10 for 10

Pasatiempo - - Cd Reviews - Steve Ter­rell

Po­lit­i­cal satirist Andy Borowitz re­cently wrote, “As the decade draws to a close, a new poll shows that a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans are hold­ing out hope that the 10 years just past turn out to be a dream se­quence from which they will soon awake.”

That pretty much sums it up. But here are 10 al­bums that made this lousy decade a lit­tle more bear­able. A few are out of print, but you can find them around.

Three Hairs and You’re Mine by King Khan & His Shrines. The mighty Khan— a foul­mouthed Cana­dian gui­tar picker of East In­dian her­itage who lives in Ger­many— seemed to be ev­ery­where this year, with his part­ner Mark “BBQ” Sul­tan and the garage su­per­group The Almighty De­fend­ers. But my fa­vorite as­pect of Khan’s ca­reer is when he plays with The Shrines, a fullfledged psy­che­delic soul band, com­plete with horn sec­tion. There’s punk and garage-rock in­flu­ences in the grooves, even a flicker of speed metal. But make no mis­take, this band has soul! And this 2001 Voodoo Rhythm release is the best of his Shrines al­bums.

Bar­be­cue Baby­lon by Dry­wall. The world of this al­bum is apoc­a­lyp­tic, and Stan Ridg­way makes a great car­ni­val barker at the gates of Ar­maged­don. A des­per­ate spirit has set­tled over the land. Thiev­ery and mur­der abound, and the gov­ern­ment has gone even more in­sane than the pop­u­lace. Life is cheap. Love is tawdry. Para­noia thrives. And Dry­wall makes it sound like fun.

We Have You Sur­rounded by The Dirt­bombs. I guess I like a dose of apoc­a­lyp­tic para­noia in my mu­sic. It reigns supreme in The Dirt­bombs’ 2008 of­fer­ing. On nearly ev­ery song, singer/gui­tarist Mick Collins seems to be looking over his shoul­der and not lik­ing what he sees. The end is near, and every­one’s out to wreck his flow. With a lineup that in­cludes two bassists and two drum­mers, The Dirt­bombs are one of the many Detroit bands of the 1990s that didn’t be­come fa­mous when The White Stripes rose to glory.

Good­bye Gui­tar by Tony Gilkyson. Most solo al­bums by side­men only prove that side­men be­long on the side. But this 2006 CD proves there are ma­jor ex­cep­tions to that rule. Gilkyson— a for­mer Santa Fe res­i­dent who served time in the Los An­ge­les bands X and Lone Jus­tice— made an al­bum of solid roots rock and a mag­nif­i­cent dirge of self-loathing called “My Eyes.”

Honky by Si­mon Stokes. Rough, crunch­ing, blues-in­fected biker rock and out­law coun­try from a tough old leather-faced geezer with

a scratchy voice and a dirty mind. Stokes laughs at him­self and his ro­man­tic fol­lies in the hi­lar­i­ous rocker “No Con­fi­dence.” Even bet­ter is a blaz­ing crime tale, “Johnny Gil­lette,” con­cern­ing bald cops and a se­rial killer. Stokes did a duet al­bum with Ti­mothy Leary and pro­duced Rus­sell Means’ al­bum The Rad­i­cal. He co-wrote “Miniskirt Blues,” which was recorded by The Cramps with Iggy Pop. But he’s never sounded stronger than he does on Honky.

Mir­a­cle of Five by Eleni Man­dell. Man­dell has just about the sex­i­est voice in show­biz to­day, and her 2007 al­bum drives home this point. This is con­tem­po­rary torch mu­sic with sub­tle touches of film noir. It makes great back­ground mu­sic for read­ing Ray­mond Chan­dler, Ross Macdon­ald, or even James Ell­roy.

Es­cape From the Dragon House by Dengue Fever. Dengue is an Or­ange County garage/psy­che­delic/surf rock band (with sax and Farfisa or­gan!) fronted by Cam­bo­dia-born Ch’hom Nimol and ded­i­cated to re­viv­ing the wild, won­der­ful, lost Cam­bo­dian pop that was vir­tu­ally de­stroyed by the Kh­mer Rouge. They mix in a lit­tle Ethiopian soul mu­sic, which was also sup­pressed by evil Com­mies in the ’70s.

All the Fame of Lofty Deeds by Jon Lang­ford. This is the bestWaco Broth­ers al­bum that wasn’t re­ally by The Waco Broth­ers. It does, how­ever, fea­ture Lang­ford, the evil ge­nius be­hind TheWa­cos (and char­ter mem­ber of The Mekons.) Here he tack­les a fa­vorite Lang­ford theme — the tra­vails and temp­ta­tions of coun­try singers in post-war Amer­ica. The story is a bit­ter­sweet dis­til­la­tion of ev­ery­thing that makes Amer­ica at­trac­tive and ev­ery­thing that makes it re­pul­sive.

Cow Fish Fowl or Pig by The Gourds. Pure ex­u­ber­ant hill­billy funk with vo­cals that sound as if the town drunk had hopped on a honky-tonk stage and led the band into bold new di­men­sions. The stomp­ing ju­g­lessjug-band (well, Kev Rus­sell sings about jugs) sound of “Ants on the Melon (With Due Re­gards to Vir­ginia Adair)” re­mains my fa­vorite Gourds song.

Kids in Philly by Marah. Th­ese Philly kids were roots con­scious without a trace of retro, and so spir­ited— even when they sang of winos in the al­ley and mur­der in the streets, Marah had a jar­ring aura of op­ti­mism. And though they were much too young to have ex­pe­ri­enced the Viet­namWar, their jaw-drop­ping “Round Eye Blues,” a vet­eran’s grim mem­o­ries of the war, mixed up with im­ages from rock ’n’ soul lyrics, cut to the mar­row. Marah never again matched this al­bum from 2000.

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