Hindu Love Gods: Hindu Love Gods (1990)

Imagine a world in which REM replaced Michael Stipe with Warren Zevon before going into the studio to record a bunch of covers that would end up forming one of the great alt.blues albums.  Can’t picture it?  Well, try harder.  Back in 1990, it totally happened.

I always find it at the very least weird just how few people remember this album.  Including me; I’d forgotten all about it, more or less, until I was working on Jim Dead’s Ten Fires album a few years ago and we were discussing what kind of studio sounds to aim for.  I kept coming back to Crazyhorse and this.  Perfect live-in-the-studio vibe, good and raw.

Ten tracks, all covers, drawing deep from the well of real Americana – classic blues (Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters etc.), folk (Woody Guthrie) and a couple of contemporary gems too.  Recorded for fun during a few drunken “off nights” while working on a ‘proper’ Zevon album, it flows perfectly.

The album kicks off with two Johnson numbers (Walking Blues and Travelling Riverside Blues) before blindsiding us with a stripped down, ragged take on Prince’s psych-pop classic Raspberry Beret.  Later Howlin’ Wolf’s Willie Dixon-penned Wang Dang Doodle is followed by a note-perfect Battleship Chains (known to me and most folks, I’d imagine, as a Georgia Satellites number).  The feel throughout is just what you’d expect from an REM-related project, bearing in mind this is before they were the mild-mannered mandolin botherers of Losing My Religion et al, and Peter Buck steps up for a few surprisingly Stonesy Americana-infused blues leads.  Guthrie’s Vigilante Man rounds things off, and it’s a perfect fit.

This album’s relative obscurity remains a mystery to me, particularly given the pedigree of its participants.  I picked up a copy of the tape in excellent nick for £3 (happily, by 1990 cassette packaging was competing on a more even playing field with other formats than previously, so it’s a long fold-out inlay with credits, photos and so on).  It looks like, out-with the used market, current availability is download only but second hand copies are easy to come by. 

However you can get your hands on it, you just should.  What a fucking album.

ritualobjectsofsightandsound.wordpress.com - Hindu Love Gods

The Cult: Ceremony (1991)

This is the USA/Sire version of the Beggar’s Banquet release, nice condition all round, a quid off the internet.  Good.

A mate of mine once summed this release up thusly:  “An utter B-side of an album”.  At the time I could only agree.  It was certainly my least favourite Cult album from their original run but has the passage of time done it any favours?  Mostly, yes.  For a start, it’s a great sounding record – produced by Richie Zito with Billy Duffy and Ian Astbury, it’s huge and organic.

Side One starts strong with the pairing of the beefy title track and quintessential Cult rocker Wild Hearted Son.  At the time of release these seemed like little more than offcuts from previous album Sonic Temple, with Wild Hearted Son in particular a ringer for that album’s superior Sun King.  Now though, without weight of expectation they sound pretty damn good.  Earth Mofo follows and is an okay rock number but definitely from the “B-side” school, and the vibe is kept at “underwhelming” with side closer If – a trite ballad which is a clear contender for the band’s career-worst.  In between those is White, an unexpectedly weighty and worthwhile piece of psych-gothery, its impact weakened by the poor song sequencing.

Side two kicks off with Full Tilt, a fun if inessential return to the Stones-meets-AC/DC riffalong of the Electric album.  A great opening lyric (“Gunfire ricochets off my halo”) balanced out somewhat later on when Jim-Bob Sessionguy supplies the least groovy bass break in history while Astbury intones, “Superfat.  Funky.”  It’s straight back to the B-sides with Heart of Soul, coming on like a record company-led power ballad cash grab.  It isn’t all bad, with Duffy’s Ronsonesque lead flourishes lending it some class, but come on.  It’s a fine line between this and Every Rose Has Its fucking Thorn.  Bangkok Rain displays a little more grunt and Indian is pleasantly mellow, all cellos and that, with the album showing signs of rallying on Sweet Salvation.  Still in dodgy pseudo-ballad territory but with a good 70s vibe replete with Hammond organ and soulfully belted backing vocals recalling Merry Clayton or Clare Torry (or at least trying to) – but by this stage it’s a symphony in so-so.

Happily the album’s closer is also its standout track, among the band’s very best: Wonderland.  A heavy atmospheric epic building from a trippy spoken word intro (“… and this hip young dude stood passionately succumbing to the he-dog sound of the mystifying beat combo that breaks down your door …”) via quality riffage and soloing until everybody’s chanting, “Earth God Mother!  He-dog Brother!”

So, all-in, hardly a classic but better than I remembered.  Some great stuff on there and while it has its rough patches, you’re left feeling the world just can’t be an entirely awful place when The Cult is chanting “Earth God Mother!  He-dog Brother!” at you.

ritualobjectsofsightandsound.wordpress.com - The Cult Ceremony

Fishbone: Fishbone (1985)

Fishbone was one of my very favourite bands in the ’80s and ’90s – never did catch them live though (which is true of a lot of my favourite ’90s bands, no recollection why).  Truth and Soul was my favourite of their albums at the time but I also had a lot of love for the self-titled debut mini-album, which I recently found on cassette alongside their It’s a Wonderful Life EP in a charity shop for 10p a throw.  An insane bargain and a good excuse to listen to them for the first in a long time.  On a Walkman, yes.

I’ll get to It’s a Wonderful Life in a future post but in the meantime, the mini album, Fishbone, is fantastic (some call it an EP but, come on, it’s six tracks and over 25 minutes long).  For a relatively under-the-radar release from a band which never really broke commercially, there’s considerable pop-cultural resonance here, with two tracks being notably ripped off and sampled.  Opener U.G.L.Y’s chorus (“U.G.L.Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you’re just ugly”) went on to become a cheerleader chant via the movie Wildcats a year later.  From there it eventually ended up (uncredited) as a pop song by Daphne and Celeste about, what, ten years ago?  Remember Daphne and Celeste?  No?  Well, I’ve just reminded you.  You’re welcome.  Anyway where its cheesy pop reiteration seemed to be a celebration of bullying, the Fishbone original is an attack on the then US administration (“All the children’s suffering lies in your hands/Unless the commies are gonna heed your demands/Your mind is twisted and your flesh is warm/You scare me sick ’cause I just want to get out”).  In amongst all that, in 1995, the last track on Fishbone, Lyin’ Ass Bitch, was sampled by Prince during his ‘artist formerly known as’ period for Billy Jack Bitch from The Gold Experience.  Happily, Prince gave credit where it was due.  Then, in 2011, when Republican US presidential candidate Michelle Bachman appeared on popular TV chat show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, house band The Roots played her on with the pre-chorus section of Lyin’ Ass Bitch.  A genius touch which caused all manner of controversy at the time.*

Although the band incorporated a lot more rock, punk and metal influences in later releases, their early output was much more ska-oriented and Fishbone is basically a rockin’ ska release.  Only V.T.T.L.O.T.F.D.G.F. (that’s “Voyage Through The Land Of The Freeze Dried Godzilla Farts”, apparently!) breaks the mould, mixing as it does an odd, almost proggy, vibe mixed with P-funk touches and the kind of crowd-rapped vocals and new wave punk-funk The Red Hot Chili Peppers had pioneered with their 1984 debut.  Otherwise it’s uptempo ska all the way, great horn arrangements and brilliant bass playing (Norwood Fisher, yes!).  Party at Ground Zero is an epic favourite but it’s Lyin’ Ass Bitch that takes the prize.  Featuring guest lead vocals from co-writer Lisa Grant, it’s a laugh-out-loud, cheerfully mean-spirited break-up song with a killer chorus and an unforgettable end vocal ad-lib from frontman Angelo Moore.

As for the tape itself?  Looks decent and plays like new.  Result!

ritualobjectsofsightandsound.wordpress.com - fishbone

*Cheers to me old mucker Michael Greer for the reminder on the Michelle Bachman story.

So …

Well, this is new. Of course, it should also be a good way to brush up on my sentence-stringing-together skills.  The short of it is in the tagline above. I get tapes, ostensibly for my Walkman, and I review them. That’s it in a nutshell. Please see the About page for the plan in all its gory details and check back here soon for the first ‘proper’ post. In the meantime, below is the first real result of said plan. Sixty pence the lot.  Sweet.

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