Various Artists
Sci-Fi Lo-Fi Volume 1 (Mixed By Andrew Weatherall)
2007
B+



andrew Weatherall’s latest studio projects—the two Wrong Meeting albums with Keith Tenniswood as Two Lone Swordsmen—were accompanied by a listening diet of ‘50s and ‘60s rockabilly, psychobilly, surf-rock, psychedelic folk, and the darker sides of post-punk and new wave. Volume 1 of Soma’s new Sci-Fi Lo-Fi series is described as an accompaniment to Wrong Meeting, and works as a narrative explaining how Weatherall imagines this musical line stretching from these early forms and derivations of rock’n’roll into Two Lone Swordsmen’s retro-futuristic present.

Joe Boot and the Fabulous Winds’ “Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio” is his starting point, with the cheerily simplistic slogan “Ice cream ‘n’ soda pop, hope the music never stop!” demonstrating the length of this piece of musical string. The distance is covered though, over an hour-long set that begins with 25 minutes of rockabilly, surf rock, and ‘60s garage. There are clear predecessors to psychobilly here, like Hipbone Slim & the Knee-Tremblers’ wicked, maniacal “Snake Pit,” and Charlie Feathers’ delirious “Jungle Fever,” as well as the proto-Ramones “Jungle Rock” by Tav Falco & Panther Burns.

The second half moves into the modern age and features some bigger names like T-Rex, the Fall, and Primal Scream, but while they all retain the swing-beat to keep the story going, the highlights can be found elsewhere. Flaming Stars’ “Spilled Your Pint” has a menacing piano riff to underlie a story about drunken violence, and there’s a frankly bizarre cover of Diana Ross’ “Upside Down” by Tropics of Cancer that features a rumbling, echoey bassline and a disturbingly inappropriate vocal. But it’s the Cramps who steal the show with the trashy, ranting “New Kind of Kick.” Over a repeated garage riff and building tension, lead singer Lux Interior wails “I want some new kind of kick, a-waah waah waah!” like Iggy Pop at his most unhinged. Of all the mental instability on this disc—and that’s the recurring lyrical theme here—it’s the Cramps who carry off craziness with the most style. For all that Marc Bolan’s falsetto on “Free Angel” is beautiful, he just isn’t wild enough for this bunch.

It’s left up to Weatherall himself to round the set off with “Feathers,” from his recent EP The Bullet Catcher’s Apprentice. It’s propulsive and groovy, with a prominent scratching guitar motif and wide-open spaces filled with synths, processed basslines, and effects. On the face of it, it’s light years away from Joe Boot, but what it does share is the swing-beat that underpins the whole musical line: words like “propulsive” and “groovy,” as well as "driving," "chugging," "rolling," or "swinging," can be applied to everything here. It's dance music of a different kind, and Weatherall's thorough and fascinating guide to the half-century of inspiration he’s currently drawing from leaves whoever is in line to curate Volume 2 with a hard act to follow.



Reviewed by: Ally Brown
Reviewed on: 2007-10-02
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