Burnt Hills - To Your Head (Flipped Out Records CD) / Lunch with Beardo - Surrealistic Picnic (FDH Records CD)
Here in exhibit A I've coupled up two jewel-cased releases I've received recently, both from the strange American underbelly and both with some eye-catching covers. And both bands I've never heard of until the moment I received the discs. Burnt Hills have received some heavy press from the Wire, Siltblog and Foxy Digitalis among others while Lunch with Beardo have opened mysterious groups with names like Wolf Eyes, Borbetomagus, Mouthus, Prurient, and so on. So I guess it's really my own fault for remaining in the dark but hey, sometimes I too need to be guided in the right direction. Or wrong direction. Or what have you. But at least I got the discs, and that's a start.
I don't know if they're all full-time members but there's nine whole players listed on the back of Burnt Hills' "To Your Head" album with zany monikers like Buzz Mountain, Professor, Tapes, Ziamaluch, etc and they all play zanily-monikered instruments such as the "blutar", "gertar", "gnutar", "bootar", "glutar" and "steal yr bass". I'm going to let you in on a hot tip and tell you that I think the first for are clever plays on the word "guitar". Another strange thing about this disc is that it lists four tracks on the back, and you can pick different tracks from the album to listen to on their MySpace page, but when I play the album alls I get is one long 38-minute opus. I guess maybe it's split up on the vinyl version but I wouldn't know since that was limited to 99 copies and they're gone by now. At this point in the revue I probably don't even need to tell you what the sound is; you should be able to glean that much from the info provided. But I guess since it's "my job" I can tell you that it's everything you'd expect from nine bored Americans in somebody's garage space with a dangerous amount of noise-makers on hand. In addition to the five guitars (I mean blutars! I mean shoetars! I mean AnzeKopitars!) and bass there's at least one drummer, somebody totally masturbating a tambourine and a heck of a lot of other kitsch I'm not about to try nailing down. Every once and again over the near forty minutes they'll hit on a catchy rhythm (usually led by the bass but sometimes the drummer snags one too) and sorta improvise on it for awhile before it all subtly implodes and they move onto searching for the next riff through song, however intentional or otherwise. Soundwise the band come off as a sloppier, way less eclectic Bardo Pond, or Circle minus the flashes of metal. And it does have somewhat of a Finnish inept/outsider slant to it but what's charming and tolerable when you're from Finland just comes off as tacky when you're American. Hey, I didn't write the rules. If instrumental free-form bros-hangin'-out basement rock-out jamming is your thing, then all aboard.
Yesterday in class we talked about bands it was too easy for me to lust over (Ettrick, in case you've forgotten) and today we'll talk about a band who makes me hate them on reflex alone. Lunch with Beardo? That's seriously your band's name? Can't it be, like, any three other words in the entire English language put together in succession? You guys should get Matthew Bower or Campbell Kneale on the phone, they're the masters of that stuff. Wait lemme pull up some spam email and see if I can get a band name out of their garbled transmissions...here: "timid five gout loose loud fills / fight below when sight use finer / touch stout those witty gout rises used / don't waint / Bye". Actually those sound more like Melvins lyrics than anything else so I'll let it be. LWB is a group of five guys on various implements such as guitars, bass, drums, tape loops, pedals, trumpets, turntables, theremin, walkie talkie, See N' Say (I thought it was Speak N' Spell?), found instruments...you get the picture. Not entirely unlike the glut of sounds to be found on the previous disc, although LWB isn't nearly so close to overkill - on the contrary, the three tracks here are given plenty of space to stretch out (space indeed, these troopers appear to be on some kind of cosmic voyage and after all they do profess to be from the Planet Lunch...hey wasn't there a jazz guy who claimed to be from another planet or something?). Opening "communication" is called "Innocence to Wisdom" and lets fly with a good thirteen minutes of fuzzy noodly ambience, threating to break out into a krauty orgasm spasm but instead wisps away off into "They Ate Wonders of the World" which is even more chilly with a lot of furrowed-brow catacomb-erecting knob twists and strums, trumpet all sneaking in like nmperign sneaking onto the U.S.S. Enterprise with the help of Alan Silva's Celestrial Communications Orchestra. I dig it. The closing "Space is the Plate" (hey! That sounds familiar too!) pulls gentle chords like Mogwai or Growing might and I started to get a little disappointed thinking the massive payoff would never come but sure it enough it does. About halfway through the track erupts into a noisy but super-slow freak out sesh like a side of an Acid Mothers Temple/Merzbow collaborative played at the slowest possible speed. Shit is equal parts Guru Guru and DJ Screw...swallow it down with that yurple y-yurple y-yurple, know what I mean Gene (Okerland)? Oh gosh...despite my skepticism LWB won me over in the long run, but I'm still going to have to say on the record that I find the band name, album name, and gimmick all very hard to take. But it doesn't really matter what I think, right? Sometimes it's nice to cast off the Cage essayisms and get down to some big dumb American rock. What's the frequency, Kenneth?