Sunday, July 11, 2004

MY DAD IS DEAD - Let's Skip the Details LP
The Taller You Are, The Shorter You Get CD

MDID are/were one Mr. Mark Edwards, ex-fanzine dork, angry loner and producer of music since the mid '80s. Let's Skip... is from 1988 and The Taller... is a double LP/CD from 1989; both are on Homestead and are long-time drag-it-out-once-a-year favourites. This is Mark's schtick: post-HC underground rock of the US Midwestern variety spiced up with a heavily Angloid bent a la Joy Division/The Fall, then blended with a kind of One Man Against The Universe vibe. Uh, yeah, that's his "schtick". Edwards' strong point is his disturbingly perceptive lyrics detailing life's bullshit: relationship breakups, dead-end jobs, alienation, etc. It's not a pretty listen and hardly the kind of music I'm likely to blast out of the car stereo on a warm summer's day, but sometimes hearing someone else's complaints is the perfect medicine. Edwards is also one hell of a song writer; along with the rants come the hooks, his knack for a pop tune mixed with classic tension/release rock stylings is uncanny.

The Taller... is probably the better album of the two. Although he slightly bungled things by using a drum machine for some of the album - MDID being essentially a one-man band for much of the time (though John McEntire of Tortoise and a host of rock "celebs" have helped him in the past) - at least the programme was set on a basic "Rock 4/4" beat to keep things breathing. I bought this in '92 as a customer order from Gaslight - the kids weren't diggin' MDID - and it blew the goddamn roof off the house. Being the alienated 20-year old poser douchebag that I was, this was heavy stuff. For instance, "Too Far Gone": "I can count my friends on the fingers of one hand / Need a calculator to count all my problems". Crank that sucker at a party and rock da haus! Seriously, this stuff is good. Edwards did a fairly great album in 1991 called Cutting Down the Family Tree on Scat and has sporadically recorded since, the results, in this man's opinion, not being up to awesome level of his earlier efforts. Both these titles, lets' assume since MDID ain't exactly the name on everyone's lips, are both deleted, but you could do a whole lot worse than search them out soon.

The Cheater Slicks - the fuckin' 'Slicks, man! - are The Band Who Should've Been Huge. Of all the "garage" bands littering the scene the last 15 years on Earth, the 'Slicks are the best. They've got semi-famous friends and supporters - Mudhoney, Jon Spencer, Mick Collins - and the right words from the critics, all of which has eventuated in a profile about as low as a snake's belly. Then you meet them: Cheater Slicks fans, the believers who know just how fucking good the band is, and you know you're part of a secret cabal.

Friends are usually a bit surprised by my fandom for the group, simply because I've barely ever displayed the slightest ounce of enthusiasm for "garage rock" per se (the generic, contemporary garage scene of today, I mean). In fact I'm usually heard deriding it for its hopelessly retro nature, it being seemingly littered with bowl-cut-wearing losers singing songs about monsters driving hot rods or tattooed wannabe "greaser-punks" actually trying to convince people they care about their motor vehicle. You know what I mean. They're the worst-case scenarios, of course, people stuck in a hopeless cliche, though the Cheater Slicks have nada to do with anything like that.

The 'Slicks, a Boston-relocated-to-Ohio trio of deadbeats, take the essential ingredients of "garage" music as we know it (and that means everything from the Seeds to the New York Dolls to the Cramps) and shake the life out of it in the most beautiful and disrespectful manner. There's no paisley shirts and no Johnny Thunders poses: this is completely modern rock that pays respects to the past but has its eye strictly on the future. Reading their bio recently on the In The Red site, the point was summed up perfectly: boring garage purists hate the Cheater Slicks because they don't play by the rules of what such a band should be. They're prone to completely atonal singing, long, druggish mantras and minutes of scorching feedback, all to the disdain of everyone involved. Great stuff!

The link with My Dad Is Dead is here: the Cheater Slicks takes the essence of life's BS and wrap it in song just for you. And much like MDID, their ability to evoke that sense of loneliness and despair in a totally real and convincing manner, one you can relate to, is a rare talent they have in spades. I've been going back and delving into their back catalogue heavily of late, and come to this conclusion: the Cheater Slicks are one of the great "lost" US bands of the last 15 years. They are the ultimate lost & loserly rock 'n' roll history book, a perfect collision of all those people you love: Velvets, Roky, Stooges, NY Dolls, Cramps, Half Japanese, Sonics, Modern Lovers, etc. Most bands hailing such influences sound like they're merely paying tribute or regurgitating their record collections; not the case here - no other band sounds like the Cheater Slicks. They've got a lot of albums out. You want them all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I realize I'm commenting on a four-year-old post, but I just stumbled upon your blog tonight, and was really pleased to find mention of My Dad is Dead. MDID is and has been one of my favorite bands since I randomly located the completely unknown to me until then (and I'm still not totally sure what made me want to pick it up) The Taller You Are lp in 1996, at the age of 15.

Don't know how far you've gone into the MDID catalog, but Everyone Wants the Honey But Not the Sting from 1997 is a fucking killer rock album. It's seriously and easily one of my favorite records ever (coming from someone who's other favorite albums of all time are Frank Zappa's entire body of work and Bad Brains Rock For Light). It was written after his second divorce, so it's got some of that "ruminating on failed relationships" vibe, in a good way, and his later stuff is, in many ways, more human and less overtly weird and morose than his earlier records (though, that said, his first album is probably a strong #2 favorite for me after Honey.)