Saturday, May 08, 2010
Live swelter-belter from this monstrous moonshaftin organ n' drums devil-baiting pairing of hoodoo hoe-downers. Bristling with more grimacing grunt n'groan and swivel than any of their studio struts, live as hell as they themselves are, this tears up the terrain you're firmly acquainted with by one finger and toys with it, supplanting it with it's subtle restructurings and lessons in laying waste to whole swathes of sought after thoughts and pretensions to instigate instincts and replenish primitive powers. Catch is they possess 'em and you gotta get 'em tha fuck back. So ya gotta wade into this gutbucket dirt-ride and emerge reneged upon but covered in grotty glory. Recorded in a sweatpit in Kentucky on an ailing tape-deck this splices songs from A Touch Of Someone Else's Class and Every Damn Time and is guttural lung-suckin' preacherratic rumble-blues at it's grease-sodden best. A colossal grinding glut-fuck you'll gladly submerge yerself in. Only they and label-buddies Left Lane Cruiser do this 2-man white boy garage-blues grunk this convincingly, this coruscatingly and this calamitously deliriously. Filthy, furious fun, full of soul and fever and fleet-footed flurries to nowhere's with floozies and fantastical flights of fuck-ups - one hellride into hay & unholy water that can't be bottled for mass consumption. Consume & fuck mercy.
Jason and the Scorchers
Lost and Found
I'll wager my own statement--if you don't like JATS, you just don't like rock n' roll. Period. You really just secretly have this thing against rock n' roll, ha ha.
Anyways, Jason and the Scorchers seem perfectly suited for a Flash Metal Suicide writeup. Here you have a band that was way too country for the rockers, way too rock for the country guys, too punk for the country guys and rockers, and probably not punk enough for the punks--too much twang, too rural of a sound to reflect the urban decay and political disapprovement that most punk seemed to embody. But i'm sure that the hidden consensus was probably like, "aw fuck, these guys are COUNTRY, man. Forget it". Well, at least that's what i'm sure I would have said (minus swear word) when I was 7 when "Lost And Found" came out. I admit to having actually heard JATS only until a very embarrassing (my embarrassment, not theirs) much later point into their career. Never heard 'em back then. And to top it all off, the band's first album (and quite a good one at that) in about 14 years--"Halcyon Times"--was released just a bit before I wrote this tribute here in the futuristic sounding year of 2010. How's that for poor timing? Or I dunno, maybe that's good timing--undoubtedly there's at least a slight bit more of awareness that they're still out there making music.
Jason Ringenberg and his Scorchers had no political agenda, they just wanted to rock hard, but they also wanted to reflect the surroundings of their Nashville upbringing--unlike some bands that try hard to ape another region's sound ("the grass is greener" syndrome in music), here you have a band that sounds exactly where it came from, but with a much needed dose of speed and energy brought in from their love of growing up listening to punk rock; tapping into the inherent energy in three chord country and bluegrass. It just makes total sense. Here's a cover of Dylan's "Absolutely Sweet Marie" from 1983, a revved up four on the floor version:
That sort of genre bending is like a recipe for disaster as a band, if you want to sell records and break through to a wider audience, but thankfully, the band just always sounded like a band being true to their roots--seeing the parallels between the 30's and 40's rural music in the blues and country; the 50's rock of Sun Records, and even some of the rawness of the 60's garage bands that had dug up the primal sounds of the 40's and 50's that were lost in friendly radio oriented acts.
Despite being signed to a major in the mid 80's and toning down the raging rockers just slightly on subsequent records following their killer debut, "Lost and Found", it's hard to believe that JATS came up with this sound. It really sounds exactly like the Ramones mixed with Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. It's the sound that no one was demanding in the early to mid 80's; happily out of fashion and out of step with what radio and your average fan was after at that time. There were no synthesizers or fancy studio tricks--just a band plugged into amplifiers, and adding more traditional sounds like fiddle, piano and harmonica in place of all the fancy 80's studio embellishments (the producer of "Lost And Found" was Terry Manning--the producer of ZZ Top records...all those early ZZ albums holding up extremely well as no bullshit albums to this day). And considering that the band probably sold about as good or maybe less after the buzz of "Lost And Found", the band had found out that they were indeed alone in their ambitions. The closest that anyone got to this back then was Steve Earle and the Georgia Satellites, and while they were still probably too Southern rock oriented for most audiences, they were also far less rowdy than JATS, where they had some wider appeal to cross over to regular rock audiences.
When they did a cover song, they didn't just play it. They damn near did it better than the original. For my money, they were the best American rock n' roll band of the 80's. They fucking own this version of "Great Balls Of Fire"--the recklessness and menace even in a mid tempo chugger of a song is astonishing. They achieve what most punk bands couldn't even manage when they were trying to be angry:
When you talk about debut records that come out swinging, few can beat "Lost and Found". As the old saying goes, "you have your entire life to make your first album" (save for the "Fervor" EP in 1983 and the "Reckless Country Soul" release in 1982). And an excellent life it must have been for Jason and the Scorchers--youthful energy, drinking, living life to the max. But the continued lack of proper recognition for this album is mind boggling--you don't hear about it much even to this day--or I feel that it hasn't got the accolades in the capacity that other influential albums have gained in esteem. I really get the impression that the band must have got TONS of heat from the Nashville establishment.....most likely there was a hidden backlash against them. Their music was deeply rooted in the traditions, but it wasn't purely traditional--it was a youthful version of that tradition, and i'd be willing to lay money down that there were some high up old guarders that saw to it that the band had nothing to do with their avenues of promotion or even live venues that had an unofficial blacklist for the band. It would be interesting to ask the band if they'd felt that at all, some sort of hidden wall.
In the mid 80's, true, genuine rock albums were not in plentiful supply. Most of the acts that had established themselves in the 70's were making radically slick albums and had lost alot of steam both creatively and in frequency of release, and most of the newer bands that were establishing themselves in the 80's were changing to suit the trends that sold records. Hell, even Southern Death Cult/ Death Cult/ The Cult changed radically from a goth/ post punk band to arena rock band.
In the mid to late 80's, there became enough of an underground where labels like SST and SubPop and Touch and Go had acts like the Screaming Trees, Dinosaur, Didjits, Urge Overkill--all which shared a love of what widely became known as "ironic classic rock" (or people at least had slapped those bands with the ironic rock tag, perhaps wrongly), but JATS did what they did without any irony in the early 80's. There really was no underground for it, other than the dives and bar rooms that JATS lit up organically through one night stands that were played as if they were their last. It was straight up, the real deal. Maybe if they'd started out 7-10 years later, they'd have only had the indie labels to embrace what they were doing and would have been marketed or promoted to underground audiences, instead of the "little band gone big" thing of EMI pushing their albums. It's tough to tell. They weren't college radio darlings, probably because of the big money and big shot at the big time that they had on a major and on MTV. And I think that they were "insurgent country" before that ever was a legitimate term. Nowadays, they'd fit right in on Bloodshot Records or Yep Roc.....but there was certainly no real support for what they were doing other than a smattering of folks that loved their live show and were tuned into what they were doing. I don't think that they ever sold that much on the majors, and "White Lies" was probably one of their biggest singles.
And I don't think that most audiences particularly liked a frontman to wear a cowboy hat. It just wasn't the image that most rock audiences were after. Jason Ringenberg was basically saying, "hey, here's what we're about. Take it or leave it" (the pink suit on the front of the album cover screams Flash Metal, too, so the band wasn't without some pizazz). The band had just slightly of an 80's look--a bit of eyeliner, etc, but even the image probably baffled people. On the album's cover, guitarist Warner Hodges is rocking a mullet and a leather jacket with a hand on his belt buckle, drummer Perry Baggs is wearing a jean jacket, bassist Jeff Johnson looks like he's a cross between best man at a wedding and a waiter at a high end restaurant. I guess when you take that all into account, you had four different guys with four different images, which likely confused audiences, too.
The album itself clocks in at just over a half hour for 10 songs. There's no filler, there's no chance for boredom-- they kick the saloon doors open, pound down a drink, fire a few bullets into the ceiling as the piano player ducks for cover, and then leave as quickly as they made their mark. Side A, in particular, is the more rocking one. Opening with the one-two-three punch of "Last Time Around", "White Lies" and "If Money Talks", there's no debate about what the band is about--three chords, recklessness and attitude. But amidst all the attitude and speed, there's always a top notch chorus. And Jason even has said that their drummer, Perry, is a great writer. No doubt. He was the main writer of "White Lies", the big single off the album--and for good reason. It's incredibly well written. Check the middle bridge breakdown with the minor chord sequence:
The video itself is Cadillacs, late nights, bar rooms, women and gold leopard print suits, but also with a sense of humour. Jason's blue suit and leopard print cowboy hat is part car salesman via rock n' roller. They tapped into the absurdity of the mid 80's, but it doesn't seem dated even now. It just seems like they're in on the joke--a great, silly video for a silly video era. Alot of bands made really serious, "hey, we're trying to rock" type videos. This is a fun video about not believing the lies your lady is telling you.
Finishing out side A is a cover of "I Really Don't Want To Know", the sped up bluegrass infused "Blanket Of Sorrow", and the slightly introspective mid tempo rocker, "Shop It Around"--about a woman that shops herself around to every guy in town; providing also the title for the album:
"So shop it around, shop it around...
to every five and dime in town....
me i'll be found at the salvage store...
among the lost and found..."
Side B starts off with a blazing version of "Lost Highway"; a mere 2 minutes' worth. But as is the true test of a band, it's how a band steps away from the loudness and speed, and the next three songs do this. "Still Tied" is a slow country type number. I'd checked the credits thinking that it was a cover song, but it's not--it's credited to "Ringenberg". When you're sure something is a cover because it stands up with the cover songs as well, if not better, you know you've come across something pretty special. It's a true classic. "Broken Whiskey Glass" follows, and for the first while, it's a pretty guitars/ vocals song only. Then the full band kicks in and starts the party again, and it's still a pretty introspective melodic song, but with guts--excellent chord choices and excellent melodies. "Far Behind" is a slower, reflective acoustic rocker that wouldn't sound out of place on a Mick Taylor era Stones album; Ringenberg at this point, lyrically, still trying to leave that cheating woman behind (I spot a pattern here). The album finishes off with "Change The Tune", another rager at 2:39 long, but sporting mandolin embellishments on the bridge lead parts, and perhaps the best lyric to close out the record and sum up what the band were about:
"going down highways not lit so well....
now they're makin' it something that's easy to sell...
maybe i'm saying what I shouldn't tell...
'cause even your heroes are wondering what to say..."
Ringenberg is one of the most underrated frontmen in the history of rock n' roll; a case for the frontman with no guitar to direct nervous energy into; armed with just a mic stand and looking the audience straight in the eye---someone there just to rile up the audience and get 'em going. I've long maintained that to be a truly great frontman, you've gotta be part madman, part entertainer. Most of my favorite frontmen looked like they escaped from an insane asylum. You'd better lose yourself in the moment. Ringenberg does. And when you front the Scorchers, you'd better match the power of the band. Ringenberg also does this.
Warner Hodges is also one of the most underrated guitarists in rock history--what he'd done in the band perfectly fused the boogie, country and punk elements that helped define the band as a real legitimately original and unique band that could otherwise be called a "rock" band. If you'd ask me, the Ringenberg/ Warner axis is as good as any other in the history of rock music. They just did it in a different way.
Here's an interview from 1984 that really, I think, summed up their mission in music. Gotta love it--leopard print interior Cadillacs, absurd rhinestone adorned garb and all:
Live footage of the band about 17 years into their career:
Great Rock'n'Roll Instrumentals Vol 2 - Just About As Good As It Gets
Further incidents across the rivers of rock'n'roll instrumentals from shore to shore as volume 2 rises on the horizons. So stop with the slouchin' about n' get up & unbreach the sea walls, let these tides in & never clean yer kitchen again while cards fall to play house evermore. So ya shouldsa know by now or never, on these superlative double-disc smatterings of fret fritter-flappering you get yer noted n' notorious like Duane Eddy (including the breezy devil-in-the-brevil Forty Miles Of Bad Road), Chet Atkins on scintillating form before he sucked seven souls out of country on One Man Boogie and a-slinging out such tremolo-teasin' on 1959's Boo Boo Stick Beat it can only be early wah-wah, note-takers, Dale Hawkins (the Suzie Q chap), Chuck Berry, Johnny & The Hurricanes and Bill Haley and the Comets - even if the songs aren't as readily called to the slayed parade ground of yer mind-grains as Reveille Rock (included here in succinct journalistic hubris), The Imps dirty dawg paw Uh Oh or Woo Hoo (the Rock-A-Teens original iiiissss...here too). But there's also soft-lilt delights like The Fireballs foray into The Champs Tequila (The Champs appear here with the chicken-funkin' Double Eagle Rock) sippery by the name of Torquay, likewise Boots Browns slyly similar bouquet of Cerveza, Santo & Johnny's sublime Sleep Walk and one Bill Black (yuss, Elvis' original Blue Moon Boy bass-man) and generous supply of obscurities - the main one here strikes out at the end of CD1 with Muvva 'Guitar' Hubbard's brace of blues - the alias of producer Don Costa - but try Sil Austin on for size, or Red Prysock for that darn matter.
While an almighty stew here is served up by platters of mad-hattin' on the git-tar a-picken' there's the righteous slurry of slinky N'awlins sax peckin' to consider in this. More than a mere sprinkle for that matter. Juke joint jazz fits alongside the R&B n' 'Billy brigands just right without the uptight transition Britain's trad-jazzers stiffly took to. This 'ere is unbridled rambunctionality, from the Keymen on Long Tall Sally to Ace Cannon's sternum-straddling turns on Bill Justis' tantalisingly-titled Cattywampus. As well as Johnny's Hurricanes (who also roustabout with Red River Rock) there be a Lee Allen, a name maybe not rolling outta people's palates but the soaring squalls on Little Richard and Fats Domino should be seared into yer brain-stems (more will be with Sil Austin's Train Whistle, which, yes, does just that with squealing off-register sax for your 'citements). Well, he crops up here like a tornado for tea then typhoons yer spoons with desserts and don't forget ol' Duane Eddy's sax-a-scratchin between yer shoulder blades on stuff like Yep and idefatigably famous breezeblock bristles of sax n' twang blizzards to turn yer wailing innards into gizzards that can only (?) be Peter Gunn. Rounded off with The Rebel Rousers' The Zombie Walks and The Wailers' Tall Cool One shows how rarefied this ruckus is. Not just a blast of idle hands for guitar nerds or novelty Americana but a tray of brisk rockery for all gauges and gas-guzzling sages. Glorious. Stu Gibson
'They're convinced he's some kind of witch
He just has difficulty with his language' - Black Magic
Yup, the one-time drummer of French mental beat mariachi's Thundercrack* is still pretty much a full-blown lunatic on a one man binge through several instruments - namely drums, git-tar, organ, harp & snarl - and insinuations and, I surmise, an inclination or two (& ayuss, he loops 'em all together - check live clips**), howsoever misconstrued all the messily better. This is a frequently menacing, far-often funnier, melange of pop moments, rocksteady-cide and smartly conceived but splendidly ill-sired rockin' ricochets that spin it spans away from star-spangled cliche rickshaws. Discordant Dr Feelgood dosed up on the dying's adrenal dance-spasms, tormenting the new wave in the guise of The Cure alternating between 1979 and 1983 with a smudge of '84 on it's sleeve, tenement terror bubbles throughout spluttering up Hit The Road Jack getaway car mayhem after throwing The Lovecats down a stairwell skewered on a Headcoats seven-incher is a further step into the stratosphere. Centred around songs (it's not often lyric sheets are included in VR releases, and that ain't just cos this cat's French what with the Swiss honchos being a land of three languages - officially, but the sharp bet's are on for a whole slew more) rather than a rabidly affected assemblage of disembodying self-conscious madness this is a real rare treat, a tirade of insights into an indiosyncratic mind with a spendthrift's attitude to dispensing social commentary of the indelicately disconnected, with wicked hints & asides merely a sundry supplement. For every angular, ankle-grinder with the gentle bedside head-spannering manner of the Milkshakes' vapourising Fake Skinheads In Love ('He bought her a rose from the Asian shop...') there's an array of surreal Syd Barrett (I know that's as over-used as such 'n' such on speed but listen...) as lounge-lizard spy-pop like the beautifully bizarre Diary Of Horace Wimp hauled round town by The Specials to meet The Bristols' Fabienne Delsol of There Goes George, sinister inner-city ministrations on Staircase Serenade and There Is No Truth In The Night or the dour hip-flask in a bistro rueful murmur of Moodswings to the neat twist on the 'What's he building in there?' wonder at the weird neighbour of Black Magic. Truly wondrous. Ye'll be warpedly welcomed indeed.
**Here Comes The Terror video
Yabber bladdered & drool for yes Sir Bald Diddley, Bash Brand & Gez Gerrard are back in peak bleak-blitzing form to de-mob & dis-bland yer slate-black post bank bail-out blues. Once again the whole hoodlum hoo-dunnit is under the judiciously adjudged titling to follow The Sheik Said Shake and the thigh-slappingly splendid Have Knees Will Tremble (oh, and Snake Pit, but they obviously hadn't quite got their stride yet at that stage). Fifteen drain-piped, Hawaiian shirted riff-tide surfers, stardust cowboys n' witchdoctors of many a pin-stripe and star-barking descent slide stompin' and strutting through chicken shacks like yardbirds let loose hounding bird-dogs into corners all surviving on diets of hazy bad things, ripped out to belly dance shimmying through your back-alley barbiequeues where you can catch Duane Eddy & John Lee Hook whether Chatham (whence these cats share an ancestry with that Childish feller) or Chattanooga. Sure, they be forged from well-used templates but 'twas always so. And yuss, it does have to be this way. Rule is sonny, you can use all the authentic equipment ripped from some mythical desks in a shack that had accidental acoustic properties that acolytes get slack-jawed & sloppy...limbed and worse about, you like sorta still have to be way-a-good else you sound like some ex-trad jazz Brit rockabilly wannabe in 1957. Funny 'ow times change ain't it, eh? Similarly, you can paint a Grestch Country Gent with black paint from an authentic B&Q store, bung the fucker through 3 wah-wahs & 17 cheapo Boss distorto boxes but you ain't gonna sound like remotely Mary Chain. So spin this sprightly concoction & all its convocations to non-Blighted sounds with unbridled spirit. Aplenny.