Rhythm & Views
DUKES OF HAMBURG
Star Club Show
LO-FI, '90s-stimulated trash rawk, reminiscent of the Mummies albeit firmly rooted in the evolutionary Euro R&B/beat scene of the early '60s. The Dukes even parody the Star Club series of reissue LPs, released in droves during the overindulgent '80s, which championed this movement (spearheaded by the Beatles' legendary Cavern Club residency). The Dukes, however, have more in common with the full-tilt garage punk blowout of today's Estrus label empire than the countless Fab Four imitators of 30 years ago. Duke's lead squawker, Russell Quan, who managed the drum kit for those aforementioned bandaged nut-jobs before they disintegrated into noiseless sawdust, screams his way through "Star Club Show" with frantic, trash-punk intensity--nine of 12 cuts clocking in under a swift and savage two minutes. Walking bass lines run amok, and the pissed-off hornet's nest of guitars buzzes out of control. The disc is a metallic scraping and squealing wall-of-fuzz careening down a path of reverb obliteration.
THE COSMIC DREAMS At Play encyclopedia of Germany's late '60s/early '70s psychedelic and progressive bands--"Krautrock" to the initiated--informs us that a group called Organisation recorded this album in '69 with veteran producer Conny Plank, and by the time it was released in Britain on RCA they'd changed their name to Kraftwerk. Unlike that combo's later pioneering of the pre-disco mechanik/ motorik sound, Tone Float is in fact wonderfully prog. "Noitasinagro" offers a trance-like violin and organ jam, while the 20-minute title track takes up fully half its duration exploring freeform percussion experiments before a symphonic crash of keyboards reluctantly diverts the tune onto a more structured psych plateau. An 11-minute bonus track taken from a Kraftwerk "Beat Club" TV appearance rounds out the reissue of this super-rare artifact.
Kerouac--Kicks Joy Darkness
SAY WHAT YOU will about our celebrity-obsessed, priority-fucked nation, any culture that would count poets and authors--in addition to ball players and talk-show hosts--among its top-shelf icons can't be all bad. With Allen Ginsberg eulogized as a socio-political force, not just in alternative papers but on the nightly news (between stories of Clinton's knees and Mid-East peace), we're reminded we still have some Homers left; some poets still serving a clear public function. Similarly, though 30-years gone, Ginsberg's beat brother Jack Kerouac continues to enlighten young America's ideas of freedom. Like no book short of Catcher In the Rye, Kerouac's On The Road informed the way several generations have come of age. It's little surprise, then, that artists from octogenarian William Burroughs to twenty-something Jeff Buckley would find common cause to celebrate Kerouac's words and, even more, his person. The 25 performances on Kerouac--Kicks Joy Darkness include his comrades (Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti) and heirs (Hunter S. Thompson, Robert Hunter), plus actors (Johnny Depp, Matt Dillon) and musicians of all stripes--folky Eric Andersen, noisy Sonic Youth, big shots (Stipe, Vedder) and little guys (Helium, Come). The result is a mixture of spoken word (mostly Kerouac's lesser known "pomes," plus two originals) and bits of musical accompaniment, with some surprises.
While it's fair for performers to set text in any context they see fit, some of the acts (Inger Lorre, Lydia Lunch, Maggie Estep) try to remake Kerouac in their own image--dark, angry, post-punk--and it seems somehow inappropriate. While they may share with him membership in the counter-culture, rather than gloom and negation Kerouac's was more a Whitmanesque reverie. Those who capture hipster whimsy, or jazz fluidity, or western expanse--Hunter, Lewis, Ginsberg, Warren Zevon--come away most successful. Of course, anyone who's heard Rhino's Beat Generation box set knows it's Kerouac's own voice that best relays the energy of his words. One of Kerouac's readings, enhanced with a techno beat by Joe Strummer, graces Kicks Joy Darkness. Interesting as it may be, the rest is just filler.
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