Shit-Fi Mixtape #4
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Patrick Lundborg’s Acid Archives of Underground Sounds 1965–1982, published last winter, opened many eyes to a world of music that might best be described as the forgotten underbelly of the American counterculture, the side that never quite fit into the political ladder-climbing and academic theorizing. Not long after I bought the book, I visited the Whitney Museum’s exhibit of psychedelic art and memorabilia, and from that mainstream accounting of the 60s and early 70s, one would never have known that thousands of artists put out decidedly non-mainstream records then. Before the infrastructure and cohesion of “independent” music developed in the 1980s (thus nullifying what made it really independent), the American spirit of self-realization infected myriad musicians, weirdos, and visionaries across the country. Of course, collectors have known about many of these records for years, but this encyclopedic book, with its judicious descriptions, introduced many to records that otherwise might’ve simply been names on sale lists followed by high price tags. The LPs covered in the book range from professionally played psychedelic rock to hippie folk to basement hard rock to loner, outsider, real people weirdness. For the purposes of Shit-Fi, I am mainly concerned with the lo-fi, the inept, the teenaged, and the bizarre. Here are songs from a handful of the many incredible records covered in the book.
To begin, here’s the closing track from the first LP by Michigan’s Index, called “Feedback.” Considering that it was recorded in 1967, its nearly power-electronics, noisy beginning is remarkable to say the least. This LP might be my favorite Acid Archives record. The whole record, with out-of-tune vocals and an echoey, lo-fi recording, has an otherworldly quality. It manages to parallel the Velvet Underground’s early approach in an intelligent but utterly unpretentious and unprofessional way. Baltimore basement rocker George Brigman was rescued from obscurity by the advocacy of Anopheles Records, which re-released his 1975 “Jungle Rot” LP. I actually prefer the 1976 “I Can Hear the Ants Dancing” LP, which didn’t make it to vinyl until 1994. This LP is uneven, but the fuzzy hard rock numbers on it are great, especially “Vacation,” a quintessential “basement shredder.” I wish San Francisco’s Shiver (as in “one who uses a shiv”?) had been my soundtrack to Hunter Thompson’s writing about Hell’s Angels when I first read it over a decade ago. With a sound clearly influenced by early Blue Cheer, but much rougher, this band’s 2-track 1972 recording was not issued until thirty years later. Lo-fi, aggressive, and unpolished, “Boneshaker” is quite different from what I would consider the Haight-Ashbury feel. Stonewall’s shit-rare-see-bank-officer-for-loan LP, released on a tax-scam label, is one of the finest obscurities of the 70s hard rock world, with nearly proto-punk vocals and catchy, heavy, songwriting. Here is “Outer Spaced.” Shit-rare ≠ shit-fi, but we’ll take this killer song anyway. At times ineffably touching, Bobb Trimble’s “Harvest of Dreams” LP from 1982(!) is a cohesive whole, from which the constitutive parts cannot justifiably be isolated—nonetheless, here is “Selling Me Short While Stringing Me Long,” which makes great use of dynamics and layering, especially when the buried fuzz becomes a fuzz rocket blasting off. I highly recommend the recent reissue of this outsider, noncommericial, and brilliant album on Secretly Canadian. Read Aaron Milenski’s review of the original here (review #62). New Jersey’s Kenneth Higney was late for the trend (though I don’t know which one) in 1976 when he self-released an LP in the hopes of garnering attention for his songwriting skills. Ironic because he didn’t have any. “I Wanna Be The King” is actually from a later single (1980), which is more “normal” rock than the LP and modestly influenced by punk. When he drops the N bomb in the verse, it’s a reference to the punk band New York Niggers—though that doesn’t make the lyric any less lunkheaded. Good grief. To conclude, the scrapings from the bottom of the chamber pot: Fire-and-brimstone mother-and-son Canadian Christians New Creation released one extraordinarily rare LP in 1970. These no-fun fundamentalists differed from hippies who “saw the light” in that they adopted an ascetic approach to life and spat venom at their peers who drugged and fucked their way into God’s graces. Oh yeah, they also couldn’t sing or play their instruments, making their Shaggsian approach to bombastic proselytizing believable and creepy. “Sodom and Gomorrah” is actually one of the most competently played tunes on the album. I promise to return to the Acid Archives on future Shit-Fi Virtual Mixtapes.