TRASHY TROVE: OFF LA­BEL RECORDS

Pasatiempo - - TERRELL’S TUNE-UP -

I don’t know how many t i mes I’ve been asked “Where do you find this stuff?” by folks who read this col­umn and/or lis­ten to my ra­dio shows and pod­cast. Mostly the ques­tion is asked by the sin­cerely cu­ri­ous, though some­times the ques­tion is ac­com­pa­nied by a de­ri­sive smirk.

My nor­mal re­sponse is a half-jok­ing, “I don’t find it. It finds me.” But in the case of the fan­tas­tic ar­ray of crazy, rock­ing, some­times bizarre, and oc­ca­sion­ally beau­ti­ful sounds I get from an ob­scure lit­tle Ger­man out­fit called Off La­bel Records, I hon­estly don’t re­mem­ber how I found it. All I know is that in the past four or five years, links to mu­sic-packed zip files just show up in my email and some­times phys­i­cal CDs ap­pear in my mail­box (yes, shipped all the way from Europe). Off La­bel is a pro­lific lit­tle out­fit, hav­ing re­leased al­bums, EPs, and 7-inch sin­gles by dozens of acts in the past few years, mostly from Europe, but also South Amer­ica and Aus­tralia.

Just re­cently I was hap­pily sur­prised to find a new CD mailed by Off La­bel’s supreme com­man­der, Johnny Hanke, in my box, a tasty lit­tle com­pi­la­tion called Off La­bel Werkschau 2009-2014 fea­tur­ing most of my fa­vorite Off La­bel artists. And bet­ter yet, nearly all of th­ese are new songs (plus a few that saw very lim­ited re­leases). So what kind of mu­sic is this? “Good mu­sic” is the short an­swer. But more specif­i­cally, Off La­bel spe­cial­izes in the stuff I love the best.

There is a healthy por­tion of wild, snotty garagepunk, rep­re­sented here by, among oth­ers, The Va­goos, Jonah Gold & His Sil­ver Ap­ples, Lynx Lynx, Thee Ver­duns, and The Mokkers, an all- fe­male Ger­man group that does a spir­ited cover of Thee Head­coa­tees’ “Wild Man.” Also, there’s a whole lot of warped coun­try and folk. Louisiana ex­pa­tri­ate DM Bob and his ac­com­plice Speedy Jake do an in­spired slop-bucket cover of Char­lie Rich’s “Big Man,” while The Dad Horse Ex­pe­ri­ence XL kick off the al­bum with a banjo-led gospel romp, “Too Close to Heaven.” The Salty Pa­ja­mas’ “Rats in My Amp” is one of the more sur­real selections here. The Di­nosaur Truck­ers play a song called “All the Way Back Home” in their sweet ’n’ purdy Ger­man blue­grass style. And Pea & The Pees’ wacky hill­billy work­out “Horse & Cows” would make Holly Golightly & The Broke­offs jeal­ous.

Off La­bel is one of the world’s lead­ing pur­vey­ors of loud, stripped-down, Bob Log-in­formed blues, and some of its ma­jor masters of this weird sub­genre are present and ac­counted for on the com­pi­la­tion. My fa­vorite is the Brazil­ian one-man sonic as­sault team O Lendário Chu­cro­bil­ly­man, who plays a song about a “Chicken Yo­del­ing Woman.” Speak­ing of poul­try, the Aus­tralian one-man band who calls him­self Made for Chick­ens by Ro­bots does a slow, clunky, and ir­re­sistible num­ber called “Meatjuice Mous­tache,” while The Blues Against Youth, yes, an­other one-man guy, this one from Rome, shows off some hot licks on his song “Dot­ted White Line.”

But there also selections on Werkschau that don’t fit neatly into any of th­ese cat­e­gories. For in­stance, Jenny & The Steady Go’s play straight-ahead rock­a­billy, while Re­verse Cow­girls, a Dutch group, per­form­ing a tune called “Worm,” falls some­where be­tween coun­try-rock and garage. The Co­conut Kings, a Swiss band, sound a lot like the Squir­rel Nut Zip­pers on “No Ca­lypso Song.” And Vul­gar­Grad, a band from Aus­tralia that spe­cial­izes in Rus­sian- style songs, sounds like an acous­tic Go­gol Bordello on the song “Ball­room,” though the singer sounds more like Pop­eye than Eu­gene Hütz.

Chances are you’ve never heard of most — maybe not even any — of the mu­si­cal acts on Werkschau. Don’t feel bad. I hadn’t ei­ther, be­fore Hanke started send­ing me all this stuff a few years ago. Don’t let that stop you. You can find this com­pi­la­tion and all the other crazy Off La­bel mu­sic at their web­site, www.off la­bel­records.de, as well as the usual down­load sites.

Here are some other re­cent re­leases from the com­pany. And as fate would have it, all three of th­ese acts have Band­camp sites, so you can lis­ten to their mu­sic and if you like it, do your­self and civ­i­liza­tion a fa­vor and buy it! The Va­goos Love You. This is the se­cond re­lease by this Ger­man garage group, fol­low­ing their 2014 self-ti­tled al­bum. Love You is only six songs — and that’s my only com­plaint about it. If you like The Yard­birds and early Stones and songs like “(I’m Not Your) Step­ping Stone,” you’ll hear those in­flu­ences im­me­di­ately. And they even in­clude a hopped-up surf in­stru­men­tal called “Vendetta.” The Va­goos’ Band­camp page is www.the­va­goos.band­camp.com. You’ll also find their first al­bum there. Good Times by Oh Lazarus. Here’s an Ital­ian group that loves good old early 20th-cen­tury blues, coun­try jug-band and hot jazz. This al­bum has Euro-fil­tered cov­ers of songs like “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sis­ter Kate,” “St. James In­fir­mary,” “Sin­gle Girl Again,” Skip James’ “Crow Jane,” and Tom Waits’ “Come On Up to the House.” Its Band­camp page is www.ohlazarus.band­camp.com. Un­easy Grounds by Dead Cat Stimpy. You like those raunchy lo-fi one-man blues bash­ers like O Lendário Chu­cro­bil­ly­man and the oth­ers I men­tioned above? Then Dead Cat Stimpy is for you. He’s a Dutch fel­low who’s un­daunted by invit­ing com­par­isons to one of Amer­ica’s great­est in his song “Pos­sessed by Robert John­son.” But my fa­vorite here is the ag­gres­sively rock­ing “Twist Man.” Stimpy’s Band­camp page is www.dead­cat­stimpy.band­camp.com. You can even find a free down­load of a live al­bum there.

So what kind of mu­sic is this? “Good mu­sic” is the short an­swer. But more specif­i­cally, Off La­bel spe­cial­izes in the stuff I love the best.

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