Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bone Merchant - Trichotillomania demo tape

I found this tape at a used bookstore a month or so back.  The spine was the first thing I had to go on, and it seemed cool at first.  A band called Bone Merchant with their logo displayed in a military font on a random label called Tapeworm Records, sounds sick so far.  Flipping the tape around and seeing the cover art was a bit of the shock, a "trippy" drawing of a guy eating cereal (this image is actually a separate image glued onto the jcard).  Okay, whatever, I was still intrigued.  The song titles sounded cool and the band was from Iowa City in the early 90s, kind of a dark area as far as my history of local music knowledge goes, so I was obligated to get it.

At first listen to this tape, I don't really know what this band is trying to go for.  Obviously there's a late 80s/early 90s Iowa City sound vibe going on.  One could maybe liken this to a poor man's Iowa Beef Experience in a round about way?  It's got that slower, crunchier sound going on, with a few random cool sounding guitar solos amidst all the crunchy chugging.  It almost has groove vibe going on with it, like maybe they wanted to be a thrash band but the drummer just couldn't keep up so they had to play slower?  The thrash riffs are definitely there, just played too slow.  Or maybe I'm wrong and they were going for the midpaced and loud style that just doesn't come across too well in most spots with this recording.  The song "Don't Pull My Tail" works very well in the "slow and loud" realm, though, and sounds very cool and doomy throughout.  Weird spaced out hits with feedback filling in some of the blanks, it's definitely the best of the originals on here.  Mostly I just want a majority of these songs to be played faster because they would sound cooler that way.

While the music itself is fine, the vocals are, well, you know, oof, and a lot of the lyrics are cringe worthy ("Hey baby, come over to my place, we'll screeeeew.  Just kidding.  Well, maybe not.  Let's fuuuuuuck."  C'mon!).  This tape would sound pretty cool if the vocalist would just let loose and yell his head off (that way I couldn't tell what he's saying...), but what we have here is a guy that doesn't seem too comfortable doing vocals, holding back from going too nuts on the mic.  It's just mid range grit with a a pseudo growl/scream thrown in, a type of vocal delivery that works sometimes, but here it doesn't.  I think what's most annoying about these vocals to me is, on the last song, a cover of "Chunks" by Dinosaur Junior, the dude's voice sounds really, really good.  He's yelling, he's hoarse, he's not holding back, and there's a cool reverb and echo effect going on, something that should be happening throughout the entire demo. Better late than never I suppose.

So, all in all, this tape is okay if you can get past the goofy vocals and lyrics (which is honestly hard to do in some spots) and you are fully aware that this is not going to be a fast band, no matter what the skull gripping the radioactive symbol with mushroom clouds exploding in the background on the sticker that comes with the tape would lead you to believe.  Worth a download for the last two tracks at the very least.

Bone Merchant - Trichotillomania demo - 1991

 1. Head of the Nail
2. B.C. (Benevolent Czar)
3. Who Stole My Skin?
4. Second Life
5. The Death Knell
6. Cerebral Excursion
7. Stone Groove
8. Milktoast
9. Don't Pull My Tail
10. Chunks

Click here to download.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vulcan - "Say Girl" b/w "Drugs Can Kill" 45 single

Vulcan is mostly known for releasing an insanely nasty sounding slab of psychedelic rock, the Meet Your Ghost LP released in 1985 and only sold in one single shop in Spencer, Iowa, where Vulcan was from.  Dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, the LP is very raw, poorly recorded, but oh so fuzzy and really, really good.  Since being rediscovered sometime later, the LP has been bootlegged and reissued to death.  Little do the private press record hoarders know, however, that before Meet Your Ghost, Vulcan released a 45 single that my friend Justin just so happened to come across tucked away in the jacket of another record in the free bin at a local record shop.

Vulcan, as it turns out, is one man, Lyle Steece.  In 1979, a few years before Meet Your Ghost was recorded, he released this 45 on North Star Productions.  This single is about as far away from Meet Your Ghost as you can get, musically speaking.  This is a folk record, there's nothing electric about it.  It's stripped down and simple, Lyle crooning over an acoustic Dobro guitar.  The whole package is screaming loner: songs about a lying significant other, drugs, and the record itself is "dedicated to My X on H", a person whose relationship with Lyle must have been a rocky one if we're to believe the songs themselves.  In "Say Girl", Lyle sings of a cheating woman and a bad break up.  The b-side, "Drugs Can Kill", is a warning that dabbling in hard drugs could lead to a quick death: "listen brothers and listen sisters, a little grass won't hurt anyone, but when you take bigger risks, your life could be done".  A weirdly depressing vibe is created by the sparse vocals, downer lyrics, and simple, no frills guitar playing.

When listening to this record, you can't have Meet Your Ghost in your mind.  You're not going to like this record if you do.  This is in no way psych rock, so don't expect that.  I didn't appreciate this record at first simply because of the fact that it is not the sound that Vulcan has become known for.  I've since grown to appreciate this record for what it is as I've learned to let it stand on it's own with no comparison to what the artist did later in his career.  So go ahead and clear your mind of anything Meet Your Ghost related and enjoy this nice little slice of Iowa loner folk.

Vulcan - "Say Girl" b/w "Drugs Can Kill" - 1979

1. Say Girl (4:30)
2. Drugs Can Kill (3:45)

Click here to download.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Heart of Darkness - Leeway USA demo tape

Here is a weird one.  I found this demo tape at a Salvation Army in Des Moines, Iowa.  When I opened the case, the sticker on the cassette itself flaked off and crumbled into pieces.  I sat on this tape for years without listening to it because the tape was in such bad condition that I was afraid any tape player I put it in would eat it. 

Originally I thought this was some weird thrash metal demo tape because, well, that's what it looks like kind of right?  The dudes on the front have long hair and the logo looks pretty metal.  The actual music is a big mixture that touches on the sounds of hard rock, punk'n roll, speed metal, hardcore, all coming together to culminate in a strange proto thrash sound, weird for the year, which was 1988.  The tape starts off with Trial By Fire, a pretty rocking tune with a ripping guitar solo coming out of nowhere in the middle of the song.  Leeway USA, the next track picks up the pace in a nice punk'n roll rocker, and from there, the the sound of the songs get nastier and the vibe gets darker and harder as it vears into metal territory.  While every song on this demo is pretty good, the fourth track, Destroy All Humans, is definitely the stand out track for me, a total headbanger right from the beginning.  I would most hard to this song.

All in all it's a pretty great demo tape.  The vocals take a little bit of getting used to but I grew to love the nasty metal sneering sound of them.  While the drumming is only truly interesting in a few parts such as the beginning of Destroy All Humans and a few pretty cool drum fills here and there, it suffices.  The bass playing isn't that much to write home about, but it does a fine job of following the riffs on guitar.  The guitar is the stand out instrument on this demo, with the guitar player absolutely killing it with nasty riffs, insane and sick solos coming out of nowehere, and the other little flourishes they pull off randomly are pretty interesting too. 

This demo came with no information about the band at all, nothing about who played what and nothing about where this demo is from.  The only information to pull from this demo is that it was released in 1988.  I picked this up in 2006, and an internet search back then turned up absolutely nothing.  An internet search in 2012 turns up absolutely nothing still.  This demo was lost to time until now as far as I know, and that's too bad, because it rules. 

It's not every day that a long lost and forgotten-by-time demo pops up that is a ripper like this one.  Let's hope some more information on this band pop up soon, because I want to hear more!  Until then, enjoy the Leeway USA demo tape by Heart of Darkness.

Heart of Darkness - Leeway USA demo - 1988

1. Trial By Fire (3:44)
2. Leeway U.S.A. (2:15)
3. As The Worm Turns (3:51)
4. Destroy All Humans (3:48)
5. She Waits (3:20)

Click here to download.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

West Minist'r - "Bright Lights, Windy City" b/w "Carnival" 45 single

West Minist'r was a garage psych rock band from Fort Dodge and Gowrie, Iowa.  Gowrie had a population of just above 1000 in the 1960s, the time period that this band emerged.  Sometimes the best stuff comes from the smallest places.  This band is yet another inductee into the Iowa Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame, and you can read a short history about them here.

Like the Enoch Smoky 45, I had only ever heard the a-side of this record, as the song was featured in a few comps here and there throughout the years and it was widely available on the internet.  I could never find a rip of the b-side of this record online and I had never heard it until my friend Nash gave me a copy of this single.  Thanks buddy!

The a-side of this record, "Bright Lights, Windy City", opens with a pretty and haunting riff right before rocketing head first into a depressive rocker.  Despite forlorn notes from a very lonely sounding organ looming through the background of this tune, this song is not "spooky" by any means, but a perfect example of small town midwest depression that you can really feel when the chorus kicks off - "Bright lights, windy city, I wanna go home.  Long nights don't seem so pretty when you're alone."  Each chorus is capped off with an amazing near anti-solo and the walking basslines leading into each new part are fantastic.  The sample of the blowing wind at the end really makes sure that depression is setting in.  A bummer of a song all around, but it's a joy to listen to.  The b-side song, "Carnival", is a slower, sparse rocker.  A little more chilled out on the depression vibe of the a-side, it's still a little bit of a bummer in a nostalgic way nonetheless.  The organ lines at the end of the choruses are a nice touch and catchy in their own right.  It's a good flipside and a great contrast to the a-side.  Man, these guys are bummed.

Well, enough chit chat, download the West Minist'r "Bright Light, Windy City" b/w "Carnival" 45 single on Razzberry below.  This band did have another 45 single out there and, again, I've only heard the a-side of that, so I'll try and track that record down sooner or later.

West Minist'r - "Bright Lights, Windy City" b/w "Carnival" 45 - 1968 (??)

1. Bright Lights, Windy City (3:06)
2. Carnival (3:45)

Click here to download.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Enoch Smoky - "It's Cruel" b/w " Roll Over Beethoven" 45 single

Enoch Smoky was a hard psych band from Iowa City, Iowa back in the late 60s and early 70s.  They were around for a few years, toured Europe, and, from what I've read, they put on a pretty fantastic live show.  A short history of this band has been chronicled on the Iowa Rock'n Roll Music Association's website, and you can read that here.

I have been trying to track this record down for quite a long time.  You see, a few years back I went on a downloading spree of all the old Iowa psych bands I could find.  The a-side track of this 45, "It's Cruel",  quickly became my favorite of the Iowa psych bands alongside Phafner, and it was always easily available to listen to on the internet because it had been featured more recently on the A Lethal Dose of Hard Psych psych rock comp in the early 2000s.  "It's Cruel" quickly became one of my favorite songs.  Kick ass drums, nasty bass, and ripping guitar solos is what this track was all about... but I could never find the b-side song, "Roll Over Beethoven", online anywhere.  The 45 would pop up rarely but randomly on eBay, and when it did, I always seemed to be away from internet access and would miss out on nabbing it (and I wasn't going to pay $300 for the one that's been up as a Buy It Now for forever).  This changed though when one popped up a week before my birthday this year, and my brother Mike won the auction as my birthday gift,  Thanks!  Turns out the b-side track is just as ripping as the a-side.  A Chuck Berry cover dripping in psychy guitar solos.  It rules.

So, yeah, here it is, Enoch Smoky's "It's Cruel" b/w "Roll Over Beethoven" on Pumpkin Seed Records.  This is the first time a digital recording of the b-side is available on the internet as far as I know.  Hopefully sometime soon some live recordings of this band will pop up, because I'm definitely interested in hearing more.

Enoch Smoky - "It's Cruel" b/w " Roll Over Beethoven" - 1968 (??)

1. It's Cruel (3:41)
2. Roll Over Beethoven (3:35)

Click here to download.