Delicate Steve – Wondervisions

January 01, 1970

(Luaka Bop)


Over the course of the twenty-odd
years David Byrne has been releasing albums under the din of his Luaka Bop
label, its surprising to think how little of the imprint’s roster directly
reflects the legacy of its CEO’s distinct art-pop artistry. Sure, one can
certainly notate the Master’s level oeuvre of world music Luaka has bequeathed
upon its listening audience in the form of the parade of indispensable sounds
from Brazil, Africa, Cuba and Asia they have hipped so many of us on all of
these years, much of which has provided a sonic blueprint to the former Talking
Head leader’s own creative palate. But in the context of an American act whose
style can be immediately traced back to Byrne’s work both as a solo artist and
with the Heads, Luaka Bop really didn’t have anyone truly keeping it in the
family, so to speak (sorry to any Geggy Tah and Javelin fans out there reading
this). That is, of course, until A&R rep Willis Glasspiegel discovered
23-year-old multi-instrumentalist Steve Marion and his band in the parking lot
of a Newton, NJ, strip mall, where they all sat on lawn
chairs and talked records like an impromptu music appreciation tailgate party
before taking the discussion to a nearby Chinese restaurant. 24 hours later,
Delicate Steve was issued a recording contract and immediately entered the
studio to track their debut LP. And the end result of this whirlwind courtship
is Wondervisions, a 12-song blast of
experimental pop adventurism that sounds exactly like what you would expect a
rock band on David Byrne’s label to be like. All instrumental, these dozen
compositions reflect the scholarly knowledge of its members–the
Jandek-by-way-of-King Sunny Ade-by-way-of-Jerry Harrison six-string interplay
of group leader Marion and his 21-year-old guitar foil Rob Scheuerman, the
bouncy rumble of one-time Big East scouted quarterback-turned-enigmatic bassist
Adam Pumilla and the Neil Peart-cum-Tony Allen informed rhythmic patterns of
drummer Mike Duncan, who claims to have gravitated towards the skins as a means
to skirt his psychopathic tendencies. As a unit, the group works together with
a strange fluidity that creates a mood that is, in essence, something akin to a
guitar clinic from Mars. The strong elements of Talking Heads’ masterful,
worldly swan song Naked are evident
on such high life-imbued numbers as “The Ballad of Speck and Pebble”
and “Sugar Splash”, thus firmly detecting the strength of the Byrne
gene in these youngsters. However, other influential elements dominate other
tracks on here as well: opening cut “Welcome–Begin” and “Don’t’
Get Stuck (Proud Elephants)” harbor the caustic slacker vibe of Westing-era Pavement. A fluttering slide
guitar colors the extraterrestrial blues of “Butterfly”, while the
album’s title cut emulates the synclavier experiments of Frank Zappa’s final
years on Earth. Those who are comparing Delicate Steve to such
flavor-of-the-moment acts as Fang
Island and Surfer Blood
are completely missing the point. As Wondervisions so vividly exemplifies, these kids are in a class entirely unto their own,
boasting a bold sense of fearlessness in music making that makes their peers
caught in the Pitchfork circle jerk seem like the third-rate basement party
hacks these guys so easily blow out of the water with their uncompromising,
unquestionable uniqueness.

DOWNLOAD: “Welcome–Begin”, “The Ballad of Speck and Pebble”,
“Sugar Splash”, “Don’t Get Stuck (Proud Elephants)”,
“Wondervisions” RON HART




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