The Future Never Happened’ sort of way.
    Thanks Mary.

  13. Mary

    May 30, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks for swingin’ by!

  14. petur ben

    May 30, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    “There She Goes” is one of my new favorite songs – I’d never heard this version – sweet.

  15. Jack Skelley

    May 31, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Nother great review, Mary. Great intro. (But I would have kept the 2nd person voice going all the way through.) I love that La’s song too.

  16. mary

    May 31, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Jack, I always appreciate honest fb – I will reread & consider what u said – & I KNEW you probably love the La’s – hey, you’ve got good taste!

  17. Francesca Pompeii

    June 3, 2010 at 11:00 am

    You can check out our Facebook Fan Page or our Twitter to receive up-to-date alerts about what the SD Entertainer is chatting about!

  18. hilaritee

    June 3, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Interesting…! I enjoyed the sci fi music videos – and wish there were live videos of some of these great rockabilly cats – keep up the good work

  19. ignatiusturnblow

    July 2, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    More coolness & greatness. Hope I remember to check this out again

  20. Jimmyjramone

    July 4, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Yeah, yes, and yes!

  21. leticia

    July 5, 2010 at 2:54 am

    I don’t really get Marcelo but I LOVE the La’s.

  22. Mary

    July 5, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    For anyone reading this column now (about a month after it posted): for some reason, the La’s video is no longer playing with sound. If you click through to YouTube, someone there posted a tip for getting the audio to work. Unfortunately, once it’s published here, I can’t fix that. It’s a great song, so… could be worth your time.

  23. Jon R. Mattson

    July 6, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I didn’t know about Marcelo – great stuff – lots more on YTube, btw – I checked.

  24. Alain R.

    July 6, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    There She Goes is so good. The oil spill is one of the worst disasters I can remember.

  25. Adrian Vasquez

    July 6, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Marcelo deserves more recognition, that’s for sure. The Viper label is one I’m glad to know about, esp. if they’ve put out Capt Beefheart – cheers!

  26. synthPoprocker

    July 8, 2010 at 2:09 am

    None of this is quite my genre but I like the way you’ve put it all together.

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