SINGLES AGAIN / Chuck Eddy

Chuck
Eddy dusts off his old vinyl and scratches his head. We all win
.

 

Greetings,
BLURT readers. This column’s theme is fairly simple: Basically, I sort
alphabetic ally through my shelves for dusty old 7-inch vinyl indie singles
from acts that aren’t household names, and try to figure out why I wound up
keeping them in the first place. This is the 6th installment (first
two appeared at Idolator.)

 

 

***

 

 

ENON “Marbles Explode”/”Raisin
Heart” (Friction, 2001)

 

Indie geeks from Philly fuzz up a shrill robot-clank rhythm
distantly related to “Let’s Go All the Way” by Sly Fox, maybe working in a few
turntable scratches. The vocals stay flat and inaudible, barely even sung. When
the rhythm switches up, the singing turns even more lackadaisical – at one
point the guy says something about a boy in a small steeltown on a mission to
find employment (like, um, “Maniac” by Michael Sembello?), then he loses me.
Though maybe those words alone justify the mechanical beats. At the end, he
picks up a smidgen more energy, fumbling through a momentary mojo-mofo rap with
no funk to speak of. B-side is mellower and sleepier, seemingly female-sung:
Easier to take, but if less irritating than the A-side, also even less compelling.
Vinyl is blue;   sleeve gatefold features what appears to be a
textbook entry about Indian burial mounds that, as far as I can tell, has
nothing to do with either song, though the word “Enon” is at least used once.
This band had a decent indie-scene rep at one point, right? I wonder why. (www.myspace.com/enonmusic)

 

 

FEDERATION X “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman”
(Wantage USA,
2003)

 

Inside an orange picture sleeve depicting parakeet warriors,
a power trio from Oregon and/or “New
Yorkingham” interprets a 1971 song by prehistoric U.K. sludge cult gods and major
Metallica inspirations Budgie; get it? Polly want a firecracker. Starts
gradual, almost pretty, and producer Steve Albini typically hides the vocals
while emphasizing the huge swinging riffs or commendable approximations thereof.
Good for the guitars, but I wish he’d given the singing more prominence – sounds
like a horny young white dude getting boogiefied, in that random zitfaced working-class
New Wave of British Heavy Metal sort of way; nothing wrong with that. Poverty-level
production provides character regardless. B-side starts where the A-side left
off: “Albini used a razor blade to split it in half (ala James Brown singles),”
a press release still stuck inside the sleeve explains. The song is sculpted
into a concrete structure – indie of the Enon stripe, say, seems entirely unformed
in comparison. And as it builds to the urgent “oww oww owwwwwwww” part, Albini
mixes the howling higher, maybe because no words are left to get in the way. (www.myspace.com/federationx)

 

 

FIELDS OF GAFFNEY “Cold Weather”/”Twilight” (Sub Pop, 1999)

 

 

More blue vinyl! In a prettier shade than Enon’s, no less.
Propulsive strumming somehow descended from the Velvet Underground – sounds like
it could come from New Zealand,
even Cleveland.
But again, just like with Enon, it’s frustrating that the vocals don’t come
with any with personality attached; why bother exerting the energy it’d take to
decode them? Par for the course, though; Eric Gaffney was part of Sebadoh. He
looks prissy and twerpy on the sleeve, though the rest of the packaging (a
colorful montage of drum-kit cutouts, guitar-playing potatoes, rabbits
celebrating all four seasons, line drawings of unidentifiable quadrupeds, and a
scrap of sheet music affixed with the mission statement “stately but not too
slow”) is fun to look at. The music murks up more as it progresses, which at
least gives it someplace to go; Eric’s strums take the scenic route. And on the
more shapeless B-side, his guitar picks up steam even after everything else
dies down. Vocals are still lifeless and off-key, though. I suspect the titles
are meant to help evoke moods–and yeah, I suppose I can hear cold weather and
twilight in there somewhere.

(www.myspace.com/ericgaffneysebadoh)

 

 

 

 

FM KNIVES “Estrogen”/”Can’t Afford You Now”/”Just Like
William Tell”/”Cassavettes Vs. The Moneygoround” (SmartGuy, 2002)

 

This is more like it. Sacramento
kids pop-rocking immediate-impact melodies at overdrive tempo, with a high
nasal singer up front radiating innocent energy–like the Buzzcocks, or Only
Ones, or 999. Why did this kind of voice ever leave punk rock? (Wild guess:
hardcore killed it.) Even the sleeve artwork – precise minimalist lines and
shapes – suggests skinny-tie 1979. The lyrics still don’t literally click, especially
on the two B-side cuts, but then I’m no Cassavettes buff: Something about 20
dollars shattering nerves, leaving you choking on the just desserts? “Estrogen”
has thicker guitar, and might have something to do with the singer’s car, or
perhaps his pajamas. “Can’t Afford You Now,” slower and clearer, is also the
best song, and most coherent: The singer runs out of sedatives and loses his
medical, and you love him ‘cause he’s heretical. Well, not that coherent, maybe. But catchy as heck, and gratifyingly
lightfooted, despite lack of studio budget. “I can’t afford you now/So I hide
out in the crowd.”  Okay, that makes
sense.

(www.myspace.com/fmknives)

 

 

 

GLASS CANDY AND THE SHATTERED THEATRE “Metal Gods”/”Hurt”
(no label, 1999)

 

Some websites claim this 45 came out on K Records, but
despite being mixed by Calvin Johnson, the twee-mind behind both that label and
Beat Happening, my copy mentions K nowhere. Anyway: Young denizens of Portland (the Northwest not Northeast one, natch)
imagining they’re from the Weimar
Republic; Nina Hagen
cabaret schlock shtick over a clattering synth-drum thump and noisy guitar that
enters uninvited. On the sleeve, the trio goes for your usual self-consciously
decadent androgynous albino cokehead salamander look. The beat keeps things
passingly edgy, and Ida No (ha ha) gasps and pants a little toward the end.
“Hurt,” originally done by late ‘70s Los
Angeles keyboard punks the Screamers, is more horrific,
with screams shooting for Alan Vega or Lydia Lunch and guitar lying low,
reverberating just below the surface. Builds a road from no wave and
electroclash, but who ever asked for such an avenue? Later, the band would shorten
its name to just Glass Candy, and apparently make a notable impression in
certain hipster dance clubs. If you read the credits insert, appropriately, you
might be confused into believing the song titles are “Makeup” (by Jefferey
Kyle) and “Photos” (by Valentine.)

(www.myspace.com/glasscandy)

 

 

Chuck Eddy is the
former music editor of the
Village Voice and the author of several books, including the greatest book on heavy
metal ever written,
Stairway To Hell.
He won’t admit it, but he knows more about rock ‘n’ roll than the entire
accumulated BLURT brain trust.

 

 

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