(Gold Standard Laboratories)
Mic’d-through-the-bathroom-door-while-slurped-through-a-vacuum-cleaner-that-just-swallowed-Vaseline blabbermouth yawp from moonlighting Blood Brother (and likely Darby Crash fan) Johnny Whitney, fronting a just-released EP-length 2001 session with fellow Seattleites who’d later join the Chromatics. He slips his nervously angsted high-pitch whine into melodies or metalcore screech (and occasional lines about being on the run, returning from the sanatorium, pledging allegiance, or doing the mashed potato), and his band slips their sloppy-drunk (yeah, soiled) lurch into stomps, just to prove they can. Plus there’s jazz in some piano parts, and hip-hop and Remain in Light in the drums, and Robert Quine in the guitar. Closest thing to a memorable song is the sweet and heartfelt 6:43 title-track coda, where Johnny repeats semi-coherent plaints about remembering dirty lanes and electric streets into a mantra, and everybody else improvises on the subway below.
THE BLOOD DRAINED COWS
Creem critic turned Angry Samoan turned New Mexico math prof Greg Turner goes the Soiled Doves’ asylum escape one better by devoting an entire album to paranoid psychosis, or at least to the sort of Kremlin dogs with bones, lost-and-found houses not homes, burning churches, diseased mice, and ominous-colored skies that his hero Roky Erickson (whose “White Faces” is redone and whose Autoharpist helps out) could relate to. Much of the cloven-hoofed chupacabra riff-hookage dates back to Inside My Brain daze, but the Samoans took all that from the Sonics in the first place so what the hell. The drummer’s Hasil Adkins-necrophile B-flick shtick isn’t as convincingly deranged as Turner’s shadow-scared maybe-baby vocal hitch, which proves, um, something. And then there’s the most mathematicianly joke in rock history: “I got a new theorem for compact Hausdorff space/A bound on the eigenvalues, as a function of the trace.” Over guitar stolen from the Seeds. Whom the words quote.
What Is Real and What Is Not
(Happy Squid/Warning Label)
Roky-covering middle-aged L.A. geeks of even earlier punk vintage than Turner (at least the rhythm section, who were studying film at UCLA when they started ack-ack-acking in ’78; their guitar philosopher has since been replaced) are, surprise surprise, obsessed with mental illness as well—other people’s, mostly, though the title cut is first-person enough and “Cold” fucks dead people enough for Blood Drained Cows. The songs that lust over lady drivers in other cars and take on reformed heroin addicts with hot tubs are better, but staccato guitars twist into indelible tunes all over. Once upon a time the Urinals’ jagged miniaturism made them the Left Coast’s Wire, and they’re still really concise. But where the ancient singles compiled on 1996’s Negative Capability no doubt inspired Sonic Youth and the Minutemen, the cowpunkishly surf-stretched rumble here is often more akin to, say, Moby Grape. Except the lovely “Cartophilia,” which is pure A Flock of Seagulls. And maybe the Bee Gees number, which I bet you never heard before.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 6, 2004