Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Fuzztones: Horny As Hell!

The Fuzztones

Horny As Hell
No Fun Records

As much as I "dig the new breed", leave it to a band that's been around for three decades to rewrite garage rock, make it bigger, louder, and give it a whole lot more soul. Since The Fuzztones are mainly known as a "garage punk" act, adding a horn section, female backing singers, and trading the Vox for a Hammond B3 is pretty ambitious. The opening cover of "Garden of My Mind" by Mickey Finn rearranges the raw sound of the original with super loud horns and a much more exciting vocal treatment from lead vox Rudi Protrudi, but the backing female vocals give it an upbeat, Motown vibe that's got so much soul that it's sinful. Followed up witha Fuzztones staple "Bad News Travels Fast", which grooves and swings heavier than the original recording, and you get a garage/soul/ghoul rockin' heaven that anyone would be hard pressed to even pause for a moment. The blazing saxophone treatment on "Brand New Man" might come as a shock to some devotees, but it's honestly not that radical. Afterall, The Sonics have a sax player, too. Another fascinating high note on Horny as Hell is the added swing in the ? and The Mysterians cover "Girl, You Captivate Me" with a "cooler" but older toned organ from Lana Loveland that retains a psychedelic buildup.

Horny as Hell is full of notables. "Third Time's a Charm" has equal parts fuzz and wailing, almost funky guitar while "Be Forewarned" is thick in deep, dark blues and works to bare Rudi's, soul as an unrivaled, powerful vocalist. The cover of The Moving Sidewalks "99th Floor" is both sweet and dirty with guitar licks. This is followed up with The Pretty Things "Alexander", which lays on the backing female vocals enough to make it sound like classic Motown. Very few can ponder the thought of monster fuzz with blasts of brass, but "Black Lightning Light" pulls it off with a thick, swampy feel then adds eerie keys over it to get every zombie rocker moving. An overall accomplishment of Horny As Hell is the ultimate mixture of soul, fuzz, and garage punk. The songs sometimes sound vintage enough that one can imagine swinging to it, but the added snarls, howls, and overall madness of The Fuzztones fuse the elements to create new standards on songs like "Yeah Babe". It's not a nicely done experiment, but a bold move by one of the few acts good enough to make it incredible. It sounds like vintage soul, psychedelic fuzz, and garage concocted into a tasty, mind and ear blowing trip that will definitely leave one a changed person after they come down.

One can't go without mentioning the "new" version of The Fuzztones most popular song "Ward 81." The vocal introduction, the saxes that just add to the insanity, the backing vocals that add the sadness and desperation more effectively, the crashing drums, and the lyric "Gotta flip a switch, pull out the stitches" that many of us might have used to express ourselves (metaphorically) will leave one screaming them as though they're an angry teenager. "She's Wicked", another staple, will make everyone realize where many of their favorite acts got their inspiration from.

We've all heard of The Fuzztones, but limited press and distribution has placed them in obscurity even though they have over 70 releases to date. For those not familiar with them, Horny as Hell is a fine introduction to the realm of skull and crossed Vox guitars! For you loyal fans already initiated, tune in, turn on, and fuzz out!

Horny as Hell is a available at your finer indie record store. If they don't have it, they need an education, but in that case, you can buy it directly in either vinyl or CD from No Fun Records, a great label out of Detroit, MI with truly worldwide garage rock origins. Other notables who call the label home are Los Peyotes, The Dials, The Avatars and Los Kahunas. They've also got some exciting new acts and releases coming out this year. Although I'm partial to vinyl, the CD version of Horny as Hell has a bonus track "Caught You Red Handed" featuring Mark Lindsay from Paul Revere and The Raiders.

"She's Wicked"

Video courtesy of electricbanana69

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Asteroid No. 4: These Flowers Of Ours

The Asteroid No.4

These Flowers Of Ours
The Committee to Keep Music Evil

The Asteroid No.4 have always been distinctive in their craft. With three guitarists, the band has crafted a melodic noise. Part early Pink Floyd, but jangling, Byrds influenced rock at the same time. Something that causes most to pause is the extra guitar creating a thicker noise and making the songs into heavier psychedelic rock. Although this band is an ever evolving experiment with a stable partnership, one really can't say they pick up where they left off. These Flowers Of Ours is completely new. The opening "My Love" goes from intense space effect to lulling folk rock set on an English countryside, evoking images of a well dressed gentleman and his equally primped partner looking upon the greenery and architecture that seems to become darker with the addition of guitar fuzz and spacey organs that brings on a sense of foreboding. Beautiful, but intense. The following "Let It Go" is a dual jangling guitar song that would put every Rickenbacker fan into a sonic heaven with one guitar chiming while the other one kicks in a similar melody, but the drums + tambourines turn it into a great rock song that's both wonder to the ears as well as the feet. In their true trademark, loud, sharp guitar noise adds a sense of highs and lows and a whole new dimension. This one is rock 'n' roll that one can appreciate on so many levels. Truly amazing.

"Hold On" takes on some grounding with its blues drenched harmonica and foray into Americana. However, one also hears a little bit of "The Porpoise Song" mixed in with slow, heavy Southern rock guitar that gives it a harder, louder edge that lends itself more to delta blues. A special surprise on These Flowers Of Ours is the fuzzed out remake of Rain Parade's "I Look Around". Although retaining the happy psych pop melody of the original, the guitar work leaves one to conclude that it's no mistake, it's a loud garage rock song. "She's All I Need" takes on a pounding shoegazer approach with thicker guitars, but the soft vocal refrains that get punctuated by the heavier instrumentation leave one at a loss. Like the rest of the album, there's a lot here that require multiple listens. "War" takes on a more classic psychedelic/experimental approach that might take one back to a time when people would listen to music on headphones to get the full effect of tape loops and sounds moving in circles, but for some reason, the smoother, calming melodies are still confrontational and challenging.

The title track "Flowers of Ours" is rather disturbing but somehow a smooth image of Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning" crossed with Simon & Garfunkel's "A Most Peculiar Man", but it has an overall presentation that illuminates the title as a much more accurate portrayal of all that comes with love. A psychedelic album would not be complete without an Eastern influence. "Hei Nah Lah" is their contribution, but it's also a hypnotic chant that brings to mind Native American and maybe Polynesian music too, but the steady stream of guitars and psychedelic noise subtract any idea of it being worldly. Instead, the spoken word ending places it squarely in confusion, leaving one to think more of where it took them. "She Touched The Sky" is also a take on a familiar psychedelic theme, but slide guitar add fuller dimension to its acid sound. The following "All Fall Down" is somewhat of a breather. I thought of The Jesus and Mary Chain at first, but with more tremolo and a beat that picks up into a faster tempo. The closing "Empty Like a Little Child" sounds a perfect 'goodbye' with the repeated lyric "Empty like a little child, you'll realize, my friend, when you're gone." As many ideas that one hears throught These Flowers Of Ours, this idea is an apt summary. The album takes you to a lot of places and presents you with a lot of things. A mystic trip, maybe. But unlike one, a person is confronted so much that they don't know all the places they've been, only that they've been given a sensory overload of a lot of strong ideas. This album is actually hard to get one's head around. However, the lullaby melody of the closing track is almost a way of coming down, which any good trip host makes the effort to not leave us shaking in the wind, confused over everything we've just experienced.

The Asteroid No.4 have allowed their talents to be affected and driven by their multitude of surroundings. The resulting These Flowers Of Ours starts on ground and then shoots the band and its listeners into space through non logical means. It's not spiritual. It's too weird in a good way for that. One could call probably say dark but benevolent forces have integrated themselves into the rational world of music to create a rock experience that is more psychedelic than anything out there, although still a rock experience. In fact, These Flowers Of ours borders on a new genre because it's psychedelic but loud and thought provoking. There's a basis in '60s rock and garage, but with a lot of psychedelic experimentation. That explanation isn't enough because psychedelic music that goes beyond rock reminds one of the late '60s to mid '70s prog rock experiments with concept albums. It's a listening experience, but it rarely rocks you. That was the unfortunate history of psychedelic rock and what became of it. Instead, These Flowers Of ours is a rock album from start to finish because it's confrontational. Great rock 'n' roll does that. It shakes you out of your expectations and forces you to think. You might not love everything you're hearing, but it's causing the cogs in your cerebrum to move and try to figure it all out. But in the end, this album can't be taken apart.

One can't sum them up so easily because we try to fit new things into what we know. These Flowers Of ours? It's quite beautiful, but striking. It's been a task to summarize. '60s punk, garage, acid, folk, deep blues, paisley undergound, Americana, tons of feedback, and jingle jangle thrown into a vat of acid that eats away and exposes parts at random that combine but never blend enough to become homogenous. Call it a bouquet. Call it a dark gift that shatters expectations and will constantly call to you to listen to it. Call it These Flowers Of Ours.

From the albums's liner notes:

The work, of course, came later, and the resulting tome, These Flowers Of Ours, was what was on the group's mind this misty morning as they stared into the fog, while, as always, each cold grey morning, the fog sang right back to them. In the dulcet tones of a male harmony, in the chime of an ancient, knowing Rickenbacker, in a lonely slide guitar, the fog told them: Science alone won't save you. It can't. So to temper it, please accept this treasury of witchcraft and devilry, this humble relic, this partial map of a crumbling continent: These Flowers Of Ours.