Vol. 2, Issue #23 December 7th - December 20th, 2007

Tiger Bear From Hell at NONzine.com

By: Wilhelm Murg

Four Reviews: 90% Less Bullshit!

When I think of the concept of “Adult Contemporary,” I think of the worst music known to man; the term has come to depict an endless void of ball-challenged Muzak for people who have simply given up on the progress that rock has made. Sheryl Crow, who I didn’t even realize was considered rock music for years, is white bread, Sting is a dull old man, and don’t even get me started on that John Tesh stuff.

As I get older I find I want even more of a musical challenge, and it gets harder and harder to find it, especially with the radio stations pumping out the soft oldies for my contemporaries 24/7 (“soft” because, like their audience, these songs need Viagra? Because they are missing teeth?)

Three albums just came out that, to me, are what adult contemporary SHOULD be, i.e., I actually get images and feelings when I listen to them, they send me to another plane of existence, my mind is working when I listen to them, and yes, it might be too complicated for the average 12-year-old to stay interested.

Blaine L. Reininger and Steven Brown formed Tuxedomoon in San Francisco in 1977. Under their direction the band released nine albums in 11 years, beginning in 1980 with the classic Half-Mute on The Residents’ (late) Ralph Records label. While the band seemed dormant for about 13 years, only releasing two albums in that time, Reininger and Brown came back with a vengeance in 2002, along with bassist Peter Principle who joined in 1979 and multi-instrumentalist Luc Van Lieshout who joined in 1983. The contemporary lineup has changed Tuxedomoon from the most interesting of the experimental bands to one of the most consistently brilliant bands working today.

Each Tuxedomoon album gives you layers and layers of musical conception that seem to end down in a very deep shaft. You can easily hear the different influences, from what used to be called “oriental” motifs, which give their music a Sufi be-bop from William S. Burroughs’s “Interzone” feeling, to experimental ambient soundscapes. Even an alien hip hop beat propels one of their standout songs, “Still Small Voice,” from their latest album “Vapor Trails” (Crammed Discs). At the same time, lyrically, they seem to have graduated from the brilliant teenage angst, like their 1979 single “What Use?” to drug-induced mystics seeing something from the clouds “That says it’s all one thing” in “Still Small Voice.”

“Epso Meth Larna,” the epic climax of the album, is very 1979 Tangerine Dream sounding, but with a Viking chorus singing, well, something heroic (the album doesn’t offer a translation, if it is a real language). Rather than staying middle-aged men trying to sound excited about the same old heart dramas of their teen years, Tuxedomoon have grown with their audience and like their obvious influences, Frank Zappa and Robert Fripp, they are having their fullest blossoming later in life.

Speaking of The Residents, the eyeballed ones have just released “The Voice of Midnight” (Mute Records). Based on a classic short story by E.T.A. Hoffman, the work is about madness or monsters, depending on which way you look at it. Nate is a student who has fears that the Sandman has been following him his whole life, and while in college, he realizes a creepy professor just might be the Sandman in disguise. This is The Residents at their most blatantly gothic, borrowing things from expressionist film like the name “Caligari” and harmonic ideas from Danny Elfman.

While The Voice of Midnight contains some of the most interesting music The Residents have released in a long time, the problem is that it’s close to musical theatre and radio drama, and the words get in the way of the music sometimes. The more straight-laced voices of Corey Rosen and Gerri Lawler (who were both on The Residents’ 2006 release River of Crime) are also a stark contrast to “the singing Resident” (as fans call the anonymous voice) from the band, who is even more distorted here than ever before. It’s a fascinating album, but definitely not a “sing-along.”

The best new band (to me) that I’ve recently stumbled over is Radio Massacre International, which have just released “Rain Falls in Grey” on the Cuneiform label. Cuneiform is best known as the excellent little record company that releases a mountain of live albums by Soft Machine, and this seems like a worthy follow-up to Soft Machine’s legacy. The three-man band of Steve Dinsdale (keyboards, drums, percussion, glockenspiel, looper and vocals), Gary Houghton (guitars, glissando guitar, synthesizer, looper and vocals) and Duncun Goddard (keyboard, bass guitar, mellotron and P3 sequencer) sound like an orchestra completely submerged in the art of space rock. Though I had never heard of them, they have released some 25 albums in the last 12 years, and Dinsdale and Goddard recorded 12 unreleased albums before the group even officially formed.

While it’s easy to point out the influence of Soft Machine, Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd (especially with the fourth spaced-out song entitled “Syd”), Ash Ra Temple and Hawkwind also come to mind for the sheer epicness and percussiveness of their performance. Daevid Allen (of Soft Machine, Gong, and occasionally Acid Mother Temple) did the psychedelic artwork for the album, which is actually a reaction to the passing of the great Syd Barrett.

Like all good space rock, the album effortlessly jumps from battle themes and epic flights to ambient backgrounds and harrowing guitar solos (which will remind you more of David Gilmour in the pre-Dark Side of The Moon days). The trick is that it never lets up, it and never becomes boring. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes experimental rock.

Weird album of the month is without a doubt Firefall’s (yes, the band that gave us the 1976 hit “You Are The Woman”) acoustic set of Beatle songs, Colorado to Liverpool. There’s nothing wrong with the set, it just seems pointless. It’s part of what I said earlier about adult contemporary music; it’s in vogue for dinosaur bands to record albums of classic rock covers…because their new material sucks! Pass it up unless you just have to have every cover of ever Beatles song ever made.

So when is someone going to cover “Revolution Number 9?”

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