End of the Trail

Costes’ End of the Trail is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

Costes
End of the Trail
(Self-released, 1992)

Costes is the ultimate DIY rocker of the French Underground. He’s vile, prolific, poignant, crazy, unlistenable, pop. End of the Trail is the seventh of his releases and his third album to be recorded in English. While some would argue that Lung Farts is an equal masterpiece, End is a nineteen-song homage to his breakup with indie icon Lisa Suckdog Carver, and a more moving love letter has never been recorded. Splatters of filth and sonic mess hide the sentimentality, but the beauty shines through, triumphantly sad beneath layers of disgust and ugly noise. A classical sonnet will dissolve into layered muddle punctuated by overblown vocals, only to be reduced a moment later to a vulnerable whimper as a multitude of schizophrenic emotions battle for dominance. Costes plays, sings, manipulates, produces and destroys every track in utter solitude, shining through on borderline narcissistic tracks like “King of Rock’N Roll, Sort Of” and “I Don’t Want to Be a Souvenir on a CD Player.” His music is from necessity; he cannot help himself. It is the document of modern humanity as representative of his era’s id as Gainsbourg was of his.

Lauded by the likes of Thurston Moore and the odd rock journalist, Costes remains virtually unknown, even in his own country, a special gem without genre. (Costes has claimed Daniel Johnston and GG Allin as musical kin, though he resembles neither.) He has been shunned, sued and attacked for his uncompromisingly viscous aesthetic. Still, at the time of this writing he has over thirty recordings to his credit and he shows no signs of slowing. (Bengala)

Brute Force

Brute Force is a Lost in the Grooves artist. Click to sample the music or purchase the songs "Hunger For Your Anger," "Franchise Guy," "Ray Gun" or "Extremist Polka."

I, Brute Force
Confections of Love
(Columbia, 1967)

Brute Force is Stephen Friedland, still actively plying his trade as one of America’s great linguistic tricksters. In the mid-sixties, he adopted the nom de plume Brute Force for musical activities including a long association with the Tokens, composition of the Chiffons’ existential psych masterpiece “Nobody Knows What’s Goin’ On (In My Mind But Me)” and this giddy treasure, inventively produced by John Simon.

Brute Force’s teeming brain absorbed the clichés that fed Pop’s hungry maw, spun them around at 62 zillion feet per second, then spat them back out in juicy recombinant strands.

No sixties rock ‘n’ roll freak can fail to be elated by Brute’s vamp on exaggerated love-sick lyrics, “Tapeworm of Love,” or “In Jim’s Garage,” which takes the class division subtext of the girl group genre and runs amok: “He may be greasy and dirty/ But that’s just a mark of his honesty/ And she loves him/ She loves that Jim.” Brute slides all over his tonsils emoting Latin lunacy on “Tierra del Fuego,” before convincingly suggesting the pinnacle of civilization might be “To Sit on a Sandwich.” A year later he took direct performative action, attempting to swim the Bering Strait to unite the US and Russia.

Friedland calls his music “heavy funny,” and the wonder is how perfectly balanced the two halves are. As demented as a Brute Force song can be, there’s always an underlying germ of philosophy, a point to the exercise. A couple years later, George Harrison heard Brute’s sly “King of Fuh,” added strings and put it out on Apple, but Capitol/EMI squashed the suggestive song, which became the rarest Apple release. Today Brute Force performs frequently at music and comedy venues in the New York area, and recently toured England in support of the reissue of his second album, Extemporaneous. (Kim Cooper)

The Orgone Box & more

The Orgone Box’ self-titled debut is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. We are also pleased to feature the follow up, “Things That Happened Then.” Click to sample the music or purchase.

The Orgone Box
The Orgone Box
(Minus Zero UK, 2001)

Too many bedroom bands drink at the trough of Evolution and Revolver, fire up the old four-track and seek to replicate same, with results typically stiff, unconvincing and a trifle embarrassing. But not this time. Rick Corcoran is the real thing: a massively skilled sixties-influenced songwriter who doesn

Mesmerizer

The Lipstick Killers’ Mesmerizer is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

The Lipstick Killers Mesmerizer (Citadel, Australia, 1984)

On the strength of a Deniz Tek-produced 45 issued by Bomp subsidiary Voxx in 1979, Sydney’s Lipstick Killers decamped for Los Angeles and dreams of Northern hemisphere success. They lasted a year in the cozy grime of the Tropicana Motel and a bug-infested Silverlake apartment, playing about a dozen gigs, including a Brian Jones memorial at the Whisky and at Madame Wong’s with the Plimsouls. Mesmerizer is the document of one of these shows, recorded on cassette by Flesh Eater Chris D., cleaned up nicely and released posthumously on Radio Birdman crony “Brother” John Needham’s Citadel imprint. In the absence of an official studio album, this high energy set stands as slightly sloppy but irresistible evidence of the band’s magic. Over twelve songs, including terrific covers of the Chocolate Watchband’s “Let’s Talk About Girls” and the Elevators’ “I’ve Got Levitation,” the Lipstick Killers swagger like the Hindu gods of their signature song, all power chords, tribal drums and perfectly controlled frenzy. The band’s originals come across like unknown frat rock standards gene-spliced with a finely honed blend of psychedelia and DIY punk energy. Insinuation was their strong suit: “Dying Boy’s Crawl” and “Strange Flash” get right under your skin and pull you bodily towards the music. Maybe a band this tight and moody was nothing special on the Sydney scene, but they must have blown their L.A. competition sideways. Unfortunately, the usual band problems intruded–mental illness, money, the singer getting a day job to pay rent on the communal flat–and the Killers called it quits. The members eventually wound their way back to Australia, where they still occasionally play as the Lipstick Killers. When I saw them open for Radio Birdman in 2002 they fulfilled every promise of Mesmerizer and more. (Kim Cooper, from the book Lost in the Grooves)

Strum & Drum!

Sex Clark 5's Strum & Drum! is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive, with bonus tracks. Click below to sample music or purchase. 

Available CDs: Strum & Drum!, SC5 Rarities, Strum & Drum! + Rarities compilation

Be Sex Clark 5's friend on MySpace – click here! 

Sex Clark 5 Strum & Drum! (Records to Russia, 1987/ Beehive Rebellion, 1996)

Hailing from Huntsville, Alabama—the place where Wernher von Braun traded rocketry know-how for immunity, but perhaps more significantly birthplace of “Eight Miles High”—these lo-fi pop wunderkinder had one of the eighties’ great lost discs in Strum & Drum! Their name is one of the broad strokes forming a sly humored sensibility, this from a group also given to titling a noisy piss-take “Get Back Yoko,” and producing an electronic loop of the phrase “Girls of Somalia,” apparently a 5th dimensional play on the Beach Boys’ celebrations of regional pulchritude. But these are the oddities on a disc that’s 95% ebullient, near-perfect Beatlesque pop, delivered with careless glee all but unheard of in the power pop ghetto. None of singer/guitarist James Butler’s twenty songs clocks in above 2:43, giving them the opportunity to charm without boring. SC5 leaves you wanting more, but with the next unforgettable melody never far away. Take “Detention Girls,” a reductive micro opera with a cheerleader’s chant giving the if-you-blinked-you-missed-it bridge that extra jolt sending the whole marvelous package into sugary hyperdrive. “Modern Fix” is at once daffy and poignant. The powerfully delivered line “Why don’t we take all our gimmicks, put ‘em all in one box/ And trade ‘em for a bag of tube socks?” seems (and is) absurd on its face, but in context it’s the possibly final plea of a lover trying to make a rough love work. “Valerie”’s singsong melody seems somehow backwards, an exquisite medieval meander fused with a sweetness straight out of the McCartney songbook. Lightning-paced “Alai” is blessed with one of those hooks that won’t quit, though what the “alai-lai-lai-lai” the band is on about may never be revealed. Sometimes bassist Joy Johnson sings in the sweet, slightly flat voice of a serious little kid, but mostly Butler leads the show, mouth racing to keep up with the shambling, ecstatic rush of his band. These dizzy, precise little tunes are like musical meringues, each one a brilliant gem of an idea whipped to soft, gooey peaks. Look for the out-of-print 1996 CD reissue that includes the magical early “Neita Grew Up Last Night” EP. (Kim Cooper, from the book Lost in the Grooves)

The Communists Are Coming To Kill Us/Prank Calls

John Trubee’s The Communists Are Coming to Kill Us! is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive, available now from Maryatt Music Group. Click to sample John’s singles collection or purchase.

John Trubee’s legendary Prank Call CDs, available as MP3 samples, downloads or full CDs:

Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 1
Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 2
Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 3
Greatest Prank Phone Calls Of All Time Vol. 4

Review:
John Trubee and the Ugly Janitors of America The Communists Are Coming to Kill Us! (Enigma, 1984)

Mr. Trubee is best known as the man behind “Blind Man’s Penis,” a demented poem with lines like “Warts love my nipples because they are pink/Vomit on me baby, yeah, yeah” that was sent to a song-poem mill and turned into a deadpan country song which subsequently became an underground novelty hit. Lesser known, but far stranger, is his follow-up album. Trubee got the ball rolling by sending a fake suicide note to several associates, including L.A. Reader rock critic Matt Groening and Enigma’s Bill Hein, who agreed to meet with Trubee and negotiate a record deal. In Trubee’s words: “It was no negotiation. I wanted to do the record badly–that was obvious. It was similar to a horny teenage boy negotiating with a supermodel to lose his virginity. There is no deal–he just gets with her fast before she changes her mind. I told Bill I’d do it for no money. He set up mastering time at Capitol and I walked in … with a brown paper bag full of reel tapes and cassettes of teenage poetry rants, prank phone calls, aborted horn chart recordings from music school, and other weirdness. I had the flu and I sat with Eddie Shierer for six hours editing all this madness into an album.” What resulted was an extremely unique and, well, odd record. I came across it in a used bin shortly after it came out. It was both annoying as hell and insanely captivating, a collage of atonal avant-jazz, primitive electronic compositions, and spoken rants against stuck-up college girls and the suave men who slept with them, plus those juvenile prank calls, a revelation long before the genre became a pop cultural phenomena. If the record that was attached to the Voyager space probe had contained the sounds of all the alienated, pissed-off, shat-on people on earth, it would sound something like this. (Chas Glynn, from the book Lost in the Grooves)

Big Pine Boogie

Gibson Bros’ Big Pine Boogie is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

Gibson Bros
Big Pine Boogie
(Okra, 1987 / Homestead, 1988)

The debut from Columbus, OH blues and country archivists the Gibson Bros arrived at the height of indie rock

Fugu

Fugu’s debut Fugu EP is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

Fugu Fugu EP (Semantic, 1996)

Fugu is Mehdi Zannad, a classically trained French pianist who discovered he could only compose three-minute songs. Don’t be fooled by the indie world that tries to “Hello Kitty-ize” him. However pretentious Zannad’s titles, his music could be taken seriously by the sternest scholars. This self-released EP, which predates debut full-length Fugu 1 by four years, is as despicably rare as it is charming. I was able to obtain a copy directly from Zannad after a Boston performance. His jaw-dropping postmodern Beach Boys deconstructions (complete with four-part harmonies) combined with skillful power pop spelunking led me to confront his timid frame after the set and proclaim, “you are my new favorite band!” More consistent and battier than Fugu 1, the EP is one of the least boring and most rococo recordings you are ever likely to hear. “F29” is a trip into a cavern of multi-colored rock candy stalagmites triggered by swift piano arpeggios, skronky Vox organ hits, sweeping cello melodramas and Zannad’s own incoherent trilling. Complete with sighing violins, “F4” evokes a mythological place where the Beatles are composed of two French Paul McCartneys, the Velvet Underground’s Sterling Morrison plays his ultra simplistic “non-rock” leads, and Ringo pats on the muted snare, like on Abbey Road’s “Something.” On “Untitled” and “Interlude,” a cacophony of voices and bubbling machines intermingle with gurgling horns and myriad symphonic cutting-room floor clippings before returning to Earth. “F26” pits the thrush of strummed guitars, frowning horns and cotton candy organ against Zannad’s voice on the odd-canticle chorus. While it’s possible to be swept up in the obvious magical mystery of his production, or the fractured-ness of his arranging sensibility, there is always at the core an essential song, a framework to shake you of your every sun-baked boredom with pop music. Orgiastic, steeped in utter coherence. (Jonathan Donaldson, from the book Lost in the Grooves)

Chevrolet Sings of Safe Driving & You

"Chevrolet Sings" is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

The First Team
Chevrolet Sings of Safe Driving and You
(Columbia Special Products, n.d., likely c. 1965)

Avoiding the Red Asphalt approach to driver’s ed., our corporate friends at Chevrolet decided folk-rock was the perfect medium to sell the learner’s permit crowd on appropriate automotive behavior. The result was a sort of Schoolhouse Rock for timid auto-jocks, a catchy set of rules and prohibitions meant to instill a sense of cautious confidence in young drivers. It’s delightfully catchy, and achieves all its aims. “Grown-up Baby” (Driving Psychology) addresses those with a deadly weapon at their disposal who lack the emotional maturity to behave sensibly. Frenetic banjos build to a nervous climax as the hip parental narrators fuss about hotheads, wheel-squealers and other car-creeps. “Cities and Towns” (Driving in City and Heavy Traffic) skimps on the lyrical edumacation, but jangles like a lost Byrds track. “Nowhere Fast” (Observance and Enforcement) with its spooky, insinuating New England garage sound scans more like free verse than pop song: “there are many other THINGS THAT you will have to know/ like when a sign says STOP that’s what it means and not just slow.” Flip the disk for the shouldabeen hit, “Gentle Things” (Adverse Driving Conditions), a Simon and Garfunkel-style beauty with aggressively mournful harmonica. Dad guilt-trips us with the message that expert drivers let the weather be their guide, but this listener is too blissed-out on the melody to think of rain (“a gentle thing, except when you’re driving”) as a threat. “The Natural Laws” (Laws of Motion) is a cool little soul shouter about what a groove it is to be subject to centrifugal force, getting raunchy when the singer pants, “they are all, UH HUH, natural laws.” And “Man-Made Laws” (Common Sense Driving) is full of suggestions about rights of way, passing and distance. It’s all very useful stuff, and I often find myself humming snippets while maneuvering around afternoon gridlock in L.A. There are no performer credits, but the label states that Lou Adessa and Vince Benay composed the songs. This same talented pair wrote Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “SS 396,” also released on Columbia Special Products and given away by Chevrolet dealers around 1965. (Kim Cooper, from the book Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed)