Monoshock-Walk to the Fire

August 13, 2008


Walk to the Fire (Blackball 1997)

Oh Sweet Jesus, where in the world have you been all of my life. Monoshock’s Walk to the Fire is a overload of psychedelia, rock and punk that falls somewhere in between Japanese band High Rise and Hawkwind at their most abrasive and fucked. I picked this album up long ago and tossed it aside because it was such a spastic mess, but that says much more about me at that time than this glorious album. It is a criminal racket that was recorded so that it sounds as if your ear is pressed against a massive amplifier pressing into the red at every moment.

Think Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath and the Stooges, but without a hit song to distinguish them. This is anthemic, unhinged and unhealthy music that pushes psych, metal and punk to its most mind altering limits. Music is phased to oblivion and reverb cascades over each brutal, but well-played riff as the band just pummels the living shit out each song. This music makes me uneasy, but it also can be catchy in its own caveman way. Each time I listen to this I am amazed at how Monoshock abused the guitar and created such a claustrophobic sound. These are anthems for riding a goddamn asteroid into a planet. Walk to the Fire deserves every cosmic, hippie adjective you could humanly apply to it.


August 13, 2008


Lustwandel (Sky 1981)

Roedelius is one of the pivotal forces behind krautrock icons Cluster and collaborated with Brian Eno for a series of classic albums, but his solo work is a much more delicate piece of china compared to the robotic psych of his earlier works. Sometimes it reminds me a bit of Vangelis and I have images of me running in slow motion towards a hoagie and a bag of hot chips to the soundtrack of Chariots of Fire. However, a better comparison would be a more stoned Wendy Carlos during the more melancholy moments of the Clockwork Orange soundtrack. In reality, it is kind of its own bag of chips since his work transcends both Carlos and Vangelis’ entire catalogue of work.

I love this album because it is so tender and fragile. It is a masterpiece of small gestures and restraint. You could lump it into the new age scene if you didn’t listen closely enough. His piano playing is so evocative and bittersweet and always takes me back to blue moments in life, not in a depressing way, but a meditative one. That’s a quality I cannot apply to many albums in my life. It is so close to elevator music, but it devastates me each time. When you are lulled back into a regressive state, some oddball element like the pagan “Wicker man” vibe of “Wilkommen” pops up to shake you out of your reveries to examine this album more closely. I am still trying to figure this one out. It is so inoffensive, but possessed a power to whisk me off to other places in my mind.

Royal Trux-Thank You

August 13, 2008

Royal Trux

Thank You (Virgin 1995)

There was a time in the late 90s and early on in this decade where this may have been one of the best live acts in a sorry period in rock and roll. No one really gives them the time of day anymore and their major label albums can be had for a few bucks. Ignore the ignoramuses because this band had an amazing streak of albums that abandoned the heroin-addled experimental genius of Twin Infinitives and embraced the boogie rock and Rolling Stones worship that always lay beneath the surface. Everything from 1993s Cats and Dogs to 2000s Pound for Pound stood out like a sore thumb amidst what was popular during this time, but you won’t find a more fried take on Jagger and Richards.

During the oddball rush to sign indie acts in the 90s, Royal Trux somehow wrangled a major label deal with Virgin records and got David Briggs, producer of most of Neil Young’s catalogue as well as Spirit’s best work, to take the reins of this album. His influence is readily apparent as this is their most cohesive album as he transforms the band into something resembling Southern rock and the Stones. However, there is no dolling up Jennifer Herrema’s throaty growl, but Hagerty seems like he is in heaven as he can channel his 70s heroes in the hands of a great producer.

Personally, I like Royal Trux much better during their return to Drag City with Accelerator and Veterans of Disorder. These albums reconciled the chaos of their early albums with the big riffs of their Virgin years, but I always had a soft spot for the one moment where Royal Trux was dusted off and presented to the masses as a grandiose rock band. It is even more fitting that Sweet Sixteen, the next album owed to Virgin, featured a toilet full of shit on its cover and some dense, almost Beefheartian shit that I am still digesting. God love this band and their weird and wonderful career.

Ted Lucas-s/t

August 13, 2008

Ted Lucas

s/t (Om 1976)

Since this was sent to me earlier this year, I have listened to this album incessantly. It sort of is an imaginary link between the beautiful bummers of Skip Spence’s Oar with the nimble fingerwork of the Takoma label, especially John Fahey and early Leo Kottke. It is a fantastical description, but an apt one in my incredibly biased opinion. I love how the beginning of the album leads you to believe its all gonna be some fell good instrumental folk jamboree, but then he gets into some really spooky pop songs that sounds like some dirty backwoods drugs and heavenly harmonies. Raga folk gets married to some really emotionally devastating shit that makes me want to know a lot more about this guy’s life and what led him to create such a gorgeous, but emotionally damaged album. There seems to be a desire to get away from it all and retreat into himself and his odes to drinking and smoking weed aren’t celebratory, but kind of a plea for a better place.

On a purely musical and puerile level, I get a big old kick out of the slow-motion bliss of his pot smoking anthem “It’s So Nice to Get Stoned.” On one hand, it’s an angelic ode to the joys of smoking weed to get away from the daily grind, but within the context of the album, it can also be interpreted as an ode to sedating your personal demons with weed. I guess the dark side of the song mated with the bleary-eyed lyrics of flying into the heavens like an eagle make it somehow perfect to me.

The next song “Baby Where You Are” is another mixed message. It is a romantic sentiment about a wish for a reunion with a lover, but there is a creeping sense that obsession is somehow involved in the relationship as he wants to see, think and be wherever this beloved baby may be in this godforsaken world.

Man, I could ramble about this one for a lot longer, but I feel very bad about not posting for a week due to my thesis and I want to post some more music tonight. However, this is what all “forgotten” albums hyped to the heavens should sound like. I also love how he is tapping into Skip Spence and After Bathing at Baxters era Jefferson Airplane and Takoma in 1976. It probably was an anomaly at the time of its release, but really deserves the simple action of a download so he can get some of the respect he deserves.

World Party-Bang!

August 13, 2008

World Party Bang! (

Crysalis/EMI 1993)

pt. 1

The Waterboys might not have been the sensation of their heroes, the Beatles, but what they didn’t borrow in melodic craftsmanship from the fab four–they took quite a bit actually, they mimicked in distribution of labor. With Mike Scott hooting enough to fill the shoes of a Lennon and a McCartney, it left Karl Wallinger to take the diminutive, underemployed, role of George Harrison.

Wallinger adhered to the archetype and moved ahead with his own thing. World Party recorded five albums in the wake of his departure from the Waterboys (1985-?), all with their merits. But it was his 1993 album, Bang! an eco-social concept album, that was both his best, and most continually puzzling as it eluded broader context recognition.

World Paty was pretty well established by 1993, with indie hits like “Put the Message in the Box” and “Way Down Now”, along with a critically-favored collaboration with Sinead O’Connor, but Bang! demonstrated Wallinger’s push out of staid indie jangle to a self-made pastiche of pop-rock songwriting and crate-digger exploration. The Beatles, Beach Boys, and Stones, permeated the sound, braided in with Prince, Was Not Was, and early The The.

The very notion of a political record from 1993 sounds a bit precious given all that has happened since. But Wallinger, every bit the intellectual, took the Earth Day-era sensibility and crafted some lasting music. Didn’t hurt that he could also fashion a hook and layer harmonies with the best of them.

“Is it Like Today?”, probably the best charting single of his career, was a sci-fi allegory about the end of times, a bit of wistful folk with Wallinger plying his gorgeous one man-CSNY vocal strategy to glorious effect. Like any good sci-fi the key is to humanize the story, which he did–right down to the nominal “bang”, forcefully whispered in mock compliance to T.S. Eliot’s apocalyptic vision.

And though his entreaties of Ursula K. LeGuin were (probably for the best) limited, that subtle talent for pushing human warmth into pedantic, speculative spaces proved invaluable. The cautionary, “Give it All Away” (perhaps more in line with Rachel Carson, in fact) was a tuneful and hectic nod to Paul Hardcastle’s “19”, remembered not nearly as well, and yet sounding far less dated for the trouble.

For that matter, the Prince homage, “Rescue Me” was both unlikely, and prescient. At a time when the Mtv Unplugged zeitgeist pushed a lot of artists into begrudging (and as often flat-out fake) acoustic directions, Wallinger’s nod to Prince’s synth soul-pop was an improbable, lovingly unironic, retort.

Best among the set, however, were the pretty side two ballads. “Sunshine” had the easy blues of something spun from Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti (I’m thinking, “Down By the Seaside”), or that mostly elided fourth side of the White Album. But the zen moment occurred on the smiley-faced tearjerker, “All I Gave”. It pooled the World Party resources of honeyed harmonies–here reaching dizzied Bee Gees heights, a sparkling guitar from McGuinn’s best Byrds numbers, and a lyrical sentiment that–even to the naysayers of Wallinger’s environmentalist agenda and other various lefty notions, must have been irresistable.

Bang! happened in the detente of Clinton’s America (the birthing hour of Blair’s England) when the do-gooding drive seemed only altruistic–as opposed to now when it feels positively dire. But such was Wallinger’s great moment, a romantic lull during which he, nevertheless, felt compelled to sound the alarm to warn he future. The all-wasteful, hacking blacklung in me feels as though I missed the point fifteen years ago. The overly romantic, hacking blacklung in me remains content to have enjoyed it as I did…