Friday, October 10, 2008

Random review of the day

For some reason, AQ staffers Jon and Antaeus (in particular) have been playing the heck out of this double cd in the shop lately. I guess they just discovered it or something. I just know, I'll go up front to see what craziness is on the store stereo, and it's so often this, originally reviewed by us on AQ New Arrivals list #232 back in 2005:

Todd Tamanend Clark "Nova Psychedelia (1975-1985)" (Anopheles) 2cd $22.00
In a word: WEIRD. Man, listening to this we veered from thinking it was the best thing ever, to totally painful, and back again. The truth of course lies somewhere in between (and in each of us as individuals). But it's hard not to be intrigued by this, anyway... This Todd Tamanend Clark guy was (is) a psychedelic, avantgarde rock n' roller who toiled in obscurity for many many years though clearly he should at the very least have a cult following. Thankfully the diligent Anopheles label has put together this chronological collection of a large part of Mr. Clark's out-there output, and more folks will have a chance to appreciate what a few lucky collectors (and Mr. Clark's friends) must have been amazed and amused by for years! He's a bit of a Roky Erickson-like figure, though fortunately not so tragic. Inspired by the comic books and sci-films of his childhood (he was born in 1952), Pennsylvanian part-American Indian Todd Tamanend Clark's musical career was perhaps destined for weirdness. Especially after seeing Monkee Mickey Dolenz playing a Moog on TV in 1968, the same year the United States Of America LP came out, both of which were life-changing musical experiences for Clark... his love of '60s garage psych (borne out by covers of the Electric Prunes and Paul Revere & The Raiders found here) warped into a realm of DIY electronics. Thus the list of synths and effects used on this 2cd set is a long one!! Yup, heavy doses of spacey synth and distorted garagey punk riffery (a '60s-ish Lightning Bolt meets Sun Ra??) are the norm here throughout Clark's varied output, which includes lengthy psychedelic epics, weird experiments in murky electronics, earnest songsmithery, and brash rockers. There's an atonal droning "outsider art" quality to a lot of this that will make and/or break it for most folks. The vocals are the toughest part... an over the top, slurred mix of Jim Morrison and Jandek, perhaps? All the weird poetry he's spouting sure goes with the freaky music even though you'll probably have no idea what's he on about. And with all the prog twists and haunted house synth noises going we're sure it makes perfect sense somehow. The earlier stuff at the beginning of the first disc is heavy on the primitive electronics (best example: the overwhelming 13 minute opening soundscape "March Of The Legion") and druggy vocal delivery, while later in the two-disc set, when we enter the '80s, the songs get more "pop" Clark's mind anyway. Things have tightened up a bit, though that doesn't preclude the appearance of a 14 minute track ("The Grim Rider") nor a fucked up, computerized version of the "Star Spangled Banner"! And the use of new wave '80s technology only makes things kitschier. If you dug the Happy Dragon-Band and Zolar X reissues, you might find this stuff to tickle the same fancies. All the tracks are taken from Clark's various ultra-rare, self-released LPs and 7"s spanning the years 1975-1985, including all the material from such albums as New Gods: Aardvark Thru Zymurgy, We're Not Safe!, and Into The Vision, released under various names (The Eyes, Todd Clark Group, The Stars). He didn't do all of this alone, y'know. Over the course of these 33 tracks (150 minutes of music!!) you'll hear contributions from many of Clark's friends, and family too. In fact, a few famous names appear, with one track featuring the voice of William S. Burroughs and on others, instruments played by Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu's Allen Ravenstine! With typical Anopheles throughness, this comes with a 20 page booklet stuffed with biographical information, photos, equipment lists, musician credits, and liner notes, including track-by-track comments from Clark himself. Not everyone's gonna need/want all 150 minutes of this, to be honest. Could have been a short, more bearable "best of". But then again, WE want to hear it all. So maybe you do too. And you can always make your own best of after you've listened to the whole crazy shebang. We'll end this review the way it began, with a word it seems most AQ customers respond to well: WEIRD.

Look it up on our website if you'd like to hear the sound samples...

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