There's more to that story, but getting quickly to the point, Caroliner (led by a man named "Grux") has created its own bizarre universe combining monstrous fantasy creatures with early American music and folklore -- not Uncle Remus and "Yankee Doodle Dandy," but the sick, hopeless lives chronicled in the incredible Wisconsin Death Trip book (I can't remember the author's name - go buy it on half.com). In other words: cabin fever, sunstroke, poisonous grain = hallucinations. Not in a "peace, my brother!" Grateful Dead sense, but in a mentally "at the end of your rope" way (presumably the same sort of mood that led to the many bizarre suicides and arson cases detailed in WDT) such that a starving, depressed farmer might look out at his 1800s field and see thousands of throbbing grey hearts -- even if he hasn't planted throbbing grey heart seeds! So you can understand his confusion, as can we all at times.
The result of all this zaniness is (a) a senses-assaulting live show featuring skullduggeringly high volume (one reviewer said, "It's so loud, you can see patterns in it"), dayglo lights and huge monstrous costumes like Gwar because they wanted to be just like Gwar (click here for four photos of Caroliner's stage show!), and (b) music that sounds like it was recorded by toothless invalids in 1890, with lyrics centering on brutal, bizarre and often quite difficult-to-picture mythical characters and situations. Caroliner is the singing bull, we have the rights to all of the lyrics and older members come up with the structure and organization of most songs, with assorted band members bringing his singular vision to life through a strangely messily-loose-yet-rigidly-structured discipline and endless knobs of creativity in the fields of arranging, augmenting and recording (e.g. cutting up a "band jam" tape into little pieces, throwing them up in the air and then taping them randomly back together).
Although Caroliner were buddies with the Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 (one Caroliner member appears on the cover of Mother Of All Saints, TFUL282 recorded an excellent cover of the early Caroliner track "Outhouse Of The Pryeeeeeee," various Fellers have appeared on various Caroliner releases, TFUL producer Greg Freeman has done lots of Caroliner engineering), you're not likely to find Caroliner CDs in your favorite local Tape World for a quite unexpected reason in today's capitalistic society: Caroliner has never recorded any CDs! Every single release is available on vinyl only, packaged in disgusting homemade envelopes or boxes piled high with "found objects" (to be discussed in detail later), intriguing artwork and beautiful lyric sheets (all dated "1983," the year the band formed). Actually, there IS a CD copy of Rise Of The Common Woodpile floating around, but I'm not sure whether it's "too legitimate to quitimate" or just a bootleg. According to the band, "The record pressers Dixie, Alberti, and more recently Archer have thrown out the original master plates due to closedown or being unorganized. Ogremen drop what they can't figure out in the dustbin." Your best bet for Caroliner purchases at this point would be either eBay or Subterranean Records' web site.
Ah, let's see, what else is there to say about Caroliner. How about the constantly changing "names" of the band members? I don't know about YOUR Beatles, but MY Beatles never included any sidemen with names like Silverbean, Bingo Marvin, Hack Hack, The Barn Attic Dullard, M.L. Drinurne, Loud Amen Cushion, Hug Leg Lesy, Peoplepies, PudGeist, Applehead back pack, Banjor Lump, Claytonia, Harpfart, Hotel Crisp Reads, Bullup, Toothless And Twenty Four, Clam'd, Squire Marvin, Letter From The Heart Of The Spitstorm, Pink Boy, Berims, Tisco Van, Cudskin, Welcome To The Last Day On Earth, Jib Lipprint, Pulpy, The Four Armed Sheriff form (sic) Greenway, VA, Leatherlip Luke, Bullerema, Mangerugg, Country Thumcake, Horsemeatia, Fawn Brodye, Top Knot Tom or Chlora. But then, my Beatles are gay.
Ah! Here's something else. The albums are hard to follow - they honestly DO sound like they were created from tapes found in the barn of an insane Wisconsin family from the 1800s: fidelity as low as a foot, muddled in reverb, full to bursting with ludicrous voices, inexplicable noises and creepy/hilarious banjo/bass/piano/guitar/etc melody for your enjoyment.
Rear End Hernia Puppet Show (by Caroliner Rainbow Hernia Milk Queen) - Subterranean 1987
And that's my review of Caroliner's Rear End Hernia Puppet Show! Good night everybody! Drive safelish!
FUCK! There's an ALBUM in here!
(*listens to album*)
Look, I'm not going to lie to you; Caroliner's first album can be tough going at times. In fact, I HATED it the first time I heard it. One sec...
(*listens to album again*)
But then I listened to it a bit more closely and began to thoroughly enjoyulate its catchy simple childlike bass lines and groovy, snappy, swingin' beats. But enough about its qualities. Let's get down to the business of terrorizing those responsible: This music is loose to the point of being both arhythmic and acompletemess. It's VERY atonal -- nobody seems to have even bothered LEARNING how one might go about tuning an instrument, all the songs are far too simplistic to drag on for as long as they do, and half the time it just sounds like shambolic drunken amateurish swing and folk-blues. Instrumentally, we're looking at an irritating stinging lead guitar sliding all over town, a claphappy drummer trappin' along merrily, a fuzzy bass that guides every track (even though the bassist couldn't be bothered to play the songs correctly all the way through), some wavery old-sounding keyboards, strange cacaphonous racket and vocals ranging from unlistenably high to scraggly low! , dopey middle and (as ZZ Top say in their hit monster "Jesus Just Left Chicago") "all points in between." I should also mention that it was recorded in four-track over an old Bible Studies cassette. Sound promising? Of course not! No, it doesn't!
So let me return now to its positives. As difficult as it can be to sort them out through the abysmal production, the melodies themselves are surprisingly memorable -- and in a variety of moods and styles too! A quick run-through if I might, for those who don't own the album and would like a better understanding of the gems to be found therein: "Yerubae" features Grux intoning in a shitty, instantly unbelievable "serious" voice over a sad simple old-timey organ line with tuneless bass guitar poured like spoiled milk all over it; "One Proud Watertower Wearing Lipstick" enjoys the beating of pots and pans, creepy bent note strangeness, high slide sickness and a nose-plugged midwestern delivery; "Maple Truck Tires" is swingin' good time rock 'n'roll built on fuzz bass, overdistorted guitar, a high-pitched scrapy violin noise, rock drums and screaming, for an overall effect! akin to "Radar Love" performed by Texan cannibals; "Killed 100 Lbs. Of Mistletoe" has wrong notes galore, but will mesmerize your eyes with its box drums, xylophone, bells bells bells and unlistenable sped-up "vocals"; "Coin" is another swingin' groovy swoopy bass extravaganza with more of that horrendible bending wavey slide guitar, entirely non-melodious vocals and several breaks for the whole band to make "Meow" noises; "Joy Disease" is PAINFULLY cluttered/scattered -- a veritable shaky noise mess! Maracas, piercing guitar noise, fast as hell bass line, Yoko Ono vocals - grand old opera!; "Mud Cup Monocle" (wait! there's more!) is yet another happy-man finger-snapping bass dance groove with organ, drums - hotcha!; "Outhouse Of The Pryeeeeeee" collapses upon itself through endless notes of what I believe to be a doorbell (?) and a bass line that has been stuck in my head on an endless record player since the day I first entered its home; the title track is a bouncy little thing with tons of strange noises blasting all over each other, "Railroad With Crutches" is a shambles of buzzing piano, plinkity chimes, rumbles, spew, violence, hilarious angry old man vocals, an honestly frightening repeated chainsaw-like noise and, way way way way down below the ruckus.... a calypso rhythm section!; "Preacher Preacher Preacher" is yet another nother nother cool man's bass swing number piled high with an insane scraping noise that WILL NOT CEASE! (I'm told it's a guitar through tremelo - but who am I to believe? God or my own belief system?); and finally "Nan" closes up the grocery store with the highest vocals in the world, blooze bass/guitars, a horse whinnying noise, creepy industrial smash-bash and some totally forked-about slowed-down noise business.
I do apologize for describing every song, but my goal is to try to explain to the uninitiated that Caroliner is not an impenetrable noise band. They are willfully DIFFICULT, and at first listen do come across as lo-fi irritants using their instruments incorrectly, but if you take each song as an individual unit and hand each one to your ears on a silver platter of respect and attention, your intelligence and quest for novelty (meaning "newness," not "Dr. Demento-style joke music") will be handsomely rewarded in actual silver coins that pop out of the record at regular intervals. In its darkest heart, the debut Caroliner album is a snazzy goodtime folk/blues/rock record by a group of people who clearly had no interest at all in being a successful folk/blues/rock band. They haven't "deconstructed" the genre as The Residents might have done; instead, they've made it as sloppy as possible and buried it in varied glops of disconcerting noise, leaving you (the listener) feeling as if you're experiencing schizophrenic aural hallucinations while trying to listen to a backwoods family of half-retarded inbreds play their homemade boogie for you.
Lyrically, just give up. Most of the songs are written from the point of view of a character who is already IN this warped world of false mythology and turn-of-the-century superstition. If it's any help, I can tell you that "Yerubae" is about the world's first trucks, which ran over pioneers out of hatred. They may or may not be living creatures. In "One Proud Watertower Wearing Lipstick," some bums drink from the tower, hear it weep and dress it up with "womanly things" like lipstick. In return, it kisses them. "Maple Truck Tires" are made for the Yerubae by the Surgur Ax Smiths, a disagreeable Indian tribe that can make anything out of maple sugar, but specialize in tires for the Yerubae. "Joy Disease" is about setting yourself up as the King and giving yourself bizarre destructive commands (ex. "Grow nails long and scratch a hole to make a stomach ache"). "Mud Cup Monocle" may or may not have something to do with animals using mud harmonicas to communicate with humans ! (and by "mud," I of course mean "hardened, flattened horseshit," as most of us do when we say "mud"). "Outhouse Of The Pryeeeeeee" involves the Pryeeeeeee - centaurs with potato bodies who traded things for garbage (or vice-versa). In the Outhouse, time is measured in feet, and it's full of creatures that give people headaches by announcing the time constantly. The bottom of it is tiny, but it's enormous at the top, sort of like an upside-down pyramid, but it's a different shape. The title track is about a goat who has a puppet show attached to its hernia, which it uses to tell fortunes. "Railroad With Crutches" is about a torture device that chases people down ("That big hunk of tin is still chasing us! Head for the briar patch!"). "Preacher Preacher Preacher" is about a... ah... preacher. One who instills fear in people for no reason. Finally, "Nan" is sort of a cross between the Luddites and the Temperance Movement, putting forth the theory that both machinery and fire are "unna! tural life." But see, even KNOWING all this, the lyrics are so full of non-sequitors and warped commentary addressed at nobody that you're never going to be able to figure it out. Do try though! When I said "Just give up" earlier, I was addressing the group of terrorists holding an office building hostage across the street. I'm actually supposed to be "hostage negotiating" right now - don't tell my boss I'm dicking out on the Internet!
Bassist Tonya Shaia went on to huge MTV stadium success in Archipelago Brewing Co. (REVIEWED ELSEWHERE ON THIS SITE, THANKS) and Spirit Gun. Guitarist Bobby Ray enjoyed himself in Fuck Bubble and Junglee, and is actually also in Spirit Gun though let's not kid ourselves, they used to be called Ohm-A-Revelator. Also on the LP is Pink Boy (who could build anything but instead sawed his .22), Blind Berjims, Gumfry Bullcue & Bullrema Griddlegirdles.
In summary, this isn't the best for new fans. Get the next album, or Rise Of The Common Woodpile for that kind of introduction.
Add your thoughts?
I'm Armed with Quarts of Blood (by Caroliner Rainbow Stewed Angel Skins) - Nuf Sed 1990
But enough about people. People have nothing to do with music. Let's get to the mucous. On this, the second Caroliner LP released by the band Caroliner, the band surrenders its amateur bass rock groove and replaces it with a more genuine sense of true rural sickness. Don't get my wrong wrong: they still play electric guitars and organs, but not in a way that resembles any rock music you've ever heard before. It sounds much less "thrown together" than the first album too. It's just as non-radio-ready productionwise, but the songs seem more tightly performed, possibly because these players were simply more proficient than those on the first album. The songwriting is wackass as hell though, and it's piled high with even more disturbing and hilarious noise than Up My Ass was.
I'm now going to describe every song again. Please let me stress once more that I do NOT approve of record reviews that simply "describe every song" (i.e. "Blitzkrieg Bop" is a fast punker, then "Beat On The Brat" slows things down for a smooth rock groove, then "Judy Is A Punk" is a really fast happy punker with...etc), but Caroliner is just such a fried-brained band with so much going on, I really do feel that individual song descriptions will (a) intrigue those who've never heard the records and (b) perhaps bring a bit of clarity to those who own the albums but can't tell what the hey is supposed to be going on. So, after one quick paragraph break as a silent tribute to the late great Iggy Pop, I shall begin.
Okay, first of all JESUS, THE CORPSE IS MOVING!!!!
Ha! Just a hilarious "Iggy Pop is a horrendous wrinkly old bag who won't keep his shirt on" rib-tickler for you. I now begin herein with the allegedly earlier promised individual track descriptions. "Corn Red Moon" features a non-band-member named Jenny singing in a very tinnily distorted radio voice atop echoes of her own voice, an out-of-tune banjo hoedown mess and a whole bunch of racket in the background that sounds like doors and farm animal noises. It kinda resembles a military marching tune, and sounds VERY insane and turn-of-the-century. "Barrel Horses" alternates incongruently between an Indian-style riff and a spooky haunted house organ, with vocals switching back and forth from low faux-seriousness to high-end screaming. The wheezing sound is a broken accordion. "Kin Quilt" rides along on a bass bouncing all over creation, an ugly bendy old guitar playing far, far out-of-tune licks, laugh-out-lots "Scottish" vocals, and a big stupid indust! rial sample stomping all over the song in a completely different rhythm the entire time. No two elements of this song belong together in the same tune, which is exactly the reason that it's such an entertaining number. It's supposed to end with an ascent into Heaven, but none of the band members are going to Heaven so instead they shook some newspapers around and shifted the pitch to approximate "angels' wings" (the result sounds like a guy shaking some newspapers around). "Good Luck Shining Tongue" features an odd and pleasing bell noise -- it's a hotel counter bell slowed way down. Otherwise, a morbid church organ and insistent dramatic two-note guitar/bass line revel in unending repetition that somehow works where it so often dragged down the songs on the last record. Apparently the band used to open shows with this song a lot. I never saw 'em though. I was too busy seeing Pavement when Gary Young was still in the band (I'm cool). CHRIST! I'm only the FIFTH SONG??? Okay, let'! s hustle this up. Actually, let me take a shot of vodka first. To get my writing talent loose and fiscal.
Okay now I'm back. "20' Stacked Skeleton Growling Flat Broke" features a very fun, nonsensical bass line, a bunch of copper instruments making a bunch of infernal racket, a Western slide guitar performing an adorable little glissando and UpLarRoaringFuny growly vocals. "Good one!" I wrote in my notes. "Charming!" I continued. Apparently the copper instrument racket was supposed to sound like the skeleton was busting them all up like an asshole. "Wheat Delusion" (later "covered" by Sun City Girls) -- what the hello is this? Crushing noise! Overmodulated washboard? Rumbling noise -- tons of rhythmic crunching and scraping. Way underneath all of this wonderful SMSRDUHBKNSF, you'll find a great rock and roll guitar riff. Gotta listen really closely to hear it though. Get your ears ready! Are your ears ready? "Dusk" ends the album side ends the side with very low Rudimentary Peni croak-vocals, an ugly up-down washof noise and even MORE sickening, nauseating, swooping thunderou! s noise as the song progresses. YUCK! Yet the female backup vocals threaten to be starkly beautiful in a way. Guitar bouncy notes or bowed like a violin or something too. Apparently all this noise is made by GUITARS -- one is tremelowered, one is pitch-changed, one is detuned! You see what I mean about Brandan Kearney? Not your TYPICAL "Ace Frehley," but certainly a more thoughtful noisemaker than Thurston "Shitbag" Moore or Lee "Boring Old Druggy" Ranaldo! But what's this? Side B? I'd better take another shit.
Hilariously, I meant to write "shot" there! But we can all laugh at the funniest typo since Art Linklater announced, "Look At All The Funny Things That Kids Say"! Incidentally, when I say "shot," I mean that I fill my entire mouth with vodka, swallow it and then guzzle Caffeine-Free Diet Coke to get the taste of bloody anus out of my mouth. One sec while I do so.
(*takes some more Vodka*)
CHRIST! MORE SONGS??? "For Bread And Ax" is drums like I said earlier. And a hokey rock-blues riff. A percussiony extravaganza with no set beat. The second part has gross squishy noises. Pitch-changed guitar solos abound as well. Best of all in the world are the sounds of two band members chopping wood on the floor of the studio. CHOPPING WOOD ON THE FLOOR OF THE STUDIO! Did U2 ever do that? NO! THEY DIDN'T! They passed gas all over their microphones and called it an album, but neaklre. "Paper Maid" - very pretty churchorgan melodytopped by averypretty banjo melodyIN AN ENTIRELYDIFFERENT KEY, RENDERING THE ENTIRE SONG UNLISTENABLE. Crazy old woman screaming on top. "Naga Loxa" = cymbally drums, loud snapping rubber bands, guitar damage, swooping bass line, sick affected keyboards, breaks for backwards rubber bands and othernoises. The singer sucks in his vocals just like Christian Smith in the Low-Maintenance Perennials' classic "Dammit, Erik Estrada! I Told ! You To Poop On The Newspaper!" Bird noises, TOO LONG. This brings me to an interesting point. People who create music are, you must understand, creating what to THEM, based on their many years of life and influences, is THE PERFECT MUSIC (if they do it correctly). For whatever reason, G. Bullcue and his cohorts held a DIFFERENT musical taste than most of those surrounding them. When people use the term "lowest common denominator" as a derogatory slam without thinking about what it actually means, it... I phrased this sentence wrong. Starting over, "lowest common demonitoarel" DOES have a real meaning. It's not just an insulting cliche as it is so often used. What it means is this: Certain people have heard a whole lot of different music and can enjoy all kinds of crazy unnatural things because it's new and different and smart and wild. Other people have heard much less music and are more impressed by simple melodies and simple ideas that the "elite" (roll your eyes please) ha! ve long since been bored with. SOOOO the idea of "lowest common denominator" music is that it appeals to a VAST WIDE majority of people because (a) it sounds new and exciting to those who haven't heard much non-mainstream music, and (b) even some people who've heard a ton of music might still find it "catchy" just because it's so basic and predictable. Modern rock radio stations thrive on "lowest common denominator" music because it results in the most listeners, so they can sell more ads. It's not an insult; it just is what it is. But Caroliner is "highest common denominator" -- I think you'd have to be familliarwith a LOT of different types of music, not to mention accepting of mistakes, weird scratchy unnatural production, fucked up vocals and all kinds of SHIT smeared on top of the melodies, to be into them. Personally, I've been a huge rock fan since I was about three years old, so by age 30 (i turn 31 tomorrow - send a cake), I was ready to understand them. GOD, ILOST MY SUBJ! ECT. My subject was SUPPOSED to be this- i got sidetracked my marijuana juice: The members of a band like Caroliner or ME PERSONALLY hear their OR MY music as being "the ultimate music. Listen to it! It's perfect!" because if done correctly it IS exactly the type of music that they OR ME want to hear. That's how a brain works. God, I'm havinga lot of trouble hitting the space bar tonight for some reason. Anyway, so Caroliner's members can listen PAST the purposely difficult “lo-fi”production, PAST the often GODAWFUL vocals, past the buried elements, past the mistakes, past the noise to hear how the songs SHOULD sound - and THAT'S how they hear them (just as I hear my own music that way, and other people consider it lo-fi horseshit). So you're not necessarily going to like what they do. I do, however, because it's INTERESTING. They play interesting music with absolutely NO interest in appealing to ANYBODY AT ALL. This is NOT "noise" or "country" or "punk" or "grunge" -- it's a collection of simple melodies, wildass noises and the willlllingness to do something DIFFERENT. The music world needs more bands as creative and willing to be outsiders.
I forgot what song I was on. "THE TITLE TRACK"! Ugly wrong piano line, hideousblues-rock guyitar planking, swooping high creepy violin noise, veryFOetusyslezese bluesindustrialslide dcream. hilariously inept jump drumming. "Copper Baw Ribs" = the word "Baw" stated over and overthrough a ringmodullator, clinkinty percussion like beating on ribs, completely detueneddeeneenend guitar and bass doing repetitive WONDERFUL WONDERFUL splanking thwakking pieces of "music." I LOVE THIS SONG TO BITS. There's also a church organ, but the guitar and bass noise is the reason to show up. I LOVE PEOPLE WHO FUCK AROUND WITH GUITARS! Finally "Berbucks" is a snappy little tune with two basses, steel drum, snare and a fun clackity drumbeat, violin, boogie like the first album FINALLY.
Complaints: Bullcue's vocals suck. Sometimes he's funny, but most of the time he's just off-key and far too loud. Asked why such is the case in a recent exchange of documentation, he responded, "As you may or may not have heard once in the song 'Susans and Bruisins,' there is a handfull of things a remote distance away that need to be brought in from afar. If I am here in the Caroliner cove fishing for compliments and waterboots and you are in the land of soot, one really has to project one's voice if one is to be heard. Another actuality, when Caroliner members play their minds tend to wander off into other realms of being and other times, naturally. Thusly they jig away from the recording device. That is the gospel verity. A microphone and a recording device are prone to bejigged directly onto the floor all too often."
Lyrics? I can't understand a word, but apparently they discuss such itesm in life as a thieving moon that kept robbing pioneers' pantires until they fed it a manure pie, dead children, a quilt made out of dead people, an inventor whose every creation is destroyed by a fucking skeleton (not the Skeletron from whatever), two children with a common head who don't know anything, a woodsman who feels guilty about killing trees, fingers used as weapons filled withblood, a man trapped by Mexican Jumping Ribs who try toburyhimaliveuntil hevocersfasd himsefwithe [char8is, and some other shit. FU CK YOUY!!!!!!!!!!!!
"The Kin Quilt", oh "The Kin Quilt". Hear this song, noise rock fans. It's amazingly heavy. They start playing and suddenly BWAAAAAOAOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRR, this dense feedback(?) comes in. It's completely unnecessary for the song to function, but without it the song wouldn't function. The best song here, probably.
"Dusk" is an awesome space-rock number. "For Bread & Axe" is a great jangle pop song like the Smiths or McCarthy, but they ruin its commercial hopes with the typical controlled-chaos Caroliner production. Kicks off with an awesome riff. See, these guys aren't just fucking around - they CAN play. There's more songs, but in the end they're all great. It's not noise, drone, musique concrete, free improvisation... but it incorporates elements of each into pop song structure to awesome effect. Very No-Wave influenced, but less intentionally defiant and more traditionally rock. As you might be able to guess, this is a great album. It was the first Caroliner album I enjoyed, after Rear End Hernia Puppet Show (which took a while to sink in as I wasn't very smart) and serves as a great primer to their early, most reknowned stuff.
If you like Caroliner, try Oxbow or Three Day Stubble. The latter are even more evidently descended from no-wave but operated in SF like Caroliner during the 80s (or so says the Trouser Press record guide). The vocalist can be often annoying, but he's quite original nevertheless. Oxbow have been playing since the late 80s and are much more similar to Caroliner (having played on the same bill) but with a sinister, somewhat pretentious touch. Their "Love That's Last" album is sort of a greatest hits compilation and comes with a DVD.
But anyway, back to Caroliner...
Oxbow sounds NOTHING like Caroliner. I've heard Rise of the Common Woodpile and couldn't get through the first song because it sounded like a children's choir getting butchered with some backwoods tard moaning on top. (It was a fairly unpleasant experience and one I have NO desire to repeat ever again.)
In contrast, Oxbow sound...err... something like Neurosis ass-raping Zeppelin. Except imagine Neurosis wanting to be the Birthday Party instead of Swans. (I'm not sure this is the best description of Oxbow, because it doesn't come close to encapsulating all the different aspects of their sound, but it will have to do for now.)
So, you know, they're not all that much alike. All that they have in common, I think, is that they're both from San Francisco.
Add your thoughts?
* Rise of the Common Woodpile (by Caroliner Rainbow Open Wound Chorale) - Nuf Sed 1991 *
A few tracks of this album was recorded in a home 8-track studio (not THEIR home, but A home nonetheless) with Factrix's Cole Palme serving as engineer. The house was full of old musical instruments (accordions, harmoniums, tubas, etc.), so like any adventurous band would do, Caroliner learned to play them as well as need be and made them part of their sound (it should be noted that Drowning Pool would probably not have taken the time to do this). The only permanent band members at the time were Grux, Darcy and Brandan, so they brought in some pals to help out (Eve played on several tracks, but left before the record was complete; Alex Behr played bass on some of it but wasn't pleased when Grux stepped on her foot to mark the song changes; the Thinking Fellers' Mark Davies drummed here and there, and Brian Hageman played viola).
This album debuts the recording techniques that remained in place through The Sabre Waving Saracen Wall: the basic tracks were recorded in a number of locales on a variety of machines, and were then brought into Greg Freeman's studio and dumped onto 2" 16-track tape for overdubbing and mixing. Sounds logical enough, I suppose, but with a band this adventurous, crises and disasters were only a hair's breadth length away. In this instance, for the four tunes recorded by Cole Palme, they'd used a reel of 1/2-inch tape that they found in the trash. Although this was seemingly a fine, inexpensive way to keep the band's lo-fi "this was recorded in the 1800s" aesthetic, when they got to Greg's and tried to play the tapes, they stuck to the heads and wouldn't advance; the ferric oxide had turned into a sticky paste. To correct the problem, the band had to put the tape into a large cardboard box and blast it with a hair dryer for twelve hours, watching the temperature rise ! on a turkey thermometer they'd inserted. But it worked! And now we can all enjoy Rise Of The Common Woodpile the way a car enjoys taking its occupants for a ride in the countryside.
I feel that my track-by-track descriptions of the first two records adequately explained this band's disparate, desperate musical vision, so I would like to refrain from that time-consuming process moving forward and simply list off a few funny quirks, ideas and thingies to pique the interest of the non-fan and enhance the listening enjoyment of those who are in the know but feel in the dark. Thus, I begin.
In "Hazel Wet Lap," the unlistenable guitar noise was created by Brandan playing his guitar with the edge of a coin. The terrifying creaking sound is from a door in the studio. The other noise is a broken player-piano being cranked by hand.
"Child Heart O' Dirt Pump" may be the most joyfully catchy song that Caroliner has ever recorded. I'm constantly singing its jaunty little keyboard line in my head, and occasionally in yours as well. Although talented bassist Dan had left the band by this time, he returned to play on this one. The accordion is squeezed by original Thinking Fellers drummer Paul Bergmann. The track ends with a recording of a cow being butchered at a slaughterhouse (that part isn't quite as catchy as the rest of the song).
On "Beetown," yet ANOTHER Thinking Feller (Brian Hageman) plays viola alongside Grux's piano and Brandan's glass harmonica and xylophone. That female singer "Jenny" is back; she recorded her vocals a capella, piled delay on top of it for a Hindi film music sound and then the band threw it on top (burying the quite interesting music in the process).
"Empty Halo" features Darcy on banjo and Brandan on everything else. What the hell is that great fuzzy noise shooting back and forth from speaker to speaker throughout the whole song? We'll never know! (IT'S BRANDAN’S GUITAR) We'll simply never know! The reason the guitar solo sounds so fascinatingly broken is because it was recorded separately onto a tape that was then scratched and crumpled before the solo was inserted into the song. This was just one of many examples of the Caroliners doing physical damage to their tapes just to see what would happen. Results varied, but one thing's for certain: they were always more interesting than Sonic Youth!
The Darcy-penned (musically, anyway) "Burdensome Blood" was sung by Darcy and Eve in a a Japanese/Chinese/Mandarin/Indian/etc manner as they played banjo and mandolin. Hear that sitar? That's no sitar at all! That's Grux playing an unplugged electric guitar with a warped neck! Listen closely and you'll see!
The title track apparently originally contained six minutes' worth of witless jamming. They removed the middle section, cut the tape into pieces of about 6" each, threw them into the air, reassembled about 1/5th of them at random and cut it back into the middle of the song. That noise at the beginning is split logs being rubbed together.
"Gut" is a collection of industrial loops with occasional intrusions by a doubled-lap-steel melody. I love it! Not all will feel the same.
"Re-Corrupting Checkerfield" is a good example of how Caroliner could be both rigidly structured and completly loose/random at the same time. The basic song rides along on a cute three-note bass line, but it is constantly interrupted by strange, nonmusical breaks. As it turns out, these breaks were intended to follow this pattern: jazz, country, headache, country, jazz, country, headache. It didn't really matter what the band members were playing per se, as long as it fit the correct mood for each break. On the recorded version, the country breaks feature Brian on viola, Darcy on banjo and Brandan on guitar. The jazz breaks featured Brandan on piano and saxophone. Although I personally can't hear it in the mix, I'm told that Grux poured water into buckets during the verses.
The vocals on "Climbing Jacob's Ladder Through The Fireplace" were performed by Grux with his shirt in his mouth. Mark Davies performs baritone horn and trombone and Brandan plays clarinet. This was the "Haunted House party jazz" I was talking about earlier!
"Brittleback" was played by Brandan on a heavily reverbed Casio with a fair amount of reverb (apparently all of these early organ sounds came from a Casio -- they sound like Church organs to me! Am I dim? Dim I am! That's a palindrome, by the way, although it doesn't read the same way backwards as it does forwards). The hilarious tons of ridiculous clattering noise slammed all over town were created by harmonized cymbals, keychains and dustpans.
The Darcy-penned (musically, anyway) disturbing country-blues "Sullivan's Lower Trunk" features Brandan on lap steel, Darcy on banjo and a slowed-down, heavily-reverbed spring on percussion. The noises at the end are Grux whistling through a ring modulator. At the beginning and end, you can hear a band acquaintance opening and shutting a door she found discarded on a cliff by the beach. The LP comes to a close with "Victory Arm Fence" -- an actual ROCK song! Several overdubs of bass and guitar were used to give it a sense of dynamics and changing tonalities. The break is a bass solo of Grux's taken from some other tape.
Lyrically, one song is about an army making a fence out of the amputated arms of the defeated, another is about a man who can divine water with two shrunken extra limbs hanging between his legs, yet another is about a heavily religious family that follows an angel up into their chimney only to be horribly burned, and a fourth still is about a cripple who earns money by riding around town letting people bet on the roulette wheel that is attached to his back. Other songs discuss other issues, such as the important issue of a couple feeding their son dirt in order that he poop out fresh soil for the crops, but time is of the essence and I must therefore depart this glorious orb for parts known. My sincere hope is that you will seek out this record (now available on CD apparently!) and revel in its glorification. The more you listen to it, the more it makes sense and -- just like with the Sun City Girls -- "normal" music just seems so boring and by-the-numbers in comparison!
The vocals in "Hazel Wet Lap" are unneccesary and almost spoken, until the falsetto choir chorus that can't keep in tune or sync appears. Mark's right in saying that "Child Heart O' Dirt Pump" is pretty catchy, but it's nowhere near my favourite on here, though I could definitely envision it being used in a toilet cleaning advert/commercial (they're asking for it with a song name like that!). My favourites include the sparse, foggy (faggy???), almost-goth rock of "Beetown" ("Beetown"? More like "Ghost Town" if you want to know what this song conjures up!) and the folky "Burdensome Blood" which reminds one of John Fahey, probably a big influence on the Caroliner sound, and includes a chorus similar to that of "Hazel Wet Lap" but far more effective.
"Re-Corrupting Checkerfield" sounds like the TFUL282's "Gentleman's Lament" played out of tune, but my favourite is the title track. It's like a great 80s indie pop tune with Marilyn Manson singing! Hopefully that put off any noise snobs reading this. If not, they'll be pleased to read that "Gut" sounds like early Controlled Bleeding but without the screaming and freeform intensity. "Brittleback" does Henry Mancini proud with a song that's clearly inspired by the Pink Panther theme, but includes some hailstone noise too. Like I said, this record preaches diversity. The sheer wonder of melody combined with anachronistic equipment and production. Old organs and other instrumental textures we associate with olden people and olden times. The final track "Victory Arms Force" starts off sounding like an evil version of the Fall's "Repetition", gets speedier with loud snare bashes and finally turns into Flipper. Once again, great track! Pick this or Quarts of Blood up for your first purchase. If you must get one of the new Caroliner records, do bear in mind that they are in no way reflective of early records such as this (and what is normally considered by fans to be the "classic" Caroliner sound) but still pretty enjoyable in my view if you take them for what they are.
The Cooking Stove Beast (by Caroliner Rainbow Susans and Bruisins) - Nuf Sed 1992
Unfortunately, they sound like SHIT on this album, but hey! Since none of us (you and me) had the chance to see Caroliner in their heyday, we are free to enjoy the record for its many strengths, those being that it seems a bit slower, murkier, more rainy dayish (while still noisy as a barrel of pregnant women), with a few songs giving off the salty feel of the wharf at sea - quite the unexpectedry from the middlin' midland Caroliner boys and girls you've known before! Depression, tons of reverb (as always) and much less "songlike" than the last one. More desolate, dirgey, slow. The mix is incorrigibly bad, but there are some interesting melodic ideas underneath all the grub. The annoying high vocals are far too loud though. "Falsetto'? More like 'Bordello,' if you're asking me where I want to go for dinner!
Whilst we're discussing the band Carolina, let me pause to inform you that they don't make very good "background" music (unless you're in a schizoid asylum of nut jobs rubber room asylum). Until I took the time and effort to sit between my stereo sneakers and listen with love and respect to every one of their records, I was lost in space regarding what the fuckleberry they were trying to accomplish. All the key elements of a real song are THERE - it's just hard to hear if you're not paying close attention. Also, their albums are like paintings; it's a lot easier to "appreciate" them when you know what's going on. So what IS going on? Here, enter my chamber and I'll tell you a tale that will blow your mind.
The basic tracks for some of these songs were recorded in a huge concrete room at the Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard (hence the seayard feel to some of the tracks, perhaps? PERHAPS?) and most of the others were done on a 4-track reel-to-reel at Brandan's 95-room mansion in Sam Frank's Disco. The line-up at this point featured Grux Johnson on bass and vocals, Brandan on guitar and keyboards, Margaret Murray on bass, and New York's very own Eric Cohen on drums and trumpet. The world-famous Dame Darcy was pretty much gone at this point, so don't be looking for her. The Thinking Fellers' Brian Hageman often played viola with the band live at this stage, but I don't think he's on the record. In fact, I'm not even so sure he's on ANY record. As far as I can tell, he's just a fleeting-improvised-man!
AHHHAHAHAHAAA!!! YEAH!!! HOW ABOUT THAT? HOW ABOUT A LITTLE DANIEL PAUL SCHREBER HUMOR FOR THE PEABALLS GALLERY?? "MEMOIRS OF MY NERVOUS ILLNESS"? MORE LIKE "RENOIRS SHOVED UP MY IMPERVIOUS PENIS" IF YOU ASK A RETARDED HOMOSEXUAL!!!!
But let's get to your favorite portion of the review. The track-by-track play-by-play. I will no longer apologize for this part of the review. I've told you vaguely what it sounds like (bassier, dirgier, poorly mixed, sludgier, less musical) -- now I'll take that extra step you generally only expect from people with three legs and WHAM!
The desolate yet wonderfully memorable and sorta like the end of some song I can't quite remember fiddle line of "Fiddle With A Heart Stuck In It" is performed by a tested soul created from the nerves (rays) of Brian Hageman. Margaret blasts some unnerving, steadily volumingly increasing bass feedback, and Brandan closes the loop of genius by playing a waxed string attached to a resonator with the tape at double-speed. You know, like Madonna does in that one song. I feel echoey and on a boat, starving at sea. How do you feel?
Then the rest of side A happens. I have no secrets for you, but I like it! In particular, the endless bass sludger "Whose Name I've Forgotten" makes me feel like I'm in a slowly sinking ship! The constant slowed-down bells and steadily increasing noise, combined with me pouring water down my throat at thirty gallons per minute is what it's all about. Do!
"Brakeman's Ice Skates" was recorded in Darcy's living-room on 4-track cassette right before she went solo (according to Tom Petty, the word on the street had said she might). Brandan banjos his banjo machine, Darcy plays the autoharp, and the funny noises that make the song rule so much ass are a chair being dragged across the floor and a burst of spray from an aerosol can.
Here's a funny fact for funions. "Fixing And Mixing Cracked Skulls" features the first appearance of an enormous theatre organ that weighed about 300 pounds and sounded almost identical to the Casio that the band had used before. It's also one of the greatest songs I've ever heard, and you'd understand why if you were one of the 100 people to buy the album when it came out.
"Hannah's Medicinal Tick Collection" is a real gas (fart) left over from the Rise recording sessions, featuring Eve (the first woman on Earth) on banjo and xylophone, and Brandan "I'm Still Standan" Kearney "I'm Still In Journey" playing spoons, concertina, and two guitars -- one with a fan and one with a vacuum cleaner. He's also playing the harmonium at the end, but it broke right in the middle.
And finally, at long last, "The Swoon Skirt Accompaniment" might be the best tune on here. Brandan Kearney of Caroliner plays a carnival organ, Grux of Jello Biafra with Plainfield performs clangy reverbed percussion, and a talented member of the Bringdownz (who had a hit with "Champagne Supernova" ten years ago) plays a harmonica solo at the beginning. Unfortunately, the tape was accidentally taken out and crumpled severely, burned, stepped on and scraped with razors, so it sounds more like an unrecognizable electronic noise than a harmonica, but that's all for the better!
You need to understand something if you're claiming to be a music fan. There is a difference between "art" and "product." Let me rephrase that. Some people are more concerned with introducing brand new ideas into music than having a career based on imitating the latest trend. As my wife rudely stated last night as I blasted Caroliner until 4 in the morning, "What did they think they would accomplish with this crazy music? Make a million dollars?" Or something. I don't know exactly what she said; her voice is always kinda garbled from having to talk around my penis down her throat. But let's understand each other. This album DOES have faults. The vocals are irritating. Some of the songs go on for far far far far far far far. And the mix is pretty atrocious by the band's own admission. But the IDEAS are there. And they're GOOD ideas! In fact, you'll find more creative noise/composition ideas in ONE Caroliner song than you'll find in all 44 of the "zine" CDs I got for review ! this month PUT TOGETHER. You see, lots of people who play in bands are interested in playing music for a living. Thus, they must create songs that will appeal to a huge cross-section of people all over the world. But creative people with self-respect issues can't do that -- don't WANT to do that. There's a reason I'm not a huge rock and roll star (most people don't like my 1-minute songs built upon as much as I can cram onto a 4-track at the same time!), and the same goes for Caroliner. Even when they have trouble bringing their "vision" onto album form, you can still hear their intelligence and drive to create something that nobody else has created before. Screw around and see what happens! Also there are lyrics, but I didn't read them. Are they good?
Of course they're good! One of the songs is called "The Ballad Of Hamdrags"! Another is called "Keel Over And Cursing"! Another is called "Follow The Mint Brute"! Another is called "Fall Off The Wharf"! So of course they're good. Go onto Subterranean Records' web site right now and buy every Caroliner record. Otherwise - and I'm serious about this - I'm gonna spread a rumor that you nail your sister.
This is where their magic, and they are magic, shines. This is not a band so much as a vision in sound. A very complete and exhaustive vision perhaps born from too many reads through Wisconsin Death Trip without eating in between reads, ever. Listen to ‘Fiddle and you’ll hear intuitive expressive brilliance applied to music. ‘Cracked Skulls is among the most horrifying and awesome things you’ll ever hear. But the highlight to these ears is Huge Gunset where the menace and bombast rings a sonorous death knell for your former opinion of music – this is not their best song – but it might be their heaviest. Just like Flipper sounded giant , scary and strung out – this is even more horrible in the same way. I wish this song was five days long.
The most amazing thing about this record is when you allow them to smooth away your resistance to their surface abrasive bitterness you start to hear it in your head when awake but best when sleeping. I dream new Caroliner songs and shows now and again and they still don’t like me and I still want them to leave my house asap. These nocturnal transmissions are the most awesome visions to ever haunt my sleep – I met Tesco Vee at an imagination Caroliner concert in my dreams and he called me a fag. Now, in my dreams and in reality – when they make records available to me – I don’t give them away any longer.
Since there seems to be no needs to set aside snobbish dickery aside – I’ll say that this band also operates as a great litmus test for taste in music. People that can’t dig Caroliner generally need more skill in listening to music. I wonder if the newer records are also just as good and I’ve yet to prepare myself properly to enjoy then as well – because they don’t compare yet IMO to the first half of their catalog. Doesn’t matter really because the joy I get from listening to Caroliner is probably secondary to the joy I get playing them for my Illegal Immigrant Mexican neighbors at full volume from my 1600watt PA and walking around without my shirt in the yard. SOY SATANAS FLOJO PERO!!!
If the first few saws across the fiddle don’t make you learn how to hear with your nose – go read Shamp of the City Solo and tell me what then.
Caroliner is probably the most American band ever.
Strike Them Hard, Drag Them To Church (by Caroliner Rainbow Wire Thin Sheep Legs Baking Exhibit) - Nuf Sed 1992
Well okay, it's only one song. "Guilty Wind Or Wing." But the screaming redneck congregation of the title track isn't exactly Easy On The Ears (Or In The Sack) either! As a whole, I'd argue that the noises aren't as interesting as on works previous and, as is often the case with lyrically-driven bands, some of the songs go on for far too long, but when this mother (album) is hot, it's REALLY hot. How hot can one album be? Well, for takers, I'm looking at my notes right now and eyeing tantalizing phrases like "Big Disorderly mess of shit!," "Fucked to Hell," "Reminds me of The Shining - that type of intense murderous psychosis," "Sounds like FUNERAL MUSIC w/ a crazy fly buzzing around," "One part of the riff became 'Woo-hoo!' by Blur," "No clear time signature at all," "The melody is far catchier than it has any right being," and of course, my favorite, "I don't like this song." Somebody threw some information on my desk just now, so hot off the presses, here's some information straight from the source.
Oh, I forgot to describe the packaging. It appears to be some other band's album cover with brown construction paper wrapped over it and a big rubber stamped collection of 1800's citizens applied in blue.
The basic tracks for almost all of this album were recorded in the Kearney kitchen or bedroom on 4-track reel-to-reel (just like the Beatles used to make Dr. Peppers!). The line-up is the same as the last album, but with the addition of vocalist Lara Allen, and Jess Goddard on viola, banjo, and keyboards. Apparently, Jess handles a lot of the keyboard work here, not that I've ever met Jess to verify this claim. Perhaps I should phone my lawyer to enquire about the wisdom (wiseness) of posting libelous information without evidence.
My lawyer says, "Who the hell is this? It's 4 AM!" so I think we're fine.
"You're To Make Young Gems" hits things off on an Anton Lavey-style funeral organ note - dark, drunk-sounding and filled with clitter-clattering, slightly reminiscent of Nick Cave's "The Carny" but -- and you won't believe this -- less pretentious. Eric Cohen is swatting maniacally at the strings on a detuned guitar, Brandan is jazzing down the clarinet, and if you listen real real real close, you'll notice that the song starts over halfway through. You see, the musicians hadn't recorded enough music to fit all the lyrics in. If Grux and Lara's backing vocals sound like they were recorded through a small metal pipe leading from the control room to the recording room, that's because they WER!
"Dumhevae" is a truly disturbing conglomeration of psychotic aural ingredients thrown together with no set time signature and topped with layered vocals intoned in the voices of frightened children. The recurring piano motif, recorded by Brandan at Grux's house en route to the studio while the rest of the band waited in the car, sounds so disembodied and ghostly, you'll swear that it's being played by that house in The Amityville Horror! Somewhere in the mix, you'll also find Mark Davies' trombone and Jess's viola. Scary!
RICHARD Scarry, that is!!!
"Loin Loin's Doings" is another demented meisterwerk of organ darkness, and features the first example of a recording technique that would soon be explored much more fully: the antique wire spool recording. Here it's only used for Grux's vocals and Lara's drums. But doesn't it sound eerie though? I mean, the way I'm describing it?
"Guilty Wind Or Wing" is a sloppy redneck country blues rock track from New Orleans, and not at all my type of music. Of note is the fact that Eric performed his part on a child's three-piece drum set while Lara and Brandan threw handfuls of silverware at him.
"Crown Of Awful Ways" is one of the greatest, most driving, uptempo Caroliner songs to date. Even my wife was dancing to its bass/drums cowpunk choogle and pedal steel action. It was recorded in Brandan's bedroom at 1:00 AM, much to the delight of his "straight" neighbors with their three-piece suit. Another great production trick shows up here -- they recorded a bunch of surface noise from an old 78RPM record and eq'd Grux and Lara's vocals to make it sound as though the vocals were pulled from a separate record; the surface noise comes and goes with the vocals to suggest a turntable needle being lifted. It really works!!!
Side B joins the party with a big messy din called "Spiddletop Knuck Knuck." But within that din lies the musical fruits of brain power. In order to get a gamelan sound, Brandan recorded a percussive track of bicycle spokes. Then he did a couple tracks of faux-Tibetan ritual growling by holding a vibrator against his throat (hopefully he CLEANED it first! Ha! A little "smelly pussy dildo" humor for the penis gallery!), added in another recurring piano bit influenced by Dinah Shore's recording of "Blue Canary", and apparently attempted to emulate Peking opera music with clattering percussion and Lara's reverbed backup vocals. Margaret is playing a completely awesome Eddie Van Halen-style busy bass line, but unfortunately it's buried under so much crap you need a stethoscope to hear it.
"Rainbows Made Of Meat" is another of the very few actual ROCK songs recorded by Coalinga. Distorted bass stomp, garage trash sound = Nuggets, by Jove. This was actually one of the earliest Caroliner songs, dating back to 1984 when Gregg Turkington of Bee Gees reviews fame was the band's drummer.
The title track is a mix of the inspired (Grux sang his preacher vocals with his head in a salad bowl filled with water, Brandan added four tracks of beautiful Jackie Gleason-style exotica guitar) and the aggravating (aforementioned redneck choir, two tracks of annoying organ garbage in the incorrect key, a playing time of 9 million years). The song was conceived as a sort of Southern Baptist prayer meeting, and believe me you me - it's every bit as long and tiresome as one. You do get a quick break, however, in the form of a mid-song intrusion song called "Snakebites." An ugly stupid wah-wah hard rock guitar line is buried in hiss as Brandan and Grux yell "Ouch!" at various tape speeds. Presumably this is the point of the Southern Baptist meeting when they start handling snakes? I don't know. Do Southern Baptists handle snakes? I know Jews don't -- they just MARRY them!
(?) We're nearing the end. Open your eyes wider. The rural accomplishment "Coal Mound" features Jess on picked banjo, Eric making elephant noises on a trumpet and the most adorable group vocals to be found on any record ever made. I won't even describe them, they're so adorable. This is another song where the musicians didn't record enough music for all the lyrics. In this case, they recorded an additional version and spliced it in; the difference in sound quality is obvious and hilarious.
The finale is "Horse Flats," a Butthole Surfers/Cows-style distorted swooping bass headbanging smash-rocker - complete with saxophone through a distortion pedal. You can tell that this one was a monster when performed live (apparently it often lasted up to ten minutes or so - and when you hear it, it's easy to see why!), but the drums are buried in this mix so it's a bit less powerful than it could be. Also, the dual shrieked vocals are a nightmare.
What's the deal with a "nightmare"? A "night mare"? What am I, riding around on a horse? And take these "TV Dinners" they have now....
Conclusion: Read the first couple paragraphs again, and imagine how they might read if phrased slightly differently.
There. Now the review is complete, and we can all go to bed. I'll bring the strap-on!
Huh? No, no, I mean the strap-on pillow. It keeps my head from sliding off onto the mattress while I'm asleep.
The Sabre-Waving Saracen Wall (by Caroliner Rainbow Fingers of the Underworld & Their Unbreakable Bones) - Nuf Sed 1992
The speedy viola hoedown "Ark Manager" is another of Caroliner's very earliest compositions, finally transferred onto audiovisual disc for generations hence. Some creature named Roshani Khan performs the viola tracks on here, in what was intended to be an interpolation of Bartok's "Mikrokosmos" and the Skillet Lickers. I can tell just by listening to it.
The half-performed hard rock riff of "Whaur Camp" sounds a little too amateurish and unmysterious for THESE ears (the ones writing this review), but this might be because the band's music doesn't sync up worth a shit with the Big Band tape they found outside the recording studio and tried to pile on top of it.
"Misery Pipe In The Fray" is a highlight of the record and one of the most successful mood pieces that the band e'er created. The story involves an army trumpeter who is forced by an angry soldier into the field of battle, where he is riddled with bullets that he then shoots back out through the trumpet to defeat the enemy. To tell the tale, the band uses Brandan's 300-pound organ (he improvised the organ part in one take at the recording session, making this the only LP track for which he composed the music), and the stirring guest trumpetry of the Bringdownz's Andy di Giovanni and Three Day Stubble's Donald, combined with lonely broom sweeping noises, the flipping of book pages and a variety of triumphant gunshot noises. This song is like a cake of all-natural ingredients -- tastes great AND it's a song!
A really dynamite thing people do in bands is create song titles. Most of them wouldn't use "Fanged Hymen Flee In Terror." Caroliner did though, and the song's snappy organ express train marked Lara's first appearance as lead vocalist. Indie rock nerds may notice that the hard rock midsection is a tribute to the Flesh Eaters' "River of Fever." They might also note that girls don’t like them.
"The Sheueer Cagers" is another piece (like "Gut") that's built on Grux's tape loops. Personally I love both of these tracks; the industrial repetition plays well into the "institutional madness" side of the band. Plus, the duet between Grux and Lara, intended to resemble Blind Willie Johnson and his wife, is a hilarious mix of gruff idiotic shouting and unlistenable caterwauling. Grux plays a Godflesh-style detuned bass, somebody named "Miss Murgatroid" contributes accordion chords and an additional track of accordion wheezing, and each band member gets their own viola solo. I know it sounds like I'm describing Def Leppard's "Foolin'," but the songs actually developed independently of each other.
Side two begins with a blisteringly loud distorted keyboard line playing essentially no melody at all. This is "Day Of The Terrible Cocksuns," a grab bag of Indian chanting, squeaky bug noises, low doom-laden vocals and other unnameable racket all smushed together in the pursuit of nothing at all. The lyrics are hilarious though, concerning themselves with a group of spined aquatic creatures that jump up and poke your eyes out if you pee in their pond.
The rockin' swingin' guitar-filled "Prune Picking Huge Hand" apparently includes noises from an amazing Jess-brained contraption to be described in the next sentence, but I personally can't make it out among the din of guitar racket. Jess had made a book in which she'd glued dozens of strips of 1/4" tape. Then she took a glove and put a cassette playback head in the fore-finger, which went through some sort of amplification circuit; there was a speaker mounted on the back of the glove. She would put her finger against the strips of tape and drag it along, and the sound came out of her hand. Isn't that neat? Why don't you ever do anything like that? (Unless you're Jess, reading this.)
Next on our countdown is "My Little Lips," whose organ line (aside from Jess's dark intro) sounds to me like either a continuation or ripoff of "Fanged Hymen" from the previous side. Interesting production note: Grux's vocals were recorded with a regular microphone by his lips and a contact mic on his throat; during mixdown, they were faded back and forth. Also, collectors of cello music be warned: the "cello" in this song is actually Roshani's viola recorded at double-speed.
If you've ever heard the expression "You're cruisin' for a bruisin'," then you're already halfway to enjoying "Susans and Bruisins." This catchy tune was recorded at the same time and place as "Whaur Camp" and thus unfortunately comes across just as lifeless, false and amateurish.
"Hernia Milk & The Milk Queen" jumps back and forth unnaturally (and laugh-quite-loudlily) between Minneapolis noise grunge and 1930's cartoon music before ending in a Jess-performed piano rag composed by the late Scott Joplin. Lara sings it like a cantankerous old biddy, and Grux blasts your teen ears with his distorted sex bass.
The title track is very fractured, incomplete and disturbing; Grux's retarded man vocals and retarded piano accompaniment, complemented by sick clicking slaughterhouse sounds, recurring industrial noise and acid-drenched organ add up to a real Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the ears.
And finally at the end of the album is a dreamily phased organ drone that will envelope you with its hypnotic, wavering tone and vocals that go from the highest of highs to the lowest of highs in the same line. This was performed by Brandan and Grux, and after decades of contemplation was finally entitled "River Wearing Children Limbs."
Most of these lyrics make no sense to me; they're all obscure observations of mythical beasts, and I'm no fantasy man (yeah, try telling that to the ladies I've bedded, balled and beaten up). Drastic changes would possibly soon take hold of the band, so be sure and grab this one before another day goes by. As Graeme Edge says in the 1981 Moody Blues tour-de-force "22,000 Days," "It's not a lot, it's all we've got - 22,000 days."
Anyway, I've heard one song off of what appears to be their most recent album (Transcontinental Pinecone Collectors, I think, is the name), which is a funny bunch of noise with a ragtime piano line popping up off and on throughout, and one song off of this album, "The Sabre-Waving Saracen Wall," from their MySpace page.
"My Little Lips" has got to be one of the most incomprehensibly frightening things I have ever heard in my life. Over a funereal cathedral organ and some bowed viola or cello waaayyyy in the background, some midget psychopath warbles and gurgles out something just this side of actual language that you can't really understand, interrupted by bursts of extremely tape-manipulated noise. I don't even know why I'm impressed by it - normally I'd find this kind of shit unbearable, but I think it has to do with the fact that the cathedral organ is actually melodic. It sounds like the ultimate horror-movie soundtrack, because it's actually really scary and it's nonplussing as fuck.
I don't know whether I'm going to get anything by these guys, seeing as I don't have a turntable and I think they only release their albums on vinyl, but this is really interesting, if not exactly lovable. Absolutely bizarre and inaccessible, but really good...I think.
Bank Notes, Dreams & Signatures (by Caroliner Rainbow Scrambled Egg Taken For a Wife) - Nuf Sed 1994
Perhaps the best way to describe this sensation is through metaphor and/or analogy (hopefully non-hyperbolic): When you're really drunk and it's midnight dark, you look at a mysterious woman through the haze and find her interesting, nee beautiful. You can only half make her out through the clove smoke and the knapsack she wears over her face, but it's this very mystery that you find so alluring that your love handles reach for her through the gentleness of the night. Then you wake up the next day sober, look at her in the sparkling reality of daylight and realize that she's as beautiful as you ever imagined.
In terms of analogy, that probably wasn't the greatest possible conclusion, but it just seemed too mean to have you wake up and find her ugly. I want you to be happy, at all times and in all areas of your life (including career and medical disability). As a further analogy, it's kinda like when you put on an old Caroliner album and go, "Wow! This sounds like it was recorded in the 1800s by lunatics! Everything is reverbed, creaky, croaky, dark, dank and filled with unreliable flibbles!" HOLY FUCKING CHRIST, SOMETHING JUST OCCURRED TO ME. I BET YOU A HUNDRED DOLLARS THAT THE THINKING FELLERS MADE MOTHER OF ALL SAINTS SOUND THE WAY IT DID BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO SOUND MORE LIKE CAROLINER. Either that or the engineer's ears suffered from hygiene malaise (wax). Back to the point, this album (or at least my CDR copy of it) sounds too clear -- so clear that you can tell what most of the noises are -- and every song has the same production sound, having been recorded on th! e same machine during the same period. By allowing their music to be more clearly heard, Caroliner unfortunately also makes it clear exactly how unrehearsed a band they are. Instead of a confusing cloud of audio jibberish, too many of these tracks sound like "an adequate 'post-modern, experimental' college band that throws unnecessary noise on top of their melodies." And though even an asshole can tell that a full half of these 14 tracks are defined nationally as "terrific," the album taken in its entirety is a slight disappointment, and definitely the least 1800s-sounding Caroliner recording since the debut. Let us explore possible reasons for this.
(*a few minutes pass*)
(*you whip out your pud and start urinating all over your foot*)
JESUS! WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU!?
(*a few more minutes pass in uncomfortable silence*)
(*you take an overdose of morphine; die*)
Okay, I'll start. After the last album, lead singer/band spokesperson Grux bought an 8-track reel-to-reel and mixing board so the band could record and mix its own records without going to Greg Freeman's studio. Plus, more personnel shifts: Eric Cohen left even before the previous LP was finished, and the one-and-only Phil Franklin took his place on drums. Grux then invited Chris Cooper onboard, who traded off bass and guitar duties with Brandan (and also recorded/mixed four or five of the songs). Lara stayed on for a while as second singer/fourth bassist, then left to pursue other interests. Musical prodigy Cheryl Leonard then joined on tapes and violins, along with violaist Deb Fox. On the surface, none of these changes mean anything; they're just a bunch of useless names that don't mean shit. But ah! Lo, but what those very names we foolishly laugh off truly MEANT to the future present of San Francisco's touring and recording Caroliner musical unit! For you see - oh, what the hell am I saying? Grux wrote all the goddamned songs anyway! Maybe he was in more of a rockin' roll mood this go-round. Let's get to the songs. It's 1:04 AM and I have to get up for work in about five minutes. I'm not complaining about my amazing ability to draft record reviews during the REM phase of slumber, but it sure would be nice to wake up without all these waffle-like indentations on the side of my face for once.
"In The Land of Disturbance (The Indian Home)" is a fast punker, then "Wire Thin Sheep Legs" slows things down for a smooth rock groove, then "Salt Lumps" is a really fast happy punker with - PSYCH!!!!!
It's true. I'm thinking of going back to school to try to become a psychiatrist. Do you know anyone in medical school? Is it as much of a ballsqueeze as everybody says? I'm tired of doing PR. PR is for mongrels, and I'm no mongrel: I'm a well-groomed fop dandy, destined for greater stations.
"In The Land Of Disturbance (The Indian Home)" sounds like an attempt to emulate the great Don Van Vliet. Not a bad idea except that the "extended noise odyssey" in the middle is really, really boring.
The wonderful banjo/guitar condestruction of gentle melody known as "Wire Thin Sheep Legs" leads to further enjoyment of intellectual pursuit when you learn that (a) instead of a vocal microphone, Brandan plugged a huge extension speaker from a 1940s 16mm film projector into the board (hence the jaw-smashingly hilarious multi-delay reverb on Grux's scream) and (b) the drums were recorded with a pair of swinging microphones. That's right! The mics were screwing each others' wives!
"Salt Lumps" -- What can be said about "Salt Lumps"? Phil's awesomely propulsive swinging traps, Lara's oldtimey jazz falsetto vocals, Jess's Sun Ra-style organ and viola, Grux's wildass swingtime bass, Brandan's adequate guitar.... I conclude that nothing at all can be said about "Salt Lumps." Other than that I used to be in a band called "The LuMP" and we all felt a bit salty at times.
"Horsemeat Selling Roses" could rock, but doesn't. I blame the bass line, which doesn't really come into its own until the last 20 seconds of the song. Lara's sleighbells are lovely though, and Jess's rollicking oldtimey piano line was made for you and me (specifically me).
"Pumpkin-Headed Kids With The Horsemane Hair" was unfortunately distorted quite a bit in the mastering process, mainly because the shrinking of opportunities from 16-track to 8-track recording resulted in Lara and Grux's separate bass lines winding up on the same track. For his vocal, Brandan shoved Grux's head into a stovepipe, had him sing into a piece of shit disguised as a microphone, and removed all the low end.
The organ-blistered hard rocker "Bullets Instead Of Teeth" features Jess working a player harmonica (which apparently takes miniature player-piano rolls and is cranked with the thumb and index finger -- who dreams up such crazy inventory?)
Whether it's a semantic josh or mere happenstance, "Odd Friends Reverie Gravesite For Thoughts" sounds quite the large bit like the Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 ("Oddfellows Local 151"? Surely Caroliner isn't above a Stipe-inspired pun or two). Lara plays bass, Jess and Cheryl play viola. So that mystery is solved.
"Beeline For The Wet Spot" is a drum-driven rocker mixed in such a way as to pay tribute to Helios Creed's Chrome. Cheryl and Jess are strapping on the viola, Lara plays bass yet again, Brandan's playing guitar with the edge of a coin, and Jess is rendering the song 100% unlistenable with an attention-stabbing theremin scream all song through.
"The Worst Of Toys" is a surf-spy attack Carolinered all up by grotesque phlegmy vocals and a track of Chris and Jess rubbing balloons with their fingers. That's an awesome Flaming Lips album, incidentally - Rubbing Balloons With Your Fingers. Brandan is on bass. In order to get the slowly brightening snare sound at the beginning, he put a towel over the snare and pulled it off gradually. Take THAT to the bank, Steve Albini! Don't cash it though; that would be a total sellout.
Title track: Chris and Brandan on acoustic guitars, www.aspma.com founder Phil Milstein on singing saw, a broken quartz heater belonging to sound artist Larney Fox on harsh grinding sound, Roshani and Deb on viola duets, Jess on viola solos, Jess on high piano note intended to represent a cash register (while at the same time sounding not one iota like a cash register -- Christ, haven't you people heard Dark Side Of The Moon?). Take special note of the song's many breaks, for they are supposed to have different moods. The slow one that makes you cry was inspired by the Brothers Quay short Street Of Crocodiles, another is supposed to bring up fond memories of Vivaldi -- all improvised, of course! The vocals were recorded through the projector speaker I noted with glee earlier.
"Poat Room" is the most professional sounding Caroliner track ever recorded. This drony, sorrowful viola/clarinet collaboration sounds identical to late-period Swans -- a rare example of the enhanced sound quality "doing the band a solid." Shit man. I haven't even mentioned a thing about how the clean sound hurts the overall album. Mainly it's that it often makes them sound too much like a normal indie band. I've said that, right? You can imagine this music actually being created by 1990s human beings in San Francisco, which cannot be said about any other Caroliner record. But you gotta try everything once, they say! Tonight's heroin/gay sex night.
"Bring Culture To The Treetops" isn't one of my favorites. Chris mixed the first half, Brandan mixed the second half and Mills College music instructor William Winant contributes some ace marimba (pet detective).
Finally, the album doesn't end yet with the album's ONLY SOLE 1800s TRACK, "Eggwipe." This is the Caroliner I love -- an old-timey guy plucks his banjo at home while scientists develop UFO technology in the mysterious humming building across the field. WIRE SPOOL ROOLS! For more on wire spool, see the next album review.
The album ends with the noisy simplistic "Can't Smell Water." I myself would menstruate to prolong the existence of tracks 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 11 and 13. The other tracks are likable, but not lovable. And I have science on my side, backing up my groundless, subjective opinion with cold, hard, undeniable facts. For example, did you know that "Odd Friends Reverie Gravesite For Thoughts" is made out of poison? Who could like THAT? Try some liberal folksy treehugger like John Edwards, because I believe in America. The TRUE America -- the one that brought us tracks 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 11 and 13.
Split EP (with Culturcide) - Birdman 1994
People only change their minds about something, or become willing to try something new, if they are influenced to do so. Occasionally this influence will come from within due to boredom or curiosity, but when it doesn't, the external influence has to be one that makes them feel comfortable and accepted. Otherwise they will be further pushed away from "that new thing or idea," figuring that everybody who is into it is an arrogant blowhard asshole.
That's my thought anyway, you sister-fucking pedophile limp dick. I've seen your dick. It's TINY! You're such a loser, you can't even masturbate right! Now let's talk about this shingle.
Side one is by Carolina. It features two tracks in which Grux yells in a stupid voice really loud over some great banjo and Felt Pelt violin tracks recorded into the cheapest mono telephone (into the broadcast of The Boston Music Hour live radio show) that money is unnecessary to buy. But track three - MAN! Track three is one of those sound collages that makes your bowels bust lose. Read it as I wrote it for it was not a typo. "Bust lose." It has character. It makes the unconscious mind imagine a woman undergoing a mastectomy. It's "all about the Reagans," as far as I'm concerned. Look at me! I'm Johnny Ramone and I think Reagan was great because I'm a caricature of a human being! Luckily I'm dying of ass cancer!
Side B is occupied by a band called Culturcide. Completely unexpectedly proudly excitingly wonderfully goodly, their two live tracks (recorded one day before my birthday - thanks for the lack of gift ASSHOLES) are pretty great takes on the early Warsaw/Joy Division mope-punk-drone-bass sound. I say (adverbs) because Culturcide is the very same band (or single human being) responsible for the single most pathetic, unintentionally hilarious FAILURE of a CD in my collection, Tacky Souvenirs Of Pre-Revolutionary America. It features the obvious moronic faux-profundities of some 12-year-old dumbfuck singing his "socially conscious" lyrics over hit songs of the mid-80s in his tuneless hick voice of stupid assholishness. But these two songs are actually really good original compositions! Perhaps each Culturcide release is performed by an entirely different artist?
My wife just informed me that Carly Simon has also enjoyed a mastectomy or two in her day. My uproarious response was to sing the Culturcide-esque parody, "You're So Lacking Of Boob." Nobody laughed and at the end of the day, WWIII took place and we wound up as Sex Negatives who couldn't make love without becoming violently ill. Luckily we captured and enslaved all the Sex Positives and forced them to perform sex acts onstage for us at Cafe Mesh. That's right: Cafe Mesh. If you heard different, FUCK YOU.
Jokes about adult films are hilarious. Why did I bother "reviewing" this piece of crap? Oh! Now I can remember! Now I can remember!
It's because I'm durnk.
Rings on the Awkward Shadow (by Caroliner Rainbow Grace Blocks Used in the Placement of the Personality) - Bull's Hit 1994
Here's the reason for the season: Rings On The Awkward Shadow was recorded by Chris Cooper onto eight-track like a normal album you might hear about someplace, but then the entire thing was dumped onto wire spool recorder! And I don't mean one of those fancy 10,000-track wire spool recording studios like the kind U2 record in - this recorder was sort of an early antique dictaphone that LITERALLY records onto a piece of WIRE. So the recording went from normal stereo sound to a mono recording intended solely for speech, with NO frequency response for anything outside the range of ordinary human speech. It's basically equivalent to recording on tinfoil. As such, most of the actual "music" was completely obliterated, leaving behind a steadily fading in-and-out collection of strange brapfs, nearly unlistenable organ- or violin-sounding expressions of chord change and screamed vocals so trebly you're lucky your dick doesn't fall off from hearing it. Grux, Cheryl, Deb, Jess, Chris, Phil, and William Winant played the music but I'll be cold-steered up a hooker's eyeslab if I know what any of them did on it. They didn't respond to my email, if I sent them one. Incidentally, I'm told that this was intended to be a completely acoustic single album until fate intervened and paid for an additional album.
A few other "Fun Facts" about this record:
- That's what I wish I could provide. Unfortunately I can't, so I'll just share with you some notes I wrote down, for a better gist of what horrors await you in store:
- violins, repetitive blooping electronic noises, then a horn, a helicopter noise, organ. or is it a trumpet?
- xylophone? Or beating on glasses? Something that sounds like a bee. Interesting, but is there even a SONG in there?
- Foghorn blowing, rumbling noise, everything distorted to hell! Weird transmissions like a motorboat or lawn mower. Industrial, I guess? Into very catchy xylophone! Slide exotica guitar?
- Female vox over cow "moo" noises.
- Horse clomping noises.
- The sound of someone dropping a phone receiver? Neat tooting thing near the end.
- Bouncy piano rag! Electric tones. Rag gets stuck and different piano notes (lower ones) come on top, along with more noise. Then rag speeds up, slows down, gets messy. Then tugboat whistles (ocarina?). Adorable!
- A Recordio Disc!- Crispity crunchity, then blank air. Odd noises. More space. Splishy water noise. Static death. Lone organ/accordion every once in a while, then some incredibly loud racket. What the hell is all this hissy noise?
That's it, my friends! The most ???? release yet by the world's most ???? band. I refuse to award more than a 7 because the songs go on too long considering you can't hear what's going on in them. But you should buy it and use it as the soundtrack to your next horror movie!
No not you, M. Night Watermelon. The Village literally jumped off the screen and sucked the shit out of my fucking ass!!!!
Adobe Horse Heaven 7" - La Brea 1995
Sell Heal Holler (by Caroliner Rainbow Customary Relaxation of the Shale) - Bull's Hit 1996
Things went awhirl personnel-wise on Seal Hell Holler, with Grux doing the recording and mixing himself for the first time since Rear End Hernia Puppet Show. Brandan appears on a paltry ONE track (or maybe two...he can't remember, and isn't even sure if his contributions ever made it to the final mix), playing rotten Rolling Stones-esque rock guitar alongside Chris "Ronnie" Cooper "Wood" on the hilarious "Damsels In Short." Some woman named Kris sings lead on "Surgur Ax Smiths." Phil's still on drums though he's nearly inaudible through most of the record. Not sure who else played on this thing. Cheryl? Jess? I know they were still in the band at the time, but the lack of musician credits really hits home in the gut this time around town.
I enjoy this release. I'll be honest with you. It's not every person in the world who could so alienate Jello Biafra that the man absolutely refuses to submit to an interview, going so far as to ask the zine publisher if a DIFFERENT interviewer could be put on the story (!!!!), but I managed such a feat and am thus one to be taken seriously and with great care. The things I like about Sale Hale Hooler are several-fold but include the following observations on my part: (A) The band has retreated from both the "not murky and mysterious enough" feel of Bank Notes and the "unlistenably murky and mysterious" sound of Rings Around (as well as the "not actually Caroliner at all" tone of Adobe Horse Heaven) to the early '90s muffly, noiseful mess of old-timey recording sound. (B) They've introduced electronic UFO sci-fi noises into their "heady brew," most effectively in "My Buck's a Greasy Gray Gift Given in Exchange for Passage Examination," which sounds to all ears and comers like a '50s greaser couple engaging in a heated argument while under the influence of CIA-sponsored LSD experimentation. (C) Terrifical soundscapes! Ranging the gamut from sub-Weill woodwind/brass sailors' tooting (the opening track "Horse Cannons" sounds like Tom Waits after a massive stroke has rendered him 'outsider artist' status!) to fractured droning sorrow ("The Superflous Snap Pipes the Veteran Lung" is fractured droning sorrow!) (Oh, I just said that. FUCK!), with several stops among loud hammering footseps, haunted door creakings, gunfire, Jews harp, swingin' banjo toe-tappers and disorienting cut-and-paste loop techniquery, this album showcases the band's amelodic crash-and-rot in a way that is surprisingly pleasant on the ears! And finally (D), Grux avoids all contact with his renowned spine-ripping falsetto scream vocals. Instead, he treats us to a wide variety of drunken loose screws sharing tales of woe - the drunken sailor man, the porkchop-sideburned '50s guy, the phlegm-encrusted old fogey, the Tom Jones Vegas entertainer, the slow-speaking deranged oaf, the several women not portrayed by Grux, and of course best of all,
So you see see are (fogey, Tom - as I made clear in the previous sentence), I like loops, I like fuzz, I like confusion, I like musical expression that's a little out of the ordinary and most importantly, I pissed off Jello Biafra so much that he wants nothing to do with me!
Which is fine because he's a gay arrogant hypocrite. Hey, thanks! No please! Now!
Our American Heritage, Vol. One (by Caroliner Singing Bull of The 1800s Memorial Band) - Bull's Hit 1996
That's right: Caroliner is no longer just a pile of highest-technology studio trickery and assfuckery. This time they're out on the road -- mostly the Bank Notes line-up, after Lara quit but before Kris joined -- and ROCKING ASS!!!! Scott Colburn (best known as the Fourth Sun City Girl) compiled the tapes, going through over sixty hours of recordings. Dang then narrowed down the selection to 14 songs (three from Armed With Qts, 2 each from Woodpile, Cooking and Sabre, 1 each from Rear, Strike, Bank and Rings and a catchy fiddle tune called "Wrap Your Rattler Bring Your Coat" from Goodness knows where), and added 10 tracks of line noise, feedback, mistakes and booming bass humming, under the auspices of sharing the "solo" creations of such band members as Tip The Scales My Wayne, Darrieny Diddle-O, Soakmadill and Brazen And Meticulous Pintle.
The band could play, dude! The piano, banjo and fiddle work are pure musicianship, the blues rockers actually ROCK (and BLUE) and the swoopy echoey guitars lead us to Temptation, delivering us from and so on. It's surprising to hear how competently they played in a live situation considering how many pounds of black-lit crap they were all wearing during every show. Not just that but every touring band has its "fair shair" of crazy happenings, unexpected bloopers and crazy goings-ons. For example, several band members recall a show in some Mission District dive in which a performance of "Dusk" resulted in a crazy, nonstop pulsing feedback sound that seemed like it had ripped the tops of their skulls open and SHAT inside! Another unexpected incident involved a song begun by all band members at once - so loudly that one of the players blew out his inner ear and fell over. Didn't even wobble -- just tipped over like a tree! Seven or eight band members recall the loudest conce! rt of all time being performed in an old beer tank under a Cincinnati sidewalk. They actually had to lower themselves through a hole to get into it. It was so small --- ("How small was it?") -- that when it sat AROUND the house, it sat Rasjk
It was so small that they had to stack their amps on top of each other. It was about the size of an apartment bathroom or two! With curved cement walls. Aye yi yo! Shake your foundations indeed! Four hundred other members can't stop talking about how they kept their props in a kind-hearted but mentally troubled man's garage. But this wasn't just ANY kind-hearted mentally troubled person - this kind, generous, big ol' nice crazy white guy refused to pee in the toilet, instead doing his business in a refrigerator drawer. As if THAT wasn't enough urine for our young people, there were dogs (whom I love, in general) upstairs who cleared their bladdders through the wooden floor, dripping onto the props. There was so much urine in the room that crystallized wee covered everything. The Caroliners had to take a deep breath, hold it in and run aside to grab their props as quickly as they could to avoid the indescribable stink. The owner of the building was even more of a fluffernut: a crazy Mississippi man who waved a track-running gun around all the time and had a giant 20' gun over the toilet room. But that's life in a travellin' band!
I know how you usually avoid live albums because they sound like weaker versions of studio material, but if you're a Caroliner fan, the live album is pretty much a necessity. You get to hear how the songs are actually supposed to SOUND! No tape burning or singing through a pipe in the floor -- this is all LIVE LIVE LIVE!
I mean, yeah they just danced and sang over pre-recorded tapes, but they did so LIVE LIVE LIVE!
Just to let you know that "Wrap Your Rattler, Bring Your Coat" is off some split EP Caroliner did with a band called Eeyore Ass Guzzler. It's on Soulseek somewhere, but all you need to know is that the Eeyore Ass Guzzler song kicks ass and beats off. Apparently it was a one-off release and I can't find anything in the way of information about this "group" who are probably just Caroliner in hot female drag. See, it's on the singles discography page:
Lower Intestinal Clocks & Gut (by Caroliner Rainbow Stand Still or Fight Beans and Sunstroke) - Bull's Hit 1998
Hello there. My name's 85-Year-Old Mark Prindle and I'm here to tell you a little bit about our nation's current president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Assuming the Presidency at the Depression of the Great American fear, Franklin D. Roosevelt helped the American depth thing regain themselves. He brought in as he promised prompt people action, and asserted in his vigorous hope, "The only Inaugural Address we have to fear is faith itself."
"Gut" reworks the loop-based Common Woodpile track into an overwrought yet at times starkly intriguing piece of work that I might label "'70s King Crimson Goes Industrial." Flittering back and forth between lovely, lonely violin passages and distorted guttural trudge noise merged with high-end electronic beeping, the track could have been a masterpiece at half the length. Instead, one finds I relieved when the side finally ends (which occurs only when the phonograph needle runs into the label! Ha!).
"Lower Intestinal Clocks" is more difficult and vastly less fulfilling in that it never actually develops into a song at all. It's just a 25-minute grab box of tuba noise, choo choo train clattering, rumbling undercurrents, strange rubbery sounds, slowed-down walrusy roars, sampled loops, tuneless toy piano picker-packering, foghorn toots, scrapy racket and unstructured science fiction bleeps. The only moment that really makes my ears perk up is a bit near the middle-to-end when a couple of cartoony organ motifs appear in the murk (leading me to label this side "Industrial Cartoon Soundtrack"). Otherwise the entire experience makes one yearn for the simpler melodic Caroliner days of yesteryear, when the family could sit by the fire and hum a merry air.
You know, like "Grave Are the Hairs Our Asses." Or "The Cellar With The Intestinal Relief." Remember how Gramps used to sing that one by the waterplace? I don't. My paternal grandfather died of a heart attack before I was born and the other one was a nonsense-screaming invalid thanks to a couple of strokes.
Fuckin' Albert Hammond Jr.!
Toodoos - Bull's Hit 2000
If you're in the business for spooky Haunted House tunes that are more atmosphere than music, Toodoos will probably appeal to you just fine. It certainly finds its theme early on and sticks to it. But to me, a pretty clear analogy can be drawn to the Residents, who began their career as an instrumentally creative and talented group of musicians creating astonishing, groundbreaking art like The Third Reich 'N' Roll, only to eventually deteriorate into one guy playing an organ and singing in a dumb hick voice. THAT'S Toodoos. Right down to the occasional female singer, Toodoos is Caroliner's Cube E Live In Holland. Even more depressing, they take the ONE fully composed full-band track -- a potentially EXCELLENT bombastic emotional anthem called "Why So Crookee?" -- and bury the whole goddamned thing in electronic feedback. Way to "keep it unpolished," guys! I'll be sure to "polish" it up for you before posting it on eBay.
Oh, there's also a lot more electronic UFO noise on here, as well as three or four explosions of either purposely or unpurposely Florence Foster Jenkins-reminiscent "operatic" vocalizing by whatever female woman was still in the band at the time. Imagine Tiny Tim with a vagina, and you'll get the picture.
Actually, imagine Tiny Tim with a vagina, but then with a ballsac hanging under the vagina.
There. Isn't that a hilarious image? I'm gonna think about that all day now.
To sum up -- electronic storm clouds of ghostly ethereal threatening static noise atop a bad female opera singer, a guy faking a hick accent, several half-written organ lines and a bunch of other instruments playing nothing even remotely resembling countermelody. Is it one of the worst records I've ever heard? No, it's not. In fact, I basically love the first two songs and see great potential in five others. Plus the moody cloudy obscurantive production is in Full House Effect. However, it seems like they put about as much effort into the songwriting as a professional bowler puts into his tree surgery skills.
That's right! His TREE SURGERY skills! And THAT, my friends, is what you'll learn when you enroll in Mark Prindle's Analogy School Of Analogy Building School!
I played on this LP (recorded in 1997). There were quite a few songs recorded at the time that didn’t make the album--don’t know why. They were excellent.
Wine Can't Do It, Wife Won't Do! (by Caroliner Rainbow Brain Tool Imbued With Rust And Mold) - Bull's Hit 2003
The most obvious compliment I can make about Winos Did My Wife is that it's not just a bunch of organ songs like the last album. Instead, it's a mixture of distorted-bass-driven rock-style songs (along the lines of Rear End Hernia, I suppose) and unpleasantly clickety-clackety noisy things. Believe this me you -- if you like noise, you will LOVE this record -- it may be their noisiest release yet. Unfortunately, or rather " -- unfortunately -- ," as I suggested above, too much of the noise seems completely random, as if the band members just couldn't pull their ideas together into a cohesive package. The overall concept of the work appears to be "I'll scream in a high falsetto and play a little semi-hook on one instrument while the rest of you 'musicians' make no attempt to follow a rhythm or add anything that might constitute 'countermelody' or 'something that doesn't sound like shit.'"
Although there are a few tunes where everything comes together with brilliant clarity and 1800s/sci-fi rock diversity (the folksy banjo "Who's Gotten My Teething Cotton," sorrow-dripping "Crumblelegs And Cabins," swingin' instant Caroliner classic "Horse Rider Suit" and completely psychopathic cuckoo clock gamelan "Terror Watch At The Thumb Sized Sea"), the band RARELY supports Grux's basic ideas as intelligently as past band line-ups have done. In fact, some of the best bass lines of the band's career are completely destroyed by do-nothing arrangements of mindless strumming and smashing (as in "Sign The Coffin And Be Done With Me," "Quelling Gums" and "Terrible Hunger For The Perfected Pie" -- the latter of which, incidentally, is about a squirrel with 12 heads who tries to dig under a house to get to a tasty-smelling pie in the kitchen... because he can't figure out how to use the window).
Here's something interesting through, straight from the band's horse's mouth! In the track "Red Lamp of Slow Willed Souls," there is a wooden door chunk being knocked on while the drums are rolling near the beginning around 30 seconds into it. Elsewhere, singer Grux had a fat lip at the end of the song because he didn't use a tremelo device to sing through; it is a flat headed microphone he's slamming into his mouth --quickly.
At the risk of sounding like I'm as big of a prick as my huge fuckin' cock is, I sorta have to conclude that this particular Caroliner line-up just isn't a very strong one. I honestly have no clue who plays on it, but they're either incapable of coming up with smart ways to enhance Grux's work or are refusing to stand up for themselves to prevent the work from turning into self-indulgent time-wasting Japanese noise nonsense. I honestly don't think it's a terrible record (though my wife did walk up to the turntable and yell "ASSHOLE!" in the middle of side two) -- I just think it has too many terrible songs on it. Seriously, 9 out of these 21 tracks are absolutely fucking horrible sonic creations. Here are a few of my notes taken during last listen: (Play a little game and see if you can figure out which songs I'm describing!)
"Godawful mess. What is WRONG with these people!?! Shit! Bad melody!".....
"Banjo clatter, low bassy Satan vox, NO MELODY."....
"Dark eastern loop, stupid overloud falsetto shit vox, banjo garbage racket, drum racket, GOD HIS VOCALS SUCK SO BAD! Complete waste of a good loop"....
"More tuneless clanking shit. Female vox through closed wah over clankity tuneless SHIT NOISE! JUST HORRIBLE SHIT!"....
"Not terribly melodic in any way. More like opera concrete".....
"High organ drone, unmusical swatting at banjo strings (that's the hook!), the banjo starts playing blues hook! Organ too! Vox too! Unfortunately it's quickly buried in noise. Then feedback rumble buries everything. SONG SUCKS. VERY ANNOYING.".....
"It's 'We Must Bleed' played in a different rhythmic pattern! And it's on here TWICE!"....
"NONE of this goes together. Not good! Accordion comes in - no melody!".....
"Again, only the least of all melodies. A couple of organ notes, vox follow nothing, water drums?, then banjo w/ someone bashing a mic loudly, signal noise, back to shitty two notes -- it IS a melody; just a fractured, not very catchy one. A big unpleasant mess."
Actually, that last one is a nice way to summarize the entire LP: A Big Unpleasant Mess, abbreviated as "A BUM." It would be "ALBUM," but it annoyed the "L" out of me!
I kinda had the stretch the old brain to make something happen there. I hope it made some sort of sense, in a kind of "That guy's a genius, let's make him President" way.
An 1800's Affectuant in Instrumental Revue - Bull's Hit 2004
Now that we've all shared a hearty laugh together, let's review an album. If you must know, it's pretty much split lengthwise between Anton Lavey-style Satanic carnival organ compositions (a couple of which are remarkably catchy and should have been turned into real songs) and what their friends in The Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 call "Feller Filler": wonderful but fleeting moments of brief inspiration pulled out of the band's collective ass during otherwise depressing improvisational practice jams. Five of these "Caroliner Finers (?)" could even be referred to as "rockers," though I wouldn't call them that too loudly with all these Mods hanging around.
If you're fine with a few pleasant keyboard lines and an occasional catchy bass hook, you'll probably enjoy this release and Phil Collins just fine, but if your idea of Caroliner involves anything remotely 1800s-sounding or creative, you don't need it. The majority of the material is as sparklingly dull as Lavey, as crisply executed as McVeigh and as extraneous as an entire disc of a guy fucking around on an organ.
Not that I'm knocking that particular activity. After all, if my ex-wife hadn't fucked around on so many organs, I'd probably have to get a job!
I don't actually have an ex-wife.
2010 UPDATE: I NOW HAVE AN EX-WIFE.
Oh yeah, I saw Caroliner on tour last year, and live, they DID play actual songs, and the band was very good, I still haven't heard the newest album, but I'm guessing Grux just wanted to make a noise album.
Hey, that's hilarious that Jello Biafra refuses to be interviewed by you! Did he give any reasons?
Transcontinental Pinecone Collector (by Caroliner Rainbow Solid Handshake & Loose 2 Pins) - Bull's Hit 2005
Banjo, piano, church organ, drums, bass, violin, falsetto vocals and both acoustic and electric sound effects are all brought out of the dusty old trash car to play you such Top 40 Dance Hits as:
- Spike Jones gone avant-garde "Yearly Ongoing Bridgesnap" hoedown!
- Ghostly vocal-driven "Transcontinental Pinecone Collector" drone'n'scrape!
- Bouncy mental illness "Straw Prisoner Raised An Alarm" organ march!
- Barroom piano pop "The Scallous Game" cacophonous disaster!
- Deranged vomitous "My Own Jingle Bones!" organ swing!
- Fever delusion "Salted & Starved" punk rock!
At the risk of comparing new things to old things, these six tracks would've fit in perfectly on any of the classic-era Caroliner records. In other words, an entire half of Transcontinental Pinecone Collector is as idiosyncratic and inanely hooky as anything you'll find on Strike 'Em Hard, Drag 'Em To Church, I'm Armed With Quarts of Blood or Rise of the Common Woodpile. This is a wonderful and unexpected development to be noted and cherished!
As such, it seems churlish to complain that the other half of the record comprises (a) songs that eventually degenerate into complete noise, and (b) songs that don't even need to degenerate to become complete noise. But I'm a "Churly Man," as Arnold Schwarzenegger might say, so I'll go on record with my complaint that no matter how fanciful and novel the noises are at times, they are never interesting enough to drag on for 3-5 minutes without a hint of melody. This amateurish smash-bash racket is exactly why every other Caroliner release of the last fifteen years has been such a disgrace and disappointment! Who needs it, this noise? Noise is for factories and asshole birds.
Now here's a delightful game I've made up called "Caroliner or Steve Miller Band?" Your goal here is to guess which of the following song titles can be found on Caroliner's Continental Pinecone Collector and which can be found on albums by Steve Miller. Go!
- "Water Jaws Aflame"
- "Baby Wanna Dance"
- "A Decade of Admiring Failure"
- "Baby's Calling Me Home"
- "One Line, One Lung, Capper"
- "Baby's House"
- "Fecund Second Hand Inspection"
- "Rock Me Baby"
- "I Will Cut you Caeyman"
- "Nobody But You Baby"
- "Dust Study Room"
- "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby"
Did you win? Congratulations! You owe me $100!
Smoke Tour For Lunation (by Caroliner Rainbow Snake Tailed Waxwalker / Caroliner Rainbow Cannon And Church Mister) - Bull's Hit 2007
If all this and more, then GOOD NEWS! You're sitting on a GOLD MINE! A gold mine of THIS ALBUM!
Also, you have terrible taste in everything ever.