Monday, May 23, 2011
Lasterday I Was Been Bad shows the Happy Flowers bowing out of the recording realm, and its only major flaw is poor vocal micing. Mr. Anus and Mr. Horribly Charred Infant wield their preschool-perspective shouts as skillfully as they manifest joyful noise with guitar and drums (and a bass guitar allegedly stomped by Mr. HCI while he drummed) so straining that you need to listen closely to catch the gems -- Anus assuming both sides of a Christian ethics debate throughout "I Don't Want To Share," or Mr. HCI yelping that on his birthday "My Gramma gave me five bucks/ Whaddya think this is/ nineteen-fifteeeeeeeee!?!" -- it's almost frustrating, but finally becomes fruitful. Parts of this actually sound like a tight, passionate, punk three-piece; with Scott Pickering's muscular drums on about half the tracks. "Leave Me Alone," for example, could have snuck into the Replacements' Stink, though when Anus' guitar solo picks its way down the scale like a daddy longlegs and then emits a shower of sparks, you know he's elected to forget everything Bob Stinson learned from Ted Nugent. It's largely "the anal one's" show vocally until Mr. HCI takes over for the last quarter of the album. He dry-gargles with abandon throughout Big Star's "Thirteen," evoking -- perhaps deliberately -- that burrito-bake timbre Big Star's Alex Chilton brought to his first hit (the Box Tops' "The Letter"), and producing a cover anyone would put side-by-side with the original. Of the two other covers, UFO's "Rock Bottom" squeezes out satisfyingly, but the album closer, Silver Apples' "A Pox On You," zestily revives a snarly tune from a then-obscure act. Instrumental tracks "Embryo" (neither Sabbath, Floyd, nor Illinois Jacquet), and "Mr. Fuck" (featuring sitar and tabla) offer some much-needed seasoning, showing that the fellows could actually play their instruments; much as their cover songs always pulled back the curtain on their infantilism to reveal erudite fellows with decent record collections, or at least college radio station pre-sets. The instrumentals provide pleasant breathers, but aren't necessary. The dynamic duo's chops and leanings gave them room to roam. Their central conceit of "Two Who Can't Read (Or Reach The Table) Against The World took them much further than any side-road ever could have.
Happy Flowers - Lasterday I Was Been Bad - Cassette tape on Homestead Records
CALIFORNIA is one of the American Music Club's most straightforward, roots-rock-oriented releases. It's certainly the most country-flavored, as arid desert landscapes mix with twangy guitars and folksy acoustic strumming. The anomalous "Bad Liquor" turned out to be one of the most-requested songs in the band's repertoire. It's a raging, punky rocker in which singer Mark Eitzel plays the drunken fool looking for trouble or the next drink, whichever comes first. Conversely, "Jenny" is a quiet, ominous, acoustic ballad full of low-key sorrow, and there are parts of the harrowing "Laughing Stock" that are barely audible, as Eitzel's self-esteem vaporizes before our very ears amid gently rippling guitar arpeggios.The opener, "Firefly," is really the mood-definer for the album, and its ostensibly upbeat arrangement masks the lyrics' bittersweet observations about the fleeting nature of happiness. "Somewhere" and "Pale and Skinny Girl" are portraits of non-beautiful losers in the classic AMC mold, the former sounding like it could be a Replacements outtake. Eitzel's existential angst is at its most appealing on "Lonely"; over a steady-rolling folk-rock backing, he reaches new heights (depths?) of alienation with the chorus "If I have to be this lonely, I might as well be alone."
American Music Club - California - Cassette tape on Frontier Records
The precursor to the legandary Godflesh! Features the original line up plus exclusive original versions of classic Godflesh material, rare live recordings and previously unreleased tracks.
Fall Of Because: Paul Neville (vocals, guitar, tapes); Justin Broadrick (vocals, drums); G.C. Green (bass).
Additional personnel: Nik Bullen, Mick Harris (vocals).
Recorded at Richbitch, Birmingham, England in November 1986.
Fall Of Because - Life Is Easy - Pre Godflesh CD on Invisible Records