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.

Grenadine – Goya

June 30, 2008

Grenadine

Goya (Teenbeat/Shimmy Disc 1992)

http://www.mediafire.com/?oma0m1n3kdm

I know I keep saying that each album is one of my favorites, but each album posted occupies a special place in my heart. Grenadine is no exception. The cover and artwork of the album is pure schtick. Its imagery predates the lounge revival which brought Martin Denny, Les Baxter and Esquivel back into circulation and the liner notes falsely claim the songs are Sinatra and Cole Porter tunes. Thankfully, the band only gives passing nods to the easy listening of the 50s and 60s and reminds me more of Robinson’s angelic harmonies of the title track of his Imperial fffr album.

Consisting of Jenny Toomey of Tsunami, Mark Robinson of Unrest and Rob Christiansen of Eggs, Grenadine was a supergroup in a shaggy dog sort of way. At least, my lonesome sould thought so. Outside of moments on Unrest’s last albums, Goya contains the best performances any of these talented, but inconsistent artists ever recorded. Tsunami had a few great songs, but relied too heavily of Toomey’s husky, moody voice to carry lackluster tunes. Mark Robinson always had too many ideas and genres to explore. Eggs fell victim to the same miscues as well. Goya’s strength lies in the fact that the source material is already classic and their quirky sensibilities elevate instead of dilute the finished product.

It doesn’t hurt that Toomey and Robinson possessed two of the most more interesting voices in 90s indie rock. Their voices never sounded so good as when covering “I Only Have Eyes For You” as Toomey belts it out in such a manner that it makes you take a second look at the song and realize the beauty of its lyrics.

My love must be a kind of blind love
I cant see anyone but you
And dear, I wonder if you find love
An optical illusion, too?

Are the stars out tonight?
I dont know if its cloudy or bright
cause I only have eyes for you, dear
The moon may be high
But I cant see a thing in the sky
cause I only have eyes for you.

I dont know if were in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
You are here, so am i
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

She transforms it into a moody meditation instead of blind-eyed devotion. I forgot how wonderful their cover was until reevaluating it for this review. It jangles like indie-pop, it sounds like indie-pop, but it transcends its littler corner and becomes something much more lasting.

Mark Robinson follows up with a one-two punch as he sings “In a World Without Heroes” A good friend who was interested in astrology found this song to be romantic as the lyrics relate his ability to discern the meaning of her star signs and horoscope to find a common bond between them. He seems worries that he doesn’t truly know her, but shows confidence that love can be derived from this celestial moment. It is sweet and tender in the nerdiest way possible. It still arouses a bit of mist in the ol’ eyeballs.