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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Arthur Brown: Strangelands


1) The Country; 2) The City; 3) The Cosmos; 4) The Cosmos (cont.); 5) Endless Sleep.

There are quite a few «from-the-vaults» releases from different stages of Arthur Brown's long and diverse career, judging by the discographies. Most of these, however, are quite hard to get, some have only semi-official or bootleg status, and, most importantly, it is not exactly clear if any of them are worth hunting down for anything other than historical purposes.

I have managed to locate one of them — Strangelands, recorded in late 1969 and originally supposed to be the second official LP by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, although this world was crazy in a different way already: Vince Crane was out of the band, and the songwri­ting was dominated by Brown and his drummer pal Drachen Theaker, even more advanced in the ways of progressive avantgarde than Arthur. Different, but not any less crazy: how could an album re­corded at the Jabberwocky Studios in the merry land of Puddletown be anything less than compe­tely and utterly bonkers?

It seems hard to deny the decisive influence that Trout Mask Replica must have had on this re­cord, next to which The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown sounds like a bunch of innocent teen-pop singles. No more verses, choruses, hooks, or anything targeted at instantaneous memorability and seduction. Instead, we have several lengthy, multi-part suites, performed in semi-improvisa­tory style over a mesh of blues-rock and jazz-rock patterns that occasionally descend into free-form chaos. Whee!

How is this different from early Kingdom Come? Well, much of the musical philosophy is the same (and a few of the melodies and vocal passages actually made their way over to Galactic Zoo Dossier, eventually). But compared to this, even Kingdom Come was more «commercial» — the sound was tighter and tougher, the riffs were better fleshed out, and there were sometimes even perfectly «normal» tracks like ʽSunriseʼ. Strangelands has no masterplan, other than some vague, constantly fluctuating ideas on how to fuck your brains in the most effective way. Or, put it differently, in the most boring way?

The reason why this second album never even found a proper distributor is that it never had any real meaning. Trout Mask Replica, at the very least, was a diligently planned, carefully crafted experiment in creating a new face for music. It took lots of inspiration from progressive jazz mas­ters and transplanted it into a pop / blues-rock setting with the utmost care. This here stuff, how­ever, has fairly little to add to what was already quite normal ever since Frank Zappa's Absolute­ly Free came out in 1967, except for Brown's «now I'm Dr. Evil, and now I'm the little goat in your backyard, and now I'm actually being serious but you won't be able to tell anyway» routine that gets annoying in about five minutes.

Decidedly, this is one of the most «far out» recordings of 1969, but individually, every single in­gredient here will be done better by either Pink Floyd, Can, Captain Beefheart, or Amon Düül II, and collectively they do not amount to a singular vision — the whole thing is very much transiti­onal, before the whole plan became realized in a slightly more accessible and coherent way on Galactic Zoo Dossier. Recommended only for completists and serious historiographers of weird brain cell movements; thumbs down otherwise. PS: Apparently, there is something called Jam, credited to Kingdom Come this time, another archival release that is also mostly bent on im­pro­visational ravings and stuff. There is an infinitesimally small chance that it will ever manage to cross your path unless you make it your destiny, but beware all the same.

1 comment:

  1. Heh, so now I know where Keane got the idea for their latest album title from.