TER­RELL’S TUNE-UP

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words - Steve Ter­rell

Eye of the tyger Elu­sive rock ’ n’ roll poet Wil­liam Blake might be con­sid­ered some­thing of a one-hit won­der. True, folks like Bob Dylan, Jim Mor­ri­son, and Patti Smith owe the 18th-cen­tury artist an ob­vi­ous debt, and Van Mor­ri­son ac­tu­ally name-checked Blake in “You Don’t Pull No Punches But You Don’t Push the River” on Vee­don Fleece. Folkie Greg Brown did a whole al­bum of Blake tunes in the 1980s called Songs of In­no­cence and

Ex­pe­ri­ence, and an Olympia, Washington, band called Ar­ring­ton de Dionyso and the Old Time Reli­jun did a ver­sion of Blake’s “Tyger” that sounds like Roy Or­bi­son on an­gel dust.

But Blake’s only work to get much mileage in the rock uni­verse is his poem “Jerusalem,” best known for its treat­ment by 1970s prog-rock com­mis­sars Emer­son, Lake & Palmer, who recorded it on their al­bum Brain Salad Surgery. The Mekons recorded it too, though I pre­fer the trash-rock ver­sion by The Fall from the late ’80s.

How­ever, a new ver­sion of an old Blake poem (writ­ten in 1794) re­cently emerged. A Poi­son

Tree, the new al­bum by Movie Star Junkies, fea­tures a Blake poem as the ti­tle cut. “I was an­gry with my friend:/I told my wrath, my wrath did end./I was an­gry with my foe:/I told it not, my wrath did grow.” Spoiler alert: The “wrath” grows into a tree, and by the end of the poem, “In the morn­ing glad I see/My foe out­stretched be­neath the tree.”

That Blake is a heck of a writer. Too bad he’s never made any al­bums of his own. But I bet if he did, he’d sound a lot like The Movie Star Junkies. They’re a well-read bunch. Their pre­vi­ous (and first) al­bum was a whale of a record called

Melville, which fea­tured songs about ship­wrecks and crazy ob­ses­sions.

The Blake tune is pretty in­dica­tive of the rest of this al­bum. Im­ages of murder, tor­ture, and be­trayal color the lyrics. “How many nights I got to wait be­fore you put me on a stake?” is the first line of “Leyenda Ne­gra.” Then there’s “Al­most a God,” which ends with a re­li­gious ob­ser­va­tion: I ad­mire the devil/For he never fin­ishes things/ I ad­mire God/For he fin­ishes ev­ery­thing.”

And there’s an­other song about a tree, “The Wal­nut Tree,” a mi­nor-key romp that sounds like Go­gol Bor­dello pay­ing trib­ute to Johnny Cash’s chunka-chunka beat. It’s a song of doomed love. My fa­vorite fore­bod­ing line: “We danced in a field with ravens and crows.”

The ba­sic MSJ sound is dark but melodic — spaghetti-Western gui­tars over (a real) Farfisa or­gan and drums that evoke a march­ing band. The band proudly cites The Birth­day Party as an in­flu­ence, and you can hear echoes of early Nick Cave in there. The last song, a seven-minute epic called “All Win­ter Long,” ends in a dense in­stru­men­tal with fuzzy gui­tar licks that bring back mem­o­ries of The Elec­tric Prunes.

The al­bum is barely more than 30 min­utes long. But it’s in­tense enough by the time it’s over that a lis­tener feels like he’s been through a jour­ney. Check out www.voodoorhythm.com/ movie_s­tar_ junkies.html.

▼ Also rec­om­mended: Two-Headed De­mon

by Ur­ban Ju­nior. Voodoo Rhythm is fond of the one-man-band con­cept. They’ve re­leased al­bums by John Schoo­ley and Bob Logg III (both Amer­i­cans), French won­der King Au­to­matic, and la­bel head Rev. Beat-Man’s masked al­ter ego Light­ning Beat-Man. And now comes Ur­ban Ju­nior, who, even by Voodoo Rhythm stan­dards, will amaze you with how much noise one man can pro­duce.

But un­like most of those oth­ers listed, Ur­ban Ju­nior doesn’t seem to be fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of the late West Vir­ginia mad­man Hasil Ad­kins, who cre­ated a dis­tinc­tive one-man coun­try/blues bash sound. In­stead, UJ de­scribes his sound as “Swiss-spankin-elec­tro-trash­garage-boo­gie-disco-blues-punk” and lists The Beastie Boys as an in­flu­ence. He fears not the syn­the­sizer. But don’t get the no­tion that his sound is slick or glitzy. He uses his synth as an as­sault weapon.

The ti­tle cut sounds like in­vad­ing Huns in a disco mas­sacre. “With the Id­iots” is a lit­tle more rootsy, at least in the open­ing mo­ments be­fore the deci­bels rise. It has what sounds like a theremin solo.

UJ shows his true per­ver­sity in the last song, “We Love Ur­ban Ju­nior,” in which a cou­ple of lit­tle girls — well, at least they sound like lit­tle girls — lit­er­ally sing his praises, com­pli­ment­ing both his mu­sic and his manly physique.

Check out www.voodoorhythm.com/ur­ban­ju­nior.html.

▼ Hear mu­sic from these records on the ra­dio: I play stuff like this all the time on Ter­rell’s Sound

World, free-form weirdo ra­dio, 10 p.m. Sun­day on KSFR-FM 101.1. It’s stream­ing and scream­ing on the Web at www.ksfr.org. And don’t for­get to go hill­billy nuts on The Santa Fe Opry, the coun­try mu­sic Nashville does not want you to hear, same time Fri­day on KSFR.

▼ Blogs on fire: You can find years of “Ter­rell’s Tuneup” col­umns as well as my ra­dio playlists and var­i­ous rants about the mu­si­cal-in­dus­trial com­plex at www.stevet­er­rell.blogspot.com. In­ter­ested in the strange world of New Mex­ico pol­i­tics? Check out my po­lit­i­cal blog at www.round­house­roundup.com.

▼ Hog-wild pod­cast­ing: The lat­est episode of “The Big En­chi­lada” is up and ready to crawl into your com­puter. This month’s show is called “Hill­billy Pig Out,” and it’s the kind of stuff I play on The Santa Fe Opry. Zap it on your iPod, burn it on a disc, or lis­ten right there on your com­puter. It’s one of 26 free pod­cast episodes at www.bi­gen­chi­ladapod­cast.com. ◀

Movie Star Junkies

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