Musical Chairs

Posted on December 22, 2008 – 3:09 PM | by OldManFoster
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MattMatt K Shrugg is a one-dude tour de force.  He plays in far too many bands to list here (including several with MidMo contributors), has created promo illustrations for pretty much anything to do with music in Sacto, has won the SNR’s ‘Best Drummer’ Sammie Award three years running, produces the brilliantly erratic rock n’ roll zine th’ Swingin’ Creeper, AND keeps up at least three separate myspace accounts.   He has released three solo records so far this year and is currently at work on his debut album.   He’s 26.

The Yardbirds and the Count V get compared often and rightfully so– the Count V were trying to sound like the Yardbirds.  Five under-twenties from San Jose, CA, dipping their newly purchased Beatle boots into British owned waters and somehow getting their 15 minutes for three minutes of “…and it feels like this!”.   Their classic band photo has them attitudin’ it up in front of the Winchester Mystery House as if they were hired to scare off the unwanted spirits. Oh yeah, they had capes on (they totally didn’t have cape fear).  The year 1966 (I’ve spent more money on this year then any other) saw the ‘V’  hit the charts with the sub rave-up “Psychotic Reaction” on Double Shot Records.  The pre-destined road for a one-hit wonder (television, screaming girls, money, no money, screaming girlfriends, sold television) took them through the usual bullshit and they ended up giving it all up for, get this…an education!  Soon after, an agency from Carmel, CA got in touch with them to offer a million dollar contract.  “No! We must learn!”, they say.   Yes, they are kicking themselves for it, but the thing that most people don’t know is that after 11 months of going to school with the burden of turning down the “big time” as it were, the original Count V got back together and went back to the same agency that offered them the big deal.  They weren’t interested… they found their stars…Big Brother & The Holding Company.  Though they were S.O.L., this made them make music in the opposite direction of “Psychotic Reaction”.  Basically the Count V having a psychotic reaction themselves, which resulted in none other than 7 full-length albums on two different labels.  Each record is its own genre and they haven’t been heard by 99% of the ears in the world (lend them your ears people!).  That all might change, but probably won’t, because the folks at Midnight Lamp Records, the reissue label out of Belgium, have found the master tapes to all but one of the records.   Nobody knew or cared about this until famed hippo critic Lester Bangs wrote the infamous “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung” story for Creem in 1971.  That article alone sent armies of Prince Valiant-dooed collectors rushing to record stores, asking about these records.  “We’ve had copies come and go, but now they’re impossible to get” is what they were given.  Which is true.  Those albums are like the “upside down Jenny” of garage/psychedelia and the collectors aren’t coughing ’em up until time coughs it up for them.  One is so rare that there’s -2 in the world.  Meanwhile, Mr. Bangs’ is (rock and) rolling in his grave, with Cartesian Jetstream blasting on his ipod (just think of that…Lester Bangs’ ipod).  Long story long,  I decided to review three of the albums, because the other four are kinda crap.  

Carburetor Dung  –  This is the perfect record for a candle-lit dinner…on Judgement Day.  Carburetor Dung was the follow up album to Psychotic Reaction and is, to my knowledge, the only album in history to start off with a fart (the digital remastering now makes it sound like it’s coming from your own pants). It was kind of like they came back (with dung in cheek) and said “we’re back, but things kinda got shitty”.  They obviously weren’t talking about the music, because this is my #2 most favorite Count V album.   The music on this is the kind of music you want to blast your neighbors away with for waking you up with a lawn mowing at 7 AM.   Wanna hear a rocking chair through a wah wah pedal? It’s on this record and it rocks.  “Woody Dicot” and “The Hermit’s Prayer” showcase a rarity in rock, catchy feedback, pummeled into the dirt and cleaned with a dirty rag.  This is plastic experimentation with no mention of “art” anywhere.  You either love it or hate it and I love it, though “Unicorn Grave” is a bit too much.

Cartesian Jetstream  –   Cartesian Jetstream came next and is without a doubt my fave of the pack (though the cover sucks).  I can only describe it as Psychotic Dung, meaning it’s the first two albums shaken into one very distinctive drink that still tastes fresh today.   A testament to where spaced-out perseverance can take you musically, but damn if it isn’t CONTROLLED!  Listen to “Nothing Is True / Everything Is Permitted” and tell me it doesn’t outsmart Pere Ubu 6 years too early.   “Cannonballs For Christmas” should have been the Count V’s one-hit wonder, but I guess it still is…take one-hit of this song and you’re OUT.  Getting Sun Ra, Marion Brown and Roland Kirk together to play on YOUR song sounds near impossible, but the five got it too happen on the album’s last track (title too long and vulgar to print).  Bangs called this song a “true brain-blitz” and that’s the only way you can describe it.  All in all, I’d recommend getting this album first to see how psychotic this band’s reaction got.
Snowflakes Falling On The International Dateline  –  Snowflakes was the psychedelic album.  Music made by the “high five” and it’s joyously unnerving.  A bad acid trip for Jesus, an awesome one for Satan, put to music about “letting your another side go” (according to the liners).  The apocalyptic soundscape they came up with for this album is brilliantly executed in songs like “Mary Jane’s Paper Dress” and “Schizophrenic Rainbows: A Raga Concerto”, a 27-minute long sermon of “my mind is shattered” acid rock, but unlike “Sister Ray”, you wanna listen to the whole thing every time.   The only dud is “Dnim Ruoy Gniwolb”, an all backward (except the vocal) trip.  But not acid trip, more like tripping while walking. This was their last album and Columbia Records, who put this out, was none the better for it.  Even Skip Spence’s Oar sold more copies.  But to hear this thing in remastered sound direct from the master tapes, I mean, I get goosebumps everytime I hear “The Mountains Are Really Earth’s Goosebumps”  and when those fuzzed-out C minor banjo chords hit, HOLY SMOKE!  Untouchable breakdown rock.

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