CHUMPS - The Problem With Saxophones CD (Afterburn/2007)
Yeah, I know, I said just two or so entries back that I wasn't in the game of propping up the careers/bands/labels of close friends with a killer review (if I'm at all capable of doing such a thing), but when the results are this good, well, damn those rules! This is a contender for best reissue of 2007, and the saddest part of that statement is that, it being a reissue from Australia, most people reading this probably won't manage to get their hands on it. Well, make the effort!
The Chumps were a white-hot late '70s combo from Washington DC who featured Rob Kennedy, later of the Workdogs, and the Dreyfuss brothers, who also made up the brass section at the time for the newly-expanded Maryland-based version of Half Japanese. And if you, like me, worship at the altar of that period of Half Jap', then the sounds of the Chumps will light a fire in your part of the neighborhood. The Chumps sounded a lot like Loud-period HJ: all scratchy guitars, half-step rhythms, No-Wave sax bleets, a sturdy backbone in classic garage rock a la Stooges/Troggs and total geekoid lyrics about hanging out at the shopping mall w/ nothing to do. Hmmm... you know, that sounds exactly like Half Japanese from the time, and musically, you could probably stick a Jad vocal track on much of this and you'd fool even the most die-hard fan, though the Chumps had a bit more punkish angst in them than Jad, the delivery and style a little less rooted in a romantic pop sensibility.
Best of all, the songs here really stick in your craw. Primo rock 'n' roll with roaring sax throughout, spilling off frequently into free-jazz chaos, sometimes going off the deep end, sometimes reining back in. This kinda music is my idea of a good time: a bridging gap between the worlds of ecstatic jazz and no-frills garage noise, and I ain't saying this is as good as Funhouse - if I did you wouldn't believe me (because for one, it wouldn't be true), and I'd blow my cred with such a ridiculous comment - though it's obviously borne from the same template as that wondrous disc, and if you are partial to classic American '70s rock of the No Wave/Stooges mold, then this high-calibre ripper gets a 5-star recommendation from me.
This is by no means a mere curiosity in late-'70s punk-rock Americana and deserves a higher status than it's previously been afforded (after all, even I had but merely heard of the band before being handed this very CD): it's a CD I've been playing all week and shall for a long time henceforth! Super-nice full-colour fold-out digipak, extensive liner notes, flyer repros, the whole nine yards. A nice bloody job, if ever there was.
RANDOM NOTES:... the Bo'Weavil label outta the UK has put one of the great obscurities of American free jazz back into circulation. Hell, I've been searching high and low for this for a dozen years. It's Noah Howard's Black Ark LP from 1969, now again available on LP and CD. Well, I'm getting lazy (and cheap!) in my old age, so I opted for the CD, and half-a-dozen listens have convinced me it's been worth the wait. Howard did a couple of terrific LPs on the ESP-Disk label back in the '60s (and another killer I wrote about here), though this LP, originally released on Freedom, has achieved a kind of revered infamy for being the very first recording featuring free-jazz savant/genius, Arthur Doyle (who cut some hot platters in the '80s/'90s you all need, including some w/ Rudolph Grey's Blue Humans). I really dig Howard's Ornette-ish sound; he doesn't really blow out in an Ayleresque fashion too often: he mostly leaves that up to Doyle, who sounds like he's trying to blow the goddamn roof off w/ his squawl. Some groovy conga-aktion from "Juma" (who played w/ Hendrix at Woodstock) and a line-up I can dig: alto and tenor saxes, trumpet, piano, bass and two percussionists. I've got a lot of '60s/'70s free-jazz blowouts from various Americans of the period, and I question myself as to why I really needed this, though, much like Howard's own Patterns/Message to South Africa CD, or drop-dead-dynamite obscuros like Frank Lowe's Black Beings, the occasional spin it will receive, and the pleasure it gives, will justify such a purchase. Liner notes by some guy called "Oren".
Pig State Recon blog has hit the jackpot again! Dig the latest entry mining the SST family tree a little further, this time branching into the music of Tom Watson (Slovenly/Overpass dude), The Unknown Instructors (who have new CD on Smog Veil I'll review later on some time), the incredible Ten East and more. I've said it before, I'll say it again: I like this man's style!