Record Review: Issue 76, April 1995

Record Review: April 1995


James A. Stewart
The Checkerwhip
Self-released cassette

James A. Stewart gave me a press kit along with this tape and I immediately lost it. Who cares. He’s a local guy who plays guitar and writes songs. I guess he’s one of those singer/songwriter dudes—kind of like John Denver or something. On his tape he does all kinds of things with his guitar. “Listen”  brings to mind the weird tunings and masterful playing of John Fahey. It’s an instrumental that should have the Gepettos crowd doing a jig on the table, if only they paid attention. Next, he hooks a harmonica contraption around his neck and blows a little while playing the guitar and singing at the same time. The only thing missing is a “stomp box” for rhythm and Stewart would become a one man band. Nice song, with “nature” used to describe a sexual experience. 

Forgive me, please, the guy does have a “stomp box,” except it’s a set bongo drum. He overdubbed them on top of more eccentric folk guitar playing. Another nice song, and this one is titled creatively enough, “Abongolongria.” As I listen to the tape the one name. which I’ve already mentioned, coming to mind is John Fabey. The name is probably completely foreign to SLUG readers and that’s why I use it. It covers up my lack of musical knowledge. Stewart’s talent with the guitar reminds me a lot of Fahey. He has a good voice and his songwriting skills are strong as well, but can he play an acoustic guitar? 

Expand your horizons and check James Stewart out when he plays around town. He ranks with another town I’ve sadly neglected since I reviewed his Harry Angel CD. From what I’ve heard Barry Carter and James A. Stewart are a couple of the best on the local “acoustic” coffeehouse circuit and they deserve your attention as much as the “grunge/Euro-disco/punk” bands you all seem to love so much.


Mutant Jazz
Happyville + X-96 airplay = Column inches in The Grid.

When will the parts become whole for United Concerts Delta Center gig? When the interview with Dick Clark and Alan Freed running in The Grid? What’s the word, scamola, spamola, peehola? Christ, I can’t remember again! Played Monopoly lately? Sam and Sean—don’t send me a letter blabbing on about supporting local bands by distributing their music. Shouldn’t it read we distribute local bands as long as they are from Utah County? I’m calling your number as soon as this is written to find out about acquiring some Riverbed Jed, Headshake Obvious, and Utah County ska or eurodisco—without a response? There’s some credibility, let me tell you! —Jimmy

What do the Swimpigs sound like? They tried to explain this jazz thing in the press release, but hey I was into that during the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Remember “no wave,” No New York, Pigbag, The Pop Group, Rip Rig + Panic, The Fire Engines and James White and the Blacks What. Is the name of that girl singer? Her dad was someone famous…..something Cheer?…or that guy who owns Raunch …Jazzbo something? Fuck it. Is there a cure for Alzheimer’s? Sarcasm? In Utah? 

Swimpigs members have jazz as well as ska backgrounds so the chops should be in place. The first song, “Sqweek,” was unlistenable. That’s how I like my Jazz, go listen to the Rippingtons/Spyro Gyra or Kenny G if you don’t. There’s some hip hop and some wasted noodling in between that and “Pretense.” “Pretense” is kind of cool in a downtown, Lounge Lizard sort of way; Possibly the best composition on the disc. “Cool/smooy” is more hip hop with jazz backing. The backing sounds a little forced. The rhymes are OK. It’s goes on almost too long before a trumpet solo saves the song. White Boy rap from Utah County? “Sammy” is another good tune where they shut up and play more music. The drums stand out along with some highly impressive breathing exercises from the sax man. Three good songs so far and one cut left to hear. “Groan” is the last song. They bring on the spooky organ and the brushes while the sax man gets into the seduction mode. I think I reported on this one before. It was some garage band doing James Bond soundtrack music. 

Summing up: The idea is not new. They would have us believe that this is wholly fresh and different. It is not Mutant Jazz, John Zorn or any band on Hat Hut carries in the tradition today. What we have here is a young jazz group down in Utah County with a new CD. It is not a bad recording! Remember kin, the Fowler Brothers started out in a similar fashion. Don’t dismiss this because it is on Happyville and “concidently” is played on X-96. Dump the label and the connection, cut the hip hop, keep practicing and go for it boys. You have my support. 


Blue Faces
In the Days of the Lightbulb on the Wall
Vagrant Records

This disc contains “trance” music. The band went along some handbills of performances a live review and preview of their demo tape. The writer of the live review, a show with Ars Poetica at Seattle’s Colourbox says that, the best couple songs which almost transcended the club’s pall of smoke, had driving rhythms and quasi-Arabic tinges in the guitar. That means they are influenced by American surf music. 

Blues Faces are into the artsy fartsy things. They project film images as they play and they don’t move around at all. To my ears, their music is a return to the “fabled” ‘60s. This band takes the technological improvements of the present and puts them to good use for a new generation of psychedelic, marijuana or otherwise impaired youth. The album is a surf-influenced, mind-expanding experience. 


Self-Released Cassette

There is a God in heaven – He finally brought forth a Deviance product consumers can purchase. This 10-song tape is a cassette preview of Deviance’s upcoming vinyl EP. All famous “Martian” songs are present, and as an added bonus, you receive five non-space songs. If you have never seen Deviance perform live, you don’t know the heart of their set is the Martian songs. These songs were developed over a number of years as the members of Deviance were shuttled back and forth from their Earth homes in Utah County or….possibly New York City, to the more familiar territory of outer space.

On the tape, Sunshine sounds better than she usually does in person. The lyrics are audible, which they seldom are in a local club (ask the soundman), and for once you can understand what she is singing about. The manager in which the tape was mixed gives her vocals’ echo chambers almost a surrealistic feel. Charlee Johnson is credited with writing all the songs, co-remixing and publishing the songs. He is also the drummer. The drums are just as prominent as Sunshine’s vocals. Dave on guitar and Jesse on bass play the punk garage rock and roll to complete the mix.

The Martian songs have always been my favorites from this band, but listen all the way through to catch the entire concept. Just as in every Deviance show I’ve ever seen, that music becomes angrier and angrier as the little rollers move it along. Every time they reach “Chris B.” with its “Wake up / it’s time to dye” lyrics and the Alynon theme song, “Denial,” Sunshine has progressed to a state of rage. She virtually wretches the vocals from her body and the band behind her has moved from the garage/punk arena to the bludgeoning power of the petal shape. This could be the setlist from any Deviance show muse – As “Denial” climaxes you can almost feel the self-destruction begin. Imagine a bass guitar crashing to the stage floor, the low-slung lead hitting the head of the bass drum and a cymbal flung like a Frisbee into the neck of the soundman. Blood spurts and Deviance once again is unable to come back for the encore due to disabled equipment and audience members. Killer band and tape. 

Can’t Get Enough 

The first comment is the beautiful sound on the disc – praise for the producers and the studio.
Tony Korologos is credited with engineering, Jeff Evans and Zach Craigle mixed it and it was recorded at fast-forward. Insatiable is a band you all love to hate. I hate them too. This ska thing was tired in about 1968. I’m not sure why we went through the ’70s/’80s revival let alone the one we’re currently in the middle of. A steady diet of ska music would have me killing my wife and children along with several neighbors and as many public officials as I could manage before a SWAT team took me.

I don’t like ska, give me a break. If all you little squids hadn’t trashed Kingsbury Hall at the General Public show you might still be able to use the venue for concerts. Give Insatiable credit for what they do. Can’t Get Enough is an excellent representation of the style. The band and the CD are from Utah. We should aIl be proud of the seeds Stiff Records and the two-tone bands sowed this state all those years ago. I had a whole crowd of 13-year-olds skanking around my living room while this played.

The horn section is as talented as any in the state. Their strange appearance only adds to the pleasure. Don’t walk in the stores looking for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, the old two-tone bands or any of the new national shit before you check out the homegrown product. I hate this fucking album, it sucks to the max, it gave me a “sick headache” (which is what aIl ska music does to me). But if you like ska, Insatiable are one of the best in the United States of America or anyplace else for that matter. 

The Chrome Cranks
The Chrome Cranks
PCP Entertainment

I was a little disappointed in the live version of The Chrome Cranks. After listening to the CD version of their album, I expected total decadence on stage. Since the show and several more hours spent with the vinyl version, I realized that no one, except maybe Iggy Pop, could manage to project the ruin and violence of the music on an audience or themselves and survive. Drinking gasoline indeed!

From the opening blast of guitarist William Weber and the first howl out of vocalist, guitarist Peter Aaron’s mouth this is one to strap a seat belt on for. They take the Memorex-blast of sound cliche and instead of blowing the guy back in his chair, they eject him right out of it. The Chrome Cranks cannot escape a Gun Club comparison. They’ve been compared to other more obscure bands. but the Gun Club is right on the mark. Along with the Gun Club I’ll bring another obscurity into play: Jack O’Fire released an album last year that took the blues and totally messed them up. The Chrome Cranks’ blues roots are as evident as their garage ones.

Take some blues roots, a guy with a big fat Gretsch, a vocalist with melted paraffin in his throat, a dedication to Hank Williams, Howlin’ Wolf and Jeffrey Lee Pierce in his marrow then add a backing rhythm section throbbing and pounding along from a classic recording – “Eight-Track Mind” has all the elements in place. Fuzz and reverb from the guitar, howling from Aaron, bass blasts and drum thunder. Flip the thing over to hear the opener on side two, “No. 1 Girl” (Yes it is a record). Aaron is gargling with Drano while the rest of the band dance around an oil can fire in hell. From the sound of “Doll In A Dress” you’d think Aaron would be writhing on the floor in the manner of a Gene Parsons, cutting himself on broken glass and singing through the blood.

The recorded version is like reading a horrifying novel, then waiting expectantly for the movie version only to be disappointed.

Give the Chrome Cranks credit for a masterful recording and realize that Johnny Thunders, Sid Vicious, GG Allin and Darby Crash die attempting to bring imaginations to the stage. Apparently, The Chrome Cranks want to live. The record has a bonus track not present on the CD in case anyone is interested.

Read more from the SLUG Archives:
Concert Review: Bush and Simple Minds
Latimer: March 1995