Off The Beaten Track: Music Reviews & Musings by Mary Leary
TURNIN’ GREY SKIES TO… NEON GREEN?
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.
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),