Ghost Town


Red Red Meat’s last sensible recording is their Sub Pop debut, Jimmywine Majestic, a pleasing but relatively too straightforward take on Stonesy grunge. Its release is being finalized in 1993 when providence enters, whereupon the Chicago band’s lead singer- songwriter Tim Rutili loses control while driving the record company van into Scranton and awakes with glass in his hair. Lying like some rebel soldier—blood’ed in a Pennsylvania ice field—he imagines he is on the verge of remembering a great deal. He’s dead like this for two days. They come and get him. Ghosts. He is dead, or in shock. They take him to purgatory, he thinks, a hotel where no one’s used to having people around. It’s three in the morning. He learns Fellini has died, and River Phoenix. Rutili is between worlds; when eventually he winds his way back to Illinois, possibly alive, he turns RRM into a vehicle for bottomy thuds and high-fretted rattly guitars, unsettling drone combinations of atmospheric loops and plucked gutstrings; a vehicle of hoarse whispers, automatism, amnesia; a vehicle that crashes again and again until it finally falls from sight. RRM call themselves Califone now (no one knows why) and they record trance bluegrass for labels that can hardly distribute them. One feels, hearing their second self-titled EP, that the hour is indeed quite late; nerves are shot, vigor waning. Ugly drums clatter beneath funereal, computer- driven violins, trapped signals circle madly like beating insect wings. The moment of reckoning is nigh. A voice mutters uselessly of saints and grace, disguised beneath a bedspread of reverb. The twilight is full of hovering keyboards. Puddles of transmission fluid reflect a lonesome moon. There is blood in the songwriter’s hair, and glass. Beautiful. The van’s in pieces. Thank God the radio still works.