Part 7 by Angela Sawyer
"Weirdo was a record shop that I started in my bedroom in 2006. It moved into a storefront for a while in Cambridge Mass., and closed after I got tired of never ever sleeping. While it was around, I wrote reviews of every new title that I sold, and by the end there were more than eighteen thousand reviews. There's only so many times you can call a guitar tone 'crunchy’ or say something disparaging about a singer's hair. So I repeated things, a lot. When compiling this best of, I looked for records that stuck with me, and also for reviews where I thought the writing stood out."
Here we present Weirdo selections from the letter S.
Armand Schaubroeck A Lot of People Would Like To See Armand Schaubroeck Dead 3-LP
Here's a fella I often wish was President of the free world. In 1962 at age 17, Armand was sent to jail for theft & served a year & a half in upstate New York. This record is a Lou Reed/Zappa/Fowley inspired concept album and/or freak elegy about his time inside. Tons of jawdropping skits that have Armand dryly, sarcastically doing stuff like confessing to his priest, bowling, having sex, getting yelled at by wardens, getting analayzed by a psychologist, facing a parole board, convincing a scary inmate he's not gay, having a late night Christmas discussion about rape, & more. Musical interludes range from Elvis impressions to Dylan impressions to cathartic electric blooze breakdowns, and all walk a fine line between various sorts of unbelievable. After surviving his experience, Schaubroeck opened the House of Guitars in Rochester with his two brothers, and it is both still there and still one of the best places for famous rock bands to buy a rare guitar in the USA. They have a great website where you can see pictures of Schaubroeck with various metal dudes putting their arm around him as he ages over the years. Schaubroeck also put out a few more records, and while they can have slow spots, this one's his best, and they're all, uh, deep. Best joke is when a guard yells "WHERE'S YOUR SPOON!"
April Stevens Teach Me Tiger
Long before her career as a Phil Spector acolyte with her brother Nino Tempo, April made heavy breather records for the last dregs of the lecherous bachelor market of the late '50's. She actually wrote "Teach Me Tiger," but with taglines plastered on the record like 'the intimate miss with the musical kiss', who should care? Arrangements by Henri Rene are appropriately fluffy & sultry, and every single song is as slow as a humid night.
Bruno S Bruno S LP
Bruno Schleinstein was an outsider artist & street musician living in Berlin. A 1970 documentary brought him to the attention of Werner Herzog, who cast Bruno in the local legend of Kaspar Hauser ('74), and then wrote a film more loosely based on Bruno himself (the incomparable Stroszek from '77). Although Bruno lucked into a pretty horrible childhood (beaten as a toddler, then abandoned in & pushed through various Nazi-era institutions until adulthood), his paintings, acting, and music batter unflinchingly against all your dumb social defenses. Recorded on accordion & glockenspiel during an outsider art fair when he was in his late '70's. He seems completely unaged, but sadly passed away the following year. Notes include paintings, English translations of lyrics.
Conrad Schnitzler Conrad & Sohn LP
Very unique combination of avant-classical & Casio preset idiocy, all chopped up together and more disjointed than a headless barbie. Schnitz invited his 17 year old son to make a record with him, and it's my favorite in his catalog. Ever wonder what would happen if Whodini joined up with Stockhausen? All I can say is that your vocoder will definitely blow up.
Giacinto Scelsi Quattro Illustrazioni CD-R
Real live Roman count who grew up in a castle, got fencing & chess lessons instead of regular school, & became a student of Schoenberg's. With Rome in chaos after the end of WWII, Scelsi suffered some sort of nervous breakdown. So he changed his name to a drawing of a circle with a line under it, and refused to allow anyone to take his picture. Then he started writing pieces that were all concerned with the microtones around a single pitch. Quite a lot of them for strings, naturally, as they make it easier to play quarter and eigth tones. The Accord series is the premiere way to hear Scelsi, maybe even the only way. Every last disc on the label is a luscious fever dream where the performances are incredibly fluid and disgustingly well recorded. This particular set has a little balletic piano from before Scelsi's break, but then the phantasmal string pieces come in & will slice off the tip of your nose if you're not careful.
Gunter Schickert Samtvogel LP
Guitar that drips along in blobs of sticky, congealed delay over taut kraut tick-tocks. Opening track has some downer whispering vocals, but the rest is just Gunter's pulsing space probes. His first & best album, which he pressed himself & then let Brain reissue. Title has nothing to do with a guy named Sam & instead means 'including bird.'
The Sonics Here Are the Sonics LP
Let the flames burst from your stereo speakers with Northwest garage fury. Seattle engineer Kearney Barton says of his brief meeting with Sonics' singer Gerry Rosalie in the mid 60s: "Somebody would have to come in and give him a blood transfusion! I thought he was gonna tear his throat out- screaming from start to finish." Yep, the caterwaul of the Sonics is still so savage that they make other bands, contemporary or otherwise, seem in need of immediate medical attention.
Jim Shepard V-3 Next Album LP
Slate-gray rage, dungeon dark revenge fantasies, junkie disdain, poverty & urban hopelessness- there's enough bitterness here to make Marvin Gaye's divorce album seem breezy. Never released stuff from around the time of Photograph Burns. You can definitely hear the haystacked-up rock-n-roll sound of V-3 in spots (as opposed to the slippery Vertical Slit), Seeing as how it's Shepard, the guitar textures are grubby, but there's also late-night songs with an acoustic edge & violin that seem to glow with firefly light. Version of "Illogical" that appeared on Ego Summit, but here stretches out into a mess of peat bog with organ & trumpet.
Michi Sarmiento Aqui Los Bravos 2-LP
Lightning fast descargas by the motorcycle-riding bandleader whose cover of Louie Ramirez' s "Rush Hour in Hong Kong" lit up Soundway's 1st Colombian collection. Truly jaw dropping arrangements (any idea how hard it is to make a steel drum sound like a farfisa?) by Discos Fuentes' Mario Pachanga Rincon. Booming electric bass flourishes that sound more like a speed metal double kick drum than anything you'd expect to call 'cumbia.' In fact, every cut has some rich detail to trip you up: a scratchy out of tune fiddle or some blast of unexpectedly metallic percussion. Wanna know why Discos Fuentes causes so much drooling? There's a whole lot more than Fruko & his dogs to contend with!
Saint Vitus Heavier Than Thou 2-LP
Greatest hits of these mighty, meaty, mammoth metalheads. All of their best record Born Too Late, plus some choice tracks with earlier vocalist Scott Reagers, their theme song, and the indomitable "White Magic Black Magic." SST's release of sludge-slow metal records at the height of hardcore's popularity in the mid-1980's was, for lotsa punk fans, the first hint that their point of view might exist in other kinds of music too. And there's probably no human being with more natural performing authority than Wino. The guy can sing about being left behind by mainstream culture, or just about finding stuff in his hair, and make you think you're a giant just for agreeing with him. It gets no heavier.
Sam Gopal Escalator CD
14 Hour Technicolour bad-vibes band led by a Malaysian kid on tabla & featuring pre-Hawkwind, pre-Motorhead singing & bass from drug olympian Lemmy. Great eastern-influenced guitar smoke that's given a poolball-smooth edge by the non-rock drums. Lemmy says he wrote all of the songs on the album (none of which give him a writing credit) during one long meth trip over the course of a few days. Lysergic, badass verison of "Season of the Witch" that bests the original.
San Ul Lim San Ul Lim 2 CD
Seoul soul backbeat, utterly damaged boogiefuzz & wailing sloppy farfisa, here's the 2nd & best album by these South Korean slayers. A family band led by guitarist Kim Chang Wan with his brothers Kim Chang Hun & Kim Chang Ik on bass & drums & sister Kim Nan Suk on keys. The kids had relatively rich parents, who offered them a piano upon entering college. They asked for a rock & roll setup instead & started practicing weekly (according to legend, though it sounds a lot more like they practiced monthly). When they graduated from school, they'd written over 100 songs, so they took a tape to a local record company & became overnight stars. Once their first record had been released, they were able to mine their back catalog for the next couple of albums & concentrate on sounding like their heroes, AC/DC. Luckily for us, they missed this goal by several miles & ended up with '60's hotel cheese psych instead. The extremly apropos title of this album translates as "As Laying Carpet on my Mind."
Satan and Deciples Underground CD
He's the devil! He's the booger man! The best Kim Fowley record that Fowley himself was completely uninvolved in is this miscreant Louisiana garage novelty by Satan's Disciples (or as the cover artist would have you pronounce it deh-SIH-pels). Rumor is that the band is led by swamp-tex guitarist Freddy Fender (he wrote the '70's hit "Wasted Days & Wasted Nights"). Clearly these fellas want to invent some sort of retardo teen dance that is a crimping cousin to Sam the Sham's "Wooly Bully." Instead, they get sidetracked by sheer hustler nonsense, or exceptionally good drugs. Singer's conceit of pretending that he's Satan and then spouting a bunch of soul-fried acid abnormalities is a brilliant gambit that pays off on every single cut. Topics covered include bacteria in eggs, how mountains existed before God made the earth, how to stop thinking about girls who dissed you & much more. The genius sleazy organ vamps just roll on forever.
Schimpfluch Gruppe Paris Aktionen LP
Rudolf Eb.er & Dave Phillips with a violin player. They set up a ticking kitchen timer & sit at a table in front of a couple of plates of spaghetti. Instead of just letting it ring when the baking's done, they sound the alarm themselves, throwing their faces into the food and knocking their stuff over. On the flip, they let a nasty sine wave hurt everyone's teeth while they scrape things & hyperventilate. What a fine time! Some men just know pure entertainment.
Schurt Kwitters Schurt Kwitters LP
Jess Goddard from Fat Worm of Error, playing a wooden contraption full of wires & a little mini-organ, with a contact-miked sewing machine on top. Say hooray for the criss-crossing marches of little imaginary ant armies as they chew & bleep at one another in morse code. Originally a cassette, which I liked so much I bought multiple copies so I could have it ready to go in every room of the house without having to carry the tape back & forth.
Screamin Mee Mees Comedy Hour CD-R
Drop dead brilliant, sloppy as fuck-all basement bashing from the best beer-covered men who ever put finger on a casette recorder. Bruce Cole & Jon Ashline pretend to be a television set, complete with comments from a family in a living room watching, changing channels, talking over commercials, etc. Apparently every program on that night was also a variety show, as they break in with wheezing & pounding lurches on tag sale guitars, & made up words about life on the drunkard's side of town, or just whistles. Some of it is recorded as they drive around St Louis in a beat up van. Later, you get more of the Mee Mees as they usually appear: bashing it together in the basement. Some of the earliest recordings yet uncovered, and there are songs about James Brown (again), getting high, teaching the gospel to your pet pooch, etc. Genuine American genius like they don't make it noplace else.
Shadow Ring Hold Onto ID CD
Dry, dour arch-fiends of sinister untuned guitars and slave-ship drum beating. Eerie electronic creeping, bizarre conceptual anti-albums. Is it even remotely possible than Lambkin has ever worn any clothes other than lint-ridden sweaters? No way, Jose. Do bleak clouds suddenly cover the sun and the grasses drain from green to gray whenever he ventures outdoors? Jeez, I sure hope so. This title's one of their toppers."Lighthouse" is stronger structurally, but this one's just a tad more purposefully cruel.
Siege/Lip Cream Siege/Lip Cream LP
Brutal hardcore that goes straight for the throat and cares none for glory. Weymouth, Mass' most barbarous sons snarl at their audience of 14 or so at a live show in suburban Connecticut (in fact singer Kevin Mahoney nearly arrrgghhs like a pirate, he's screaming so hard). On the other side, Tokyo's Lip Cream have great sped-up guitar solos that are so fast they disintegrate, also live.
Sightings Sightings LP
The heaviest. I still like to tell people it has the 'production job of the decade,' and it's not even that decade anymore. The first 30 seconds of this record are as loud and shuddering as the first 30 seconds of Peter Brotzman's Machine Gun, and it will scare you shitless the first time you hear it. Even if the rest of this Brooklyn band's career had been spent snorting coke & sitting on lawn chairs in Williamsburg, this record is a huge contribution to American culture. Nuff said.
Sins of Satan Thou Shalt Boogie Forever LP
Detroit Funkadelic/disco knockoff with fuzz, a few Sly Stone moves. Breaks galore & cheap production at its finest. Undeniable cover art that shows Moses commanding robe-clad guys to boogie (forever) while they get attacked by dragons amid a rock outcropping. Band was the brainchild of a low level Motown guy who'd originally done R&B in Brooklyn. Best spots are the slow breakdowns in the middles of a few cuts, where the band suddenly gets super smoky with flute & long bass tones.
Sir Lord Baltimore Sir Lord Baltimore LP
2nd and still pretty motherfuckin' studded boogierock slab. Riffs of no small stupidity, the occasional gong or wah on the wrong instrument, tons of unneccessary drum fills abound. But ultimately, you'll fall head over heels for John Garner's retarded, majestic vocals, heavy with what could only be bong dew. Ride along to the rhyme (of 'Manhattan' and 'Latin'- !?!) that leads up to the kick-in on the lead track, and you're beyond ridiculous, to the point of total wide-grin badass. Small wonder the values of this band's LP s have skyrocketed in the last several years.
Sjob Movement A Move in the Right Direction LP
Smokin', lean, & evil funk from Nigeria, complete with spaceshot Moog (that goes 'whee-oo-wee-oo-wee' just like the Osmond's "Crazy Horses") in place of an organ. Sjob were the backing musicians of Sonny Okosun, but like most band sidemen, they could barely get a taxi without their leader's famous name. They created this band specifically to be without a leader, untypical anytime, but especially in mid-70s Lagos.
Joseph Spence Bahaman Folk Guitar LP
No man who ever lived had so many bucketfulls of moths in his voice. And few can make a steel guitar sound more like a crazy train game of pickup sticks instead of notes. Spence inspired not one but 3 different whitey ethnomusicology freaks to get on a plane and head for Andros with nothing but a memory of sick sounds in their heads. All 3 found him at different times, and the recordings each made immediately inpsired a new round of fans. This one's round 1, and while the guitar is decidedly upfront & cleaner compared to most of Spence's other recordings, you can still hear him chortling like a fat Santa in that special croak of his over the jagged steel lines.
Sound of Feeling Up Into Silence CD
Something about the late sixties made everyone alive turn stupid, and jazz critic Leonard Feather was no exception. Round about '67, he visited Los Angeles from the UK & was smitten by a pair of hot twin girls being led around town by a clean cut, square-toothed sweater boy. Feather caught them performing in a club & got visions in his head of a hip version of the Swingle Singers, so he immediately got on the phone & forced Oliver Nelson to tack the group onto his current studio booking. Nelson aquiesced, and thereby began his own career as an arranger which culminated in '70's TV soundtracks like The Six Million Dollar Man & Columbo. Sound of Feeling leader Gary David's been teaching philosophy (specifically a very American & not espeically rigorous stripe of epistemology) out of the UCLA adult extension school ever since. Completely wrong/right/wrong vocal bubblings in way, way too many time signatures on top of Coltrane-inspired jazz, played by studio hacks that include the eternally sleazy Emil Richards. Basically sounds like something they'd play in the background at Starbucks, but I still like it. Both albums & 5 bonus tracks.
Space Lady Greatest Hits LP
Susan Dietrich is a willowy lady who lived in a car & a cave (!), had 3 children outside a hospital, and kept her entire family fed by busking with either a casio or an accordion. She met her husband in San Franscico in the late '60's, and lived her entire adult life off the grid lest he be arrested for draft dodging. Armed with a reverb unit, a phase pedal, a hat with a blinking light & tons of batteries, she explored space & her keyboard daily while standing long hours outside where commuters passed by. She mostly plays covers, but hits are treated like the injured animals they really are & she has a shy dignity that's literally crowd stopping. ELO's "Showdown" becomes heartbreaking instead of an anthem for roller skaters. "Born to Be Wild" is stripped of its machismo, etc..
Speakers En El Maravilloso Mundo de Ingeson LP
Wooly & giddy Colombian fuzz & pop with loads of imaginative sfx (like where a guy hums to himself, then falls off a cliff and is hit by a train, e.g.). Sped up vocals, ridiculous guitar effects & loads of xylophones, tabla, bells & other percussion. It's their 4th album, and the title derives from a deal they struck with a new studio, Ingeson, allowing them access to fancy new equipment late at night as long as they put the studio's name on the record. They really try to play the studio as an instrument, and it was a sudden step forward from their previous beat-happy records. Drummer Roberto was originally from Spain & went home after this record, after it didn't sell as well as he expected. Apparently there was a longstanding rumor that he'd died fighting guerillas in Central America, when what he'd really been doing was touring Spanish lounges as a member of Los Pekenikes.
Speed, Glue & Shinki Speed Glue & Shinki 2-LP
Their screwiest, and it sure is a doozy. Shinki Chen met Joey Smith of Juan de la Cruz playing at a mall & recruited him to drum behind his Hendrix excess. Chen's A&R guy suggested the bass player of the Golden Cups join too, which makes this a stoner-boogie supergroup of the highest order. And they wail like the sick-brained drugged-out scraggly fuckups they are for 3/4's of this record. Smith's drumming, as always, sounds like an overturned cart of watermelons, the guitar is heavy as shit, and there's lots of lyrics about glue sniffing. Everything takes an unexpected left turn when Smith takes a 12 minute solo on Moog bombs, which apparently happened because he left town (back to the Philippines) & it was all they had left!
Stanky & His Pennsylvania Coal Miners Stanky & His Pennsylvania Coal Miners cassette
They are raw, their musical secret is that they have a violin player & they love to whomp along in 2/4. God's truth, I have woken up in the middle of the night, sweating, thinking about Stanky. The Hasil Adkins of polka, John Stankovic of Nanticoke Pennsylvania, began playing accordion at the age of 9 when he booked himself at a wedding. The Coal Miners can still be booked today (clousherentertainment.com). They mostly play cruise ships & they celebrated their 65th anniversary as a band in 2010. Some cuts from their best self-titled record, plus a few stray wailers from the rest of their ridiciulous discography. Best title in Ian Nagoski's new cassette series.
Sun City Girls Funeral Mariachi LP
And so finally you arrive home, only to find your mother's throat cut so badly her head is nearly detached, and the neighbors all claim they heard the murderer mumbling, but each in a different language. Nothing left to do but call the undertaker. If Dante's Disneyland is the Gocher album in the catalog, then this last one belongs to Alvarius. Scott Colburn provides a zebra stripe parade of different vocal echoes. Steam-cleaned studio overdubs invoke one last night spent listening to the radio in the dark (which smacks of the Girls' soft & sunny neighbors, the Beach Boys). A couple moves are purloined from Jakarta, while somebody else grabs half of the bass line to "Fever." One song from the recent Harmony Korine soundtrack also gets a re-arrangement. And of course, the erratic rhythm, erotic whispers, & vocal stabs of Morricone get reworked on "Come Maddalena." Not so many waltzes (I never think there are enough anyway), and almost no drums, but plenty of glittering gnawa pull-offs on the burmese mandolin. Between the moments of electric guitar wank & talking like a chinese lady, a couple of "normal" musicians help out too: backup vocalist Jessika Kenney gets a nice Edda moment in the spotlight (she of Sunn O))) & Eyvind Kang records) & there's a spire of a trumpet solo at the end. You can bury your family & find out whodunnit, but in the end, the band rides off into the cloudless western sky. And they don't look back.
Sun Ra Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy LP
Sun Ra is one of those people like Pierre Henry or James Brown, with a decades-spanning career, so much of which is worth hearing that it might as well be said that they have no bad records & you need the whole catalog. However, people always want to know where to start or what's essential, so whenever they ask about The Most Mysterious One, I recommend this. The kickoff to Ra's prime NYC years and it's a slop swamp of thudding & blasted proto-psychedelia that pre-dates known acidheads by several years. Bedouin oboe, the gorgeous clip-clop of the log drum, a minimal amount of brass, tips from Clavioline & Hammond, and a drop dead gorgeous solo from John Gilmore, who plays bass clarinet on the whole album. Best review I've ever heard of it came from my Ancient Greek teacher, who caught a moment of it & immediately wanted to borrow it for her students. She was sure that if you could hear the music of 350 BC (hot tip, you can't), this is what it would sound like.
See Angela's other entries of Weirdo assortments, including letters A to C and letters D to F and letters G to I and letters J to L and letters M to O and letters P to R and letters T to V and letter W to Z and compilations part 1
Also see Angela Sawyer's album on Feeding Tube records
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