VARIOUS ARTISTS – “DEVOTEES” LP (1979)
Back in late ’78, emergency after “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!” seemed to be catching on, psychiatrist Los Angeles new wave station KROQ 106.7 hosted a contest wherein the top dozen local bands that had the best Devo covers would get their track on “Devotees”, buy which I believe is one of the earliest examples of the “tribute album”. This was also one of the very first LP releases by Rhino Records.
Since anyone entering the contest only had the 11 songs on “Are We Not Men…” to choose from, the “Devotees” record is short on variety (whaddya mean, no version of “Come Back Jonee”?!?!), but the whole affair still manages to be fun, even though a good percentage of the tracks are novelty versions of music that was pretty quirky to begin with. My favorite has to be the version of “Jocko Homo” done by someone or some group called The Touch Tone Tuners; it’s nothing but push-button phone tones as the backing music for somewhat drunken warbling.
VIVIEN GOLDMAN – “DIRTY WASHING” 12″ (1981)
The 99 Records MySpace page sez:
“Vivien Goldman was a very well connected journalist from London who wrote extensively about the punk and post punk scenes for NME. She used her contacts to pull in Keith Levine, Adrian Sherwood, Robert Wyatt and John Lydon amongst others to make a 7″ which was released on her own tiny UK label Window Records. Whilst on a visit to New York, she took a tape of it to Ed’s shop and he fell in love with it right away and decided he had to put it out on 99. The 99 version is called ‘The Dirty Washing EP’, has completely different artwork and adds the ‘P.A. Dub’ which had appeared on the first New Age Steppers LP on On U Sound. Sadly Vivien never pursued making music and this remains her only ever solo release which is a shame as her lyrics and voice were unique and fabulous. She did however continue to write songs for other artists such as Massive Attack and has gone on to become a globally renowned writer as well as an expert on [r]eggae who still writes to this day.”
Also, Fodderstomp, the PiL fan site, sez:
“John Lydon is credited as co-producing ‘Laundrette’, along with Goldman and Keith Levene (who also plays guitar and bass). Apparently this single by music journalist Vivien Goldman was recorded when PiL snuck her into the Manor (studios)during the ‘Flowers Of Romance’ sessions in late 1980, with PiL also reportedly paying for most of the recording costs. It seems this is how Lydon earned his co-producer credit.”
“Launderette” is an incredibly funky, airy stroke of genius, with Goldman’s slightly off-track vocal anchoring a bassline that slinks and crawls along the bottom of the song like a happy little animated worm. Some ethereal melodica wavers in the background, providing the right melancholic air to Goldman’s tale of doomed romance.
HUMAN SEXUAL RESPONSE – “IN A ROMAN MOOD” (1983)
One of the best bands I’ve ever heard that came out of Boston during the classic post-punk period (alongside The Cars and Mission of Burma), Human Sexual Response released two albums of elegant and furious theatricality. In addition to having a tight musical ensemble, the band was fronted by a four-vocalist team, the head of which was the true original Larry Bangor. Of the band’s early history, Wikipedia sez:
“Casey Cameron formed an all-kazoo band (Kazoondheit) with her neighbors, among whom were Larry Bangor, Dini Lamot (brother of Larry and cousin to ‘Pecky’ Lamot), and Windle Davis. The four became fast friends and soon formed an a capella country-and-western band called Honey Bea and the Meadow Muffins, who played at parties and in the subway. Encouraged, the four decided to start a rock band. Posting ads, the quartet met three musician/composers, drummer Malcolm Travis, guitarist Rich Gilbert, and bass player Rolfe Anderson. These seven became the original lineup of HSR, with Anderson being replaced on bass by Chris MacLachlan in 1980. Bangor was the main lead singer, though Lamot, Davis, and Cameron each sometimes sang lead.”
The first HSR album, “Fig. 14″, was anchored by the incredible tune “Jackie Onassis” (a savaging of the titular character’s possible psychosis), and on the strength of the album’s release, the band seemed poised for the same kind of success enjoyed by a band like The Cars. Joe Harvard, writing for The Boston Rock Storybook, sez:
“…they didn’t really fit into any category (none that I ever knew about); they were really their own category. While most local bands struggled to get a single song on college radio and died to get one on the Big FM Stations, [Human Sexual Response] had three songs playing on WBCN at the same time.”
Success, however, quickly fizzled for some reason, as the band’s second and final album, “In A Roman Mood”, received very poor critical notices, something which I’m completely clueless over, since to my ears nearly every track on the thing is a breath of fresh air (even for someone as nerdy concerning the genre as myself). The highlights are the album starting off with the strong radio-ready track “Andy Fell”, and later on following up the sentiment with the jangly dancefloor thumper “Pound” and the majestic “Land of the Glass Pinecones”, a track that beautifully shows off the choral effect of having so many singers in the band. After looking over the album again before posting it, I noticed that Allmusic rates these same three songs as the highlights as well. Of “Pinecones”, Allmusic sez:
“This song takes the theme of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ even deeper. Though ‘What Does Sex Mean To Me’ from the first album got into the film ‘Threesome’, and while both the demo and lp version of ‘Jackie Onassis’ became hits as well as their signature tune, ‘Land Of The Glass Pinecones’ is a sacred moment in modern rock. It’s pure magic with intense voices and blitzing bass and guitars.”
After HSR went bust, Bangor and Gilbert headed up another Boston band, The Zulus, who had their lone LP released by Slash in the late ’80s. After that, Bangor dropped off the map; if anyone out there, Boston or otherwise, knows what happened to him, if he’s dead or alive or what, I’d be grateful to know; I’d love to drop him a line.
TEDDY AND THE FRAT GIRLS (aka SHEER SMEGMA) – self-titled 12″ (1981)
This record has already been posted in part on the excellent blog Cake & Polka Parade, but since I was able to find the rest of the record, in addition to my wanting to be thorough regarding one of my absolute favorite funny dirty songs, I’ve put the record up here in its entirety.
Originally released under the band name Sheer Smegma as the “Audio Suicide” 7″ by a different label, Alternative Tentactles put out this self-titled 12″ by “Teddy and the Frat Girls” in 1981: five songs of utterly blown barely-proficient scuzz rock. Agony Shorthand sez:
“Iâ€™ve touted this ear-bleeding band of low class 1980 Florida freaks for a few years on the basis on the two trailer trash tracks of theirs Iâ€™d heard: ‘Club Night’ and ‘I Owe It To The Girls’. Both came from their only EP ‘Audio Suicide’, a record thatâ€™s achieved semi-legendary status as one of more retarded noisy shrieks of the punk/D.I.Y. era. Very soon after its release, the band quickly switched their name to the far more refined TEDDY AND THE FRAT GIRLS (as in Florida mass murderer Ted Bundy). Danger has always lurked in my mind knowing that Jello Biafra put out the 12â€ EP version by the new group in 1982 (same exact songs), and now that Iâ€™ve heard the bandâ€™s dumb poop song (‘Alophen Baby’) and their dumb fake-German genderbender song (‘I Wanna Be a Man’), I can certainly guess which half Jello probably fell for. But those other two, the ones available on compilations (KBD #5 and one of the HOMEWORKs, respectively), are just destroyed. If itâ€™s true that the band were really sun-baked junkies, youâ€™ll have no problem believing it in a country minute when you hear the gasping cries of terror and withdrawal at the end of ‘I Owe It To The Girls’. The woman who ‘sings’ sounds about 16, and wise to the evil ways of the world far beyond her years. Her potty mouth and reckless disregard for taste is now the stuff of legend, and the music is this barely-registering herk-and-jerk minimalist guitar fuzz and bass. Totally weird and out of step with all that’s right and true. Outside of maybe the first HALF JAPANESE record, I canâ€™t think of a really good 45 that would piss off parents, neighbors and your alternajerk friends more then this one.”
“Alophen Baby” is the standout; its purile lyrics never fail to make me want to shout along to them, regardless of the furious stares I’m sure I would receive from passersby as I ride to work on my bike with the song blaring in my headphones.
THE CRANIUM – “A NEW MUSIC FOR A NEW KITCHEN” (1998)
Besides being obviously Buzzcocks-obsessed, The Cranium were almost unbearable, yet comforting. Epitonic sez:
“‘New Music for a New Kitchen’ was recorded at the Pirate House by Juan Carrera (the Warmers) and Guy Picciotto (Fugazi). The album is 74 minutes long and is guaranteed to frighten and confuse the weak at heart and seduce just about everyone else with its honesty and bravado.”
Dunno about that “honesty and bravado” shit, but I can vouch for “frightening” and “confusing”. The Cranium’s music existed at the very edge of listenability; I’ve been losing my tolerance for such challenging stuff recently, but there’s something about The Cranium that defies logic, as if they were trying to make fun of people who made the exact same music they were trying to make. I don’t even know exactly where I’m going with this, but I’m inexplicably drawn to albums that have song titles like “There Are No Rabbits In My Hat, (Yes. Yes. Yes, I Am A Traitor To My Sex!)”
It’s a sad state of affairs to see an entire indie label’s catalogue go up in smoke when the proprietor shuts the door; Cranium pushers Slowdime Records seems to have gone belly-up a few years ago.