issue 11   dec 2001-jan 2002
page 9



The Pizzossum in the hizzouse! I don't listen to his records for ironic reasons, or to celebrate alcoholism. I listen for one reason only: his voice. One of a kind, instantly recognizable. I bought this album because Clay Leverett down in Athens, GA broke my heart one night at a karaoke bar called Foxz (sic) by singing a rendition of "Tennessee Whiskey" that had all the older folks squeezing each other tight out on the dance floor. When I saw this album a couple years later, selling for three bucks at your basic lame-ass nouveau antique store (this one in Lincoln, NE, but they're all exactly the same), I checked for "Tennessee Whiskey." It was song four on side one, so I bought the damn thing immediately. I was surprised and slightly dismayed that the song was on there, because the album had modern-looking graphics and a copyright date of 1983; my purist hate for Nashville's radio-swamping nu-country Pop Muzak had me convinced that for country music to be good at all, it had to be released before 1980 at the latest. Of course that's bullshit, though I have to admit this isn't a great album. Mr. Leverett's version of "Tennessee Whiskey" was definitely better than the one on here. It's still a finely written song, and the punchline of the chorus ("you're as smooth as Tennessee whiskey, and I stay stoned on your love all the time") is as humorously crass (dare I say white trash???) of a metaphor to describe being in love with someone as you're gonna hear in the Pop spectrum.
      Speaking of which, the first line sung on the album, from the title-track opener, is pretty damn funny too. After a maudlin but frankly beautiful wash of pedal steel and strings, The Voice of the Possum tells us about his girl: "She'll never grace the centerfold of Playboy Magazine..." (You don't say, George!) "...and chances are you'll never see her on the silver screen..." (yeah, yeah, I feel ya) "...but she's by far the biggest star/the world will never see..." (not a bad bit of downhome wordplay, one thing country music is always good for, even at its very worst) "...but she don't shine for the rest of the world/she's too busy shinin' on me." Alright! Depicting your lover as a star that's busy shining on you is kind of a lovely image. I wouldn't describe this record as a 'lost classic,' but it does have its moments. What the hell, it's just George Jones's 39th album. (Actually, I justed checked and it's his 81st .....a lot of hit packages and what not in there, but still...)

The first song "All I Need" reminds me of Foghat, and that is NOT an insult. Because it takes good things about Foghat -- the comic-book groove and the sassy distorted vocals (cf. "I Just Wanna Make Love To You") -- and turns it up from 11 to at least 22. In fact, if I was a typical critic, I'd call it Foghat meets High Rise. And I probably am, so there ya go. And really the whole thing falls pretty near that intersection -- superfuzz attack, manic boogie tempos, crazed vocals, and a full-time "echoplex" player making your speakers sound broken. I like it because it's unabashedly BOOGIE ROCK. I'm sure typical critics (besides me) would throw around the term "stoner rock," but I'd throw it right back because this is much too manic for that. It doesn't even slow down until the end of side one, for "Rimbaud Blues." Side Two is pretty much all frantic, although I'm not quite sure what they were thinking by covering "Back in the U.S.S.R." for the closer. Either way, it's kind of refreshing to hear actual high energy coming out of the whole silk-screened hand-pressed limited-edition psych vinyl scene. They live in Santa Cruz, California, and they pressed up 500 vinyl copies of this release, with, yes, hand-printed and silkscreened covers. I bet they're good live. For copies, e-mail


More Freedom From product....

It's funny that with all the great Freedom From releases out there, this one is destined to be their best-seller, because it's just not that great. Thurston Moore and Tom Surgal can play improvised gtr/drums duets quite well (see the Klangenfarb-enmelodie CD on Corpus Hermeticum and the really nice Lydia's Moth b/w Not Me 10-inch/CD on some British label), but here, with the addition of Beck prankstering around and playing blues licks (not to mention Eddie Van Halen fingertapping), things don't reach those heights. There's a couple roaring/screaming sections that sound like Hendrix's coda for "Machine Gun" live at the Fillmore East, but not only are the three musicians rarely on the same page, they seem to be reading different books altogether. I remember in a posting to a list-serv, Freedom From CEO B. Mots begging potential customers "please, please order something besides just the Thurston Moore tape." On the Freedom From website, the blurb for the tape said "power electronics at their worst" and seemed to mean it. Eventually, he started charging $7 for it while other cassettes were only $3 or $4. (Funny story: just this month, I saw an ad from a British label that had also put out a Moore cassette which actually made it AGAINST THE RULES for customers to order only that one.) It's probably still selling anyway, but really, this is the kind of thing that gives cassette labels, and Sonic Youth side projects, their oft-undeserved bad reputations.

This tape is kinda freaking me out because in the right channel it sounds fine but in the left channel there's this crazy warbling/strobing effect going on. I've been having trouble with my left speaker anyway, so I just got back there and investigated and tried plugging it in better, etc., and I seemed to get it working fine on other records and the radio, but then I put the tape back on and it's still warbling/strobing like crazy! I really doubt it's intentional because I find it renders the tape unlistenable. Which is too bad, because in the right channel it sounds like a real nice langurous space/cloud thing with vaguely oriental chiming and haze goin' on, like Ash Nav always serve up. They're one of those bands that after a certain two or three records (in this case Four Raga Moods and Triste Tropiques and the Siltbreeze LP) I never feel like I need to hear anything else by, but when I do hear something else, I always like it a lot. Nice color artwork that stands out in a crowd of tapes.

I'm trying to review this tape but Angelina just went and turned it completely off because it reminds her of Patty Waters. I once saw her literally flee from a record store because they were playing College Tour, and this tape is bringing back those memories for her. I don't get it, you'd think she'd be all into the 'sistas doin' it for themselves' and all that, but for some reason when a woman gets avant with the wordless, high-pitched 'curved syllable' steelo it just freaks her out. She actually thinks it's some sort of internal biological reaction...or no, she just put it a little more succinctly: "It fucks with my mind."
      Well, even though I love the music myself, I can understand where she's coming from. This stuff is a little freaky. Freedom From themselves said about this one: "...frankly their music scares the shit out of me, and this release is as spooky as they come!...the spaces, not the sounds, are what leaves one contemplating What's around the corner, and is it going to KILL me?" He means that "in the !most! complimentary manner," and I agree with everything he says. I guess me and him don't mind getting our minds fucked with as much. This tape does it well, but it's also a quite calm and quiet affair, with Ms. Carter's deep-listening guitar chime and wordless devotional singing given a perfectly wide-open space in which to sit and do its thing. Note: the occasional extra-wobbly guitar sound is NOT your tape deck fucking up. It's actually a pretty effective performance and/or post-production trick.


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