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.

California Dreaming

February 17, 2009

A musical ode to California

http://www.divshare.com/download/6573926-7ab

There was a thread on a message board which invited readers to suggest songs from the late 60s and early 70s that were devoted to the beatification of the state of California. This spun the hamster wheel that fuels my brain since there were so many odes to the apex and aftermath of free love and hallucinogens. Some of these songs embrace the innocence of bursting through social norms, others pay tribute to the majestic scenery of its cities and rural enclaves while others bemoan the loss of innocence in the wake of addiction and the realization that love is anything but free. Anyhow, I figured that I would share my contribution here. Here is the tracklisting that I intended, but somehow my upload rearranged its order. Anyway you slice it, it is still a delicious pie.

Sir Douglas Quintet-Menocino

Moby Grape-Hey Grandma

John Phillips-Topanga Canyon

Guy Clark-LA Freeway

Terry Melcher-Beverly Hills

Neil Young-Revolution Blues

Shirl Milete-Love Child

Robert Charlebois-California

Mickey Newbury-San Francisco Mable Joy

Michael Nesmith-Hollywood

Lee Hazlewood-LA LAdy

Laura Nyro-California Shoeshine Boys

Jim Ford-Working My Way to Los Angeles

Jack Nitzsche-Lower California

Jesse Colin Young-Ridgetop

Flatlanders-San Francisco Bay Blues

Flying Burrito Bros-Sin City

David Crosby-Tamalpais High(At about 3)

Terry Allen-Cortez Sail

Mickey Newbury-Frisco Depot

Michael Nesmith

Magnetic South (Pacific Arts 1970)

http://www.mediafire.com/?bzw3ccvwn3s

I’ve already covered the history of Michael Nesmith on a previous post, so we’ll skip the biographical information. Magnetic South is his followup to his debut album, The Wichita Train Whistle Sings, and it is the first where he begins to really shine as a mellow, somewhat stoned country rocker. I really cannot explain why I rank a former Monkee as an equal to your Nick Drakes, Jackson c. Franks and Gram Parsons, but his music is so unforced and relaxed. There is a cozy vibe to his albums that make them seem like home. His appropriations of West Coast psych and traditional country balladry don’t aim for innovation, but a simple good time. Although “Hollywood” sort of veers into some honkytonk Doors fantasia, the rest is just a bunch of straightforward country tunes bedecked in bellbottoms.

Although he lacks the charisma and tragedy of a Gram Parsons, Nesmith’s string of solo albums should have cemented with a much stronger reputation than the former Monkee with a Liquid paper fortune. “Keys to the Car” could pass for a George Jones number, but the awkwardly yodeling vocals and chorus about getting stoned would make ol’ George drive his lawnmower off the road. So I don’t become too obscure, Jones was once caught driving his lawnmower to the bar when his car keys were out of his reach. Nesmith is also comfortable with twangy cosmic ballads that document the weary life of a traveling musician where cities, roads and people just melt one rorshach inkblot. Magnetic South isn’t his best effort, but it does pave the way for the progressions made on Loose Salute and Nevada Fighter.

Michael Nesmith

Nevada Fighter(Pacific Arts 1971)

http://www.mediafire.com/?mrtdf2nnhss

Before I finally heard Michael Nesmith’s string of classic country-rock albums, I was entrenched in my narrow view of him as the Monkee in a stocking cap and a Liquid Paper fortune. I read positive reviews of his 70s solo work, but marked them up as twaddle on par with endorsements of Utopia or Nilsson. I couldn’t break free from his association with bubblegum pop and zany antics and the idea of Nesmith as Byrdsian troubadour was just plain crazy talk. However, a friend taped Nevada Fighter for me and it knocked the door ajar and let some light shine on my cloudy judgement. After further purchases and tape trades, I fell in love with everything Michael Nesmith released between 1968-1977 and what came after isn’t anything to shake a stick at either.

I love how Nevada Fighter starts off n such a jaunty note with the rollicking country-tonk of “The Grand Ennui.” It kind of reminds me of Link Wray’s “La De Da” which is ironic since they were both released in the same year and marked new directions for both artists. The opener isn’t representative of the bulk of Nevada Fighter since Nesmith is in an introspective mood here. The abundance of pedal steel helps to accentuate the bruised sentiments and pensive pace of Nevada Fighter and it showcases Nesmith’s ability to really milk the emotion from a song. It is his saddest album, but not his best work as that title belongs to Magnetic South or Loose Salute. I may post some more of his early work as time goes by, so check back here if you enjoy this one.