Rhythm & Views
APRIL 13, 1998:
Bird Call! The Twin City Stomp of the Trashmen
FINALLY, SUNDAZED HAS released the long-awaited four-disc box set from these 1960s Midwest party hounds. Oh daddy, the wait was worth it for this collection of album cuts, including more than 40 previously unreleased tracks of pure wing flappin' madness! Most infamously known for giving the nation the "Surfin' Bird," the Trashmen performed songs about gals and fun-havin' back when America still knew how to shake a leg. These original kings of surf (their shows were known to out-sell the Beach Boys!) defined rock and roll in simple terms like "papa-ooo-mow-mow" and created the national teen motto: "The Bird's the Word!" Nothing sums up the greatness of rock and roll more than the nonsensical absurdity and genius of songs like "Bad News," "Bird Dance Beat" and their unique take on the Riviera's "Church Key." What is the meaning of these songs?! Nothing but good times, baby! Drummer Steve Wahrer's deranged vocals were like a revved up A-1 engine--they ignited a craze for a sound incomprehensible except to those in the rock-and-roll know who loyally packed the halls, ready to dance.
For youngsters needing a clue, punk would be non-existent if not for "Surfin' Bird." Nothing lasts forever, but Bird Call! documents what fans always knew to be true: It wasn't the spirit of the Trashmen that withered, but the optimism of their audience. Slap on "Whoa, Dad!" and know for sure the Trashmen never left--they're still beating strong in the hearts of true rock and rollers. Hail, Hail Rock and Roll!
Live: In The Red
HAIL TO THE mighty pigfuckers known as Pussy Galore. This defunct NYC noise-punk entourage, fronted by the mercurial pin-up boy, Jon Spencer, rocked their devious junk-addled souls like there was no tomorrow. Cross Sonic Youth with the Panther Burns and toss in a heaping of Stiv Bators' phlegm-drenched punk sarcasm--that's the flavor! Pussy Galore took no prisoners, as this brutal live document recorded at CBGB's in 1989 testifies. "Sweet Little Hi-Fi" gallops along like Bo Diddley on a snoot full of Thunderbird and a couple bags of dope. Spencer and company have always maintained their obnoxious garage punk integrity in the face of wannabe rivals (White Zombie). Check out "Pig Sweat" and "Undertaker" for the entire sleazy dope-sick, pork-butt confirmation: It perspires like some Vietnamese pot-bellied ham moshing at a Bad Brains hardcore matinee. "Undertaker" throttles you like the Hillside Strangler on your first, and last, date. Pussy Galore is not for the squeamish.
THE BEVIS FROND
THOUGH ROOTED IN the late-'60s, the Bevis Frond really started in the mid '80s, when Nick Saloman began releasing a steady stream of records (about a dozen, many of them double albums, in as many years) and single-handedly led the charge of latter-day English psychedelia. Saloman, now in his mid-40s, carries the freak-rock flag with more authority than ever via his U.K.-based home studio label (Woronzow), much-beloved 'zine (Ptolemaic Terrascope) and the festival it inspired (Terrastock). Thankfully, his is not a psychedelia of revivalism, nor is it rife with dated signifiers. His musical style seems timeless and sustainable. Like Guided By Voices, the Bevis Frond's take on past decades' music works in a strange middle ground between referential indie rock and classic rock reverence. Its makers don't pretend the last 30 years never happened, they're just too old--too beyond it all--to be anything but what they are: aging hippies in a post-punk world.
Though the Bevis Frond became an actual band in the early '90s, for the most part Saloman has stuck to the same do-it-all-yourself approach, with a mix of heavy acid-blues and tuneful-but-messy folk-rock. North Circular, his latest two-CD set (running over two hours!), is a whole lot more of the same, with all the good and bad that implies. When he rocks in a garage-metal mode, the music aptly expresses his place in the rock continuum: somewhere between Led Zeppelin and Soundgarden ("You Make Me Feel"); or a late-blooming Hüsker Dü ("Story Ends"). This is also where his worst classic-rock impulses get the better of him, such as on the 13-minute guitar wank-out "The Pips." But mostly, he sticks to more crafted (if somewhat formulaic) Byrdsy tunes like "Revival" and "The Wind Blew All Around Me," the kind folk-pop goddess-in-progress Mary Lou Lord often adopts as her own. More lyrical, these define the Bevis Frond literally: a still-vibrant middle-ager ("Stars Burn Out") who's defiant of hippie-haters ("There's Always One"), and patron saint to a style that will continue, if only for our own good ("That's Why You Need Us"): "We are the ones that you discounted long ago/We'd like to make it to the top but we don't expect to/We just continue to continue out of sight/We are the darkness to your light, that's why you need us."
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