Bongwater-Double Bummer

February 8, 2012

Bongwater

Double Bummer (Shimmy Disc 1988)

Disc One: http://www.mediafire.com/?o1wtzui2jj1

Disc Two: http://www.mediafire.com/?yyymyjzongu

Sprawling in every postive and negative sense of the word, Bongwater’s Double Bummer embraces excess and melodrama at each and every opportunity. If whittled down to a single album instead of a double LP with a later EP tacked onto it, Double Bummer would be hailed as an eccentric masterpiece instead of a nearly forgotten footnote in the unheralded Shimmy Disc catalog. It’s a symbol of all that was right and wrong with a label that seemingly operated in a cloud of marijuana smoke and never met an oddball it wouldn’t sign. For every stroke of genius like the Boredoms’ Soul Discharge, Ween’s The Pod, Damon and Naomi’s More Sad Hits and Shockabilly record, they released streams of utter shit like King Missle, the Tinklers and Captain Howdy. However, this erratic behavior and dalliances with questionable taste is what made Shimmy Disc and Bongwater so charismatic and intriguing to me during the early 90s.

Bongwater centered around the unlikely duo of Mark Kramer, who played with Shockabilly and Gong and produced Galaxie 500, Low and Half Japanese albums, and Ann Magnuson, a performance artist, singer and actress in such films as Desperately Seeking Susan. The partnerships was especially fruitful at first since Kramer’s drugged sound collages, love of drugged ambiance and knack for whacked guitar meanderings gelled perfectly with Magnuson’s quirky monologues about David Bowie and Iranian country clubs and gorgeous covers of Johnny Cash’s “There You Go” and Mike Nesmith “Just May Be the One” and Roky Erickson’s “You Don’t Love Me Yet.”  The album is a document of two kindred spirits going bonkers in the studio as they attempt to string together such disparate elements as a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” sung in Chinese with slow-motion psychedelic balladry like “Jimmy” where Magnuson channels Grace Slick and absolutely own every single note and becomes larger than life. Not surprising, since Magnuson is a mammoth presence here and effortlessly sheds one persona for another on each song and imbues the album with a theatrical, larger than life aura that propels Double Bummer beyond the stoned, unfocused mish-mash it should have been. Her powerful presence just makes Kramer’s tape loops and sluggish, hallucinogenic instrumentation work as a counterpoint to her fiercely melodramatic turns in the spotlight.

Double Bummer was the apex of their short-lived career because it allowed both members to let their freak flag fly simultaneously where later albums were a tug of war to see which member got the last laugh. Later albums saw Magnuson drink too much of her own Kool-Aid and shift the emphasis onto her increasingly slick, narcissistic  and indulgent point of view while Kramer’s welcome walks on the weird side became less and less prominent. They shaved away all of the lumps, misshapen bits and warts from the surface and the end result sucked the magic from their core. It’s a shame since Double Bummer isn’t quite like anything else I’ve ever heard. Any album that finds a common strain via covers of Gary Glitter, the Beatles, the Fugs, Roky Erickson, Mike Nesmith and Led Zeppelin amidst an eccentric fog of absurd monologues, gorgeous, slow burning guitar solos and an embrace of left-wing politics is alright with me until the day I die.

World Party

“Put the Message in the Box” from Goodbye Jumbo

http://www.mediafire.com/?w2fle2z32z10o4j

It’s a pain in the ass to write long-winded meditations on whatever album stumbles into my psyche. Sometimes I just want to write about a single song. To be honest, family, fatherhood and teaching are the prime real estate in my life these days and rambling meanderings fall somewhere near the excavation of my cat litter somedays. Therefore, I plan on offering some miniature dioramas of whatever song digs a hole in my heart on a more regular basis than once a week. Considering the fact that I have disappeared for entire years from this blog, my word in swiss cheese, but optimism is my forte.

Anyhow, I always loved this song. At the time of its release in 1991, I was a misbegotten teen who somehow chased down the divergent pathways of Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Eric B. and Rakim as well as a maudlin fascination with the Smiths, Galaxie 500 and the Cocteau Twins. Those are just the good bands I listened to. I make no claims to premature cool. God knows I also owned albums by MC Hammer and the Dead  Milkmen too. Anyhow, I found myself immediately transfixed by this song whenever it reared its derivative noggin on 120 Minutes on MTV one night. I purposely avoided all classic rock out of some misguided aesthetic of cool that was ill-defined and its eminently hummable 90s alt-rock take on Bob Dylan seemed like something kaleidoscopic and fantastical to my undefiled ears.

“Put the Message in the Box”is a paean to optimism. It is an ode to speaking your mind no matter the consequence. God knows it is a timely theme that should be revisited today. However, the instrumentation transforms the hippie sentiments of the band into something more transcendent than mere encouraging words set to song. World Party is basically made up of one man, Karl Wallinger, and he was quite an effective chameleon for awhile. He basically summons all of the anthemic power of early 70s Dylan and marries it to country-rock by way of 120 Minutes and it somehow works despite itself. It’s a beautiful sentiment married to an equally beautiful song. That’s all I ask for in this world.

Magic Hour

Will They Turn You on or Will They Turn on You (Twisted Village 1995)

http://www.mediafire.com/?jbmunztcywt

I’ve already penned some flowery words about Wayne Rogers and Kite Biggar’s work on Crystallized Movements’ Revelations From Pandemonium. I’ve always been a sucker for guitar virtuosos, especially when they unreel such intricate, but unhinged riffs like Wayne Rogers does on his solo and group efforts. However, this fellow finds it difficult to repeatedly visit much of the albums on Twisted Village because they can be pretty draining. How often can one listed to Wormdoom before you batter your musical palate. Sometimes we need a bit of a sorbet between the ears to cleanse ourselves between epic bouts of feedback and pyrotechnics.

When you look at the Twisted Village catalogue, I always found Magic Hour’s music to be that gentle, but challenging palate cleanser amidst the racket and din. Will They Turn You On is their best effort as it sees the band overcoming the growing pains of their debut No Excess is Absurd. Their debut is pretty damn great, but the mix of Rogers and Biggar with Galaxie 500’s rhythm section, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang never fully congealed. That is no insult, but Damon and Naomi were always sort of the eye while Rogers and Biggar were the storm and the two never intersected for me. Will They Turn You On works best because it includes their most concise statements of psych-pop on “Something Else” and “Jonathan and Charles” as well as “Passing Words” a twenty-minute jam that fully reconciles the Velvet Underground thumping of the rhythm section with the wild impulses of the guitarists. It provides accessible excess and has a sense of pacing and excellent songwriting to ground the thunder and lightning. It’s rare to find albums that satisfy my sweet tooth and desire for more damaged sounds, so it’s no surprise that this album always finds it way back onto my stereo.

Pale Saints

The Comforts of Madness (4ad 1990)

http://www.divshare.com/download/5210899-715

From the first moment I heard the angelic choirboy voice of Ian Masters, I was hooked. I’ve followed his circuitous career and always was surprised that more folks haven’t come to appreciate his more spartan, ethereal work as Spoonfed Hybrid and ESP Summer. However, none of these projects ever compared to the brilliance of his work on The Comforts of Madness. His influence on the band is made even more clear by the blandness of Slow Buildings, the album they recorded without him. In fact, the followup to The Comforts of Madness, In Ribbons, is a lesser work because Masters was disenchanted with the poppy direction of the band and pressures to tour outside of England. However, their debut was entirely Masters’ platform and it resulted in one of 4ad’s best albums.

The Comforts of Madness is definitely influenced by Galaxie 500, Jesus and Mary Chain, AR Kane and My Bloody Valentine, but Masters’ songs are much more delicate and fragile despite the swells of feedback that propel some songs. They also set themselves apart from their peers in the shoegaze scene with their sudden shifts in tempo and mood within each song. Plus, it kind of sounds like a member of the Vienna Boys Choir tinkering with twee and shoegaze by writing complex, but odd pop songs with tape loops and almost subliminal samples. They even cover Opal’s “Fell From the Sun” and improve on the original by lending it a graceful quality lacking from the original. It’s a thoroughly 4ad take on an American gem. I could listen to Masters coo the alphabet and be a happy man, so I may be biased in my praise of this vastly underrated album.

I’ve been pondering the posting of lists. This will be the first in a series of thematic collections relating to floats my boat. Today’s list was inspired by a humid drive into the barren heart of Delaware County where Peter Jefferies’ depressing Electricity album placed me in one of those pensive moods that went perfectly with the blur of chain restaurants dominating my horizons. Therefore, this led to this list of songs that always make me feel like a maudlin chump. Sorry that these are individual tracks, but I broke it up so you may pick and choose. There will probably be a sequel since I gave up at twenty.

1. Skip Spence-“Broken Heart” from the Oar LP

-he sounds broken down before his life even began. There are many worthy choices on this album, but this captures the weight of love gone wrong.

http://www.mediafire.com/?dxntyjgtxyv

2. Beck-“Lost Cause” from the Sea Change Lp

-he has devoted so much time to being the most wiggity-wack Scientologist in the club that you forget how great he can be without the fixins’. A vivid snapshot of regret, lost friendships and the worry that goes along with new beginnings.

http://www.mediafire.com/?2tst2o2jbts

3. Bread-“Look What You’ve Done” from the On the Waters LP

-a soft-rock classic where the protagonist is pitiful and pissed at the same time. Who knew Bread had such issues with passive aggressive behavior?

http://www.mediafire.com/?nfzg1c4gg91

4. Camper Van Beethoven-“All Her Favorite Fruit” from Key Lime Pie LP

-domesticity gone awry.

http://www.mediafire.com/?r69tkztryc2

5. Codeine-“3 Angels” from the Frigid Stars LP

-I could probably pick any of their songs, but this one crushes you more than the others.

http://www.mediafire.com/?3005tccwn42

6. Galaxie 500-When Will You Come Home” from Peel Sessions

http://www.mediafire.com/?mauo9b1cnem

An old chestnut that deals with those times you miss the company of other humans.

7. Gary Stewart-“She’s Acting Single(I’m Drinking Doubles) from The Essential Gary Stewart

http://www.mediafire.com/?dgibufxxzum

-Oh Gary, lemme give you a big old hug. Nevermind, let’s finish the bottle.

8. Gene Clark-“Life’s Greatest Fool” from the No Other Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?39z1yp4mmog

-an exploration of powerlessness, then hope. Actually, this is kind of uplifting in its own way.

9. Go-Betweens-“Dive For Your Memory” from 16 lovers Lane LP

http://www.mediafire.com/?ify3xjmnyyw

-A man willing to do anything to regain the past. Kind of romantic, but tragic.

10. Graham Nash-“Military Madness” from the Songs For Beginners LP

http://www.mediafire.com/?hiyftjm9pdn

-Sad only because its Vietnam era warnings seem relevant again.

11. The Jayhawks-“Take Me With You When You Go” from Hollywood Town Hall

http://www.mediafire.com/?1tcummrzuyd

-I always imagined this to be about Mark Olson’s worries about his wife’s struggle with Multiple Sclerosis.

12. Kristin Hersh-“Beestung” from Hips and Makers Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?pqdg46mvcky

-I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about, but it seems to deal with her struggles with mental illness and her pleas for a lover to assist her.

13. Lisa Gerrard-“Sanvean” from Live in Dusseldorf bootleg.

http://www.mediafire.com/?ndelmnjn9an

-I hope these are the sounds I hear as my life enters its last minutes.

14. The Magick Heads-“Before We Go Under” from Before We Go Under Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?lmy9qzbtgzo

-A song about drowning from a side project of Robert Scott of The Bats.

15. Michael Hurley-“Sweedeedee” from Armchair Boogie(the best album ever made)

http://www.mediafire.com/?axmtoxymmuc

-another tale of lost love and the attempts to regain it.

16. Mickey Newbury-“The Future’s Not What It Used To Be” from ‘Frisco Mabel Joy

http://www.mediafire.com/?lxmd2y1ddij

-a man discovers that travel and booze won’t solve his problems. Go figure.

17. Peter Jefferies-“Scattered Logic” from the Electricity lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?el1jtm1ej3n

– my favorite song at the moment. A heart-wrenching three minutes.

18. John Cale-“I Keep a Close Watch on My Heart at Night” from Music for a New Society

http://www.mediafire.com/?nxtwsbscisl

-somebody not only broke this dude’s heart, but squashed it into a pulp.

19. Peter Hammill-“Been Alone So Long” from the Nadir’s Big Chance Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?semmnz2ejsd

-This is a close second to the John Cale song in terms of crushing hopelessness. A song about a man who has been isolated so long that he’s forgotten how to relate to humanity.

20. Marc Ribot-“Saints” from the Saints Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?qbadnytjjdx

-let’s end on a wordless note. His cover of Albert Ayler’s “Saints” is a dark, moody end to this self-indulgence.

Vermonster

Instinctively Inhuman (Twisted Village 1991)

http://www.mediafire.com/?9vnd9m15fza

I am posting this because of multiple requests for more of Wayne Rogers’ playing after they listened to his work with Crystallized Movements’ Revelations From Pandemonium. The Crystallized Movements posted earlier was unhinged, but rooted to a song which grounded their efforts. Be forewarned, his work with kate Biggar in Vermonster in unhinged without a single root to grasp.

Instinctively Inhuman consist of two epic tracks. “Black Sally” which is a cover of Human Instinct who were covering a song by Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. I haven’t heard either version, so I am walking around blindfolded here. However, Vermonster’s take on the songs is rolled in flour and fried to oblivion. There are two meandering riffs going on at once while another guitar is overdubbed to provide the requisite feedback. The song itself is an afterthought, the guitar playing is the attraction and it delivers.

“Stoned Guitar” is an example of truth in advertising. It is a bit too indulgent for my taste. It kicks into a muddled groove of some sort about halfway through the song, but it doesn’t really rise above the din. Bah Humbug on this one.

Sugar Plant

After After Hours (World Domination 1997)

http://www.mediafire.com/?xmh0hxz1znl

Probably the only worthwhile band to record for the otherwise mediocre World Domination label run by Gang of Four bassist Dave Allen. The label suffered the same fate as many other 90s indie rock labels as it put out such forgettable schlock as Low Pop Suicide, Loop Guru, Sky Cries Mary and Perfume Tree. The label is now defunct, so its releases can only be found via ebay or a local used bin. However, Sugar Plant, a Japanese duo of Shinichi Ogawa and Chinatsi Shoyama, didn’t deserve this obscure fate.

If psychedelia could be my nightly lullaby, I would choose After After Hours to be in daily rotation as it may be one of the most soothing albums in my collection. It’s not soothing in the way I usually desire–a long, undulating drone that beats my consciousness into submission, but a gently jangling tune with two honeyed voices singing me off to la-la land. There is nothing here that hasn’t been explored on the Velvet Underground’s third album, Galaxie 500’s On Fire or countless cutesy-poo indie-pop ballads, but Sugar Plant’s take on the genre is slow, sensual and high as a kite. There is even a song which revolves around the idea that a pale. blue light is their friend as they seem to come down from whatever high they’ve pursued. Shoyama’s guitar work is highly underrated in the 90s indie-rock canon and I wonder why more folks never gave them the time of day. They are still around and reforming for a new album and tour this year, so let’s address their tragic anonymity and make them feel a bit more welcome this time around.

Crystallized Movements

Revelations from Pandemonium

http://www.mediafire.com/?3osgyictj1l

This was Crystallized Movements’ finale and it was a perfect summary of all that was great about this band while pointing towards the psychedelic balladry of Magic Hour as well as the crushing heaviness of Major Stars. In my humble opinion, both of these later projects are superior to Crystallized Movements attempts to combine the two, but Revelations From Pandemonium straddled the line so well.

The core unit of all of these acts are Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar, who run Twisted Village, an influential label and records store. They have had a hand in many releases on the label by B.O.R.B. and Vermonster. You can count on the Twisted Village label if you love fried, amp-destroying feedback with a taste for the 60s.

If I had to sum up Revelations From Pandemonium, it would be “fuzzy.” I guess a lazy comparison would be to Sonic Youth’s Sister and EVOL filtered through psych-folk, but then again that doesn’t do it total justice. Wayne Rogers’ guitar playing is kaleidoscopic in that so many sounds can be perceived in his lo-fi wall of sound. His playing is majestic and regal when he avoids the noise and reels off a riff worthy of Jimi Hendrix Randy Holden. His vocals are deadpan and don’t add much, the lyrics are meaningless, but his voice works because it adds a monotone accent on the main attraction–the instrumental brilliance of this band.

This album is an acquired taste and requires a few listens to grasp its brilliance, but anyone in love with scruffy psychedelia will eventually find much to love.

The 6ths

Wasp’s Nest (London 1995)

http://www.mediafire.com/?eztmxiwxdnt

Stephin Merritt has always utilized the vocal talents of others to realize his artistic vision. His choices were sometimes a bit suspect on 69 Love Songs, but he usually has a great ear for who best coalesces for this tragic songwriting. His best collaborations can be found on Wasp’s Nest, the 6ths debut, but how can you go wrong with a roster of vocalists that includes Barbara Manning, Mary Timony(Helium), Dean Waeham (Galaxie 500), Amelia Fletcher (Heavenly), Rober Scott (The Clean/Bats), Mark Robinson (Unrest), Chris Knox (Tall dwarves), Georgia Hubley (Yo La Tengo) and Max MaCaughan (Superchunk)?

The music doesn’t differ from the baroque electronic indie-pop that marks his work in the Magnetic Fields. The lyrics doesn’t stray from his usual tales of unrequited love and romantic promises, but the roster of vocalists make this his best release. From Barbara Manning’s ode to the joys of the San Diego Zoo to Georgia Hubley’s rejection of a lover who can never compare to her own imagination, every element of each song is on point. The highlight is Dean Wareham’s take on “Falling Out of Love With You” which documents the dissolution of a relationship in a blase sort of way. I always loved the lyrics to this one although they sound better in performance than on your screen.

“In an old silverline
I was yours, you were mine
I was hoarse, you were mean
We designed drum machines

But every day in every way
Im falling out of love with you
Every kiss means less and less
Im falling out of love with you
Every hour kills a flower
Im falling out of love with you
You just bore me more and more
Im falling out of love with you

They made sounds much like drums
I was young you were dumb
Now youre older and im wiser
We design synthesizers

But every day in every way
Im falling out of love with you
Every kiss means less and less
Im falling out of love with you
Every hour kills a flower
Im falling out of love with you
You just bore me more and more
Im falling out of love with you”

It is playful, bitter, sarcastic and a downright mean rejection, but the music is so chirpy and bright that you find yourself humming along with each caustic word. Now that’s a pop song.