By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
Maybe the cops in Fort Collins had a right to be concerned.
A world of Denver recordings is just a sentence away.
The first releases from Denver's 360 Twist! Records are simple, straightforward and thoroughly wonderful. Timothy Gassen, leader of Marshmallow Overcoat, from Arizona, has a voice that can be deep and forbidding or light and frothy, and he builds most of the songs on the group's self-titled CD atop Debra Dickey's spooky Farfisa. "Our Love (Will Survive)," "Mr. President" and "Land of Fuzz" are Sixties-style garage music that recall the classic Nuggets collection. In other words, it's fun, fun, fun--and a little creepy, too. Organs are also important to Mondo Topless, a Philadelphia combo represented by the aptly titled Fifty Thousand Dollar Hand Job; Sam Steinig's Vox is featured prominently in "Dragstrip," "Tease" and "Seven." The lyrics are nebulous, and the shagginess of the playing never comes at the expense of pop verities. Music like this was meant to be disposable, but Hand Job feels built to last.
The three other 360 Twist! products in my possession are of the vinyl variety, but they're just as lovable as the aforementioned discs. My Love E.P. comes courtesy of Element 79, a group consisting of 360 Twist! founders Michael Daboll and Mike Gilligan, with Jeff Learman on drums. The platter includes four trippy joyrides: "My Love," an ultra-catchy number highlighted by Daboll's inspired screaming; "Hey," a hookfest that's as rough as it is righteous; "I'm Higher Than I'm Down," a more deliberate ditty that actually stays under control from beginning to end; and "She Can't Hide," a melodic, almost jangly effort. The package as a whole retains a homemade feel that provides a tonic to so much of today's fussed over, soulless rock and roll. So, too, does Come Booze Down With...the Hectics, a politically incorrect blast of Nineties punk. Anika Zappe, Juli McClurg and Dan Tafoya contribute four tunes that fly at your ears like shrapnel. "Merry Go Round" is nasty stuff underlined by background vocals that reminded me of the Shaggs; "Dance With Me" features big riffing that Joey Ramone would approve of; "Everything I Need" is punky minimalism that somehow manages to skirt the cliches of the genre; and "Mother Fucker" is a silly but amusing toss-off overflowing with atonal singing and the sheer joy that shouting profanities can bring. Top-notch stuff. Last but not least, "Thief"/"Automatic Love," by Thee Headcoats (a British act revered by the garage set) provides more than five minutes' worth of unadulterated fun. The former cut is marked by heavily accented crooning and brawny harmonica; the latter is built on a British Invasion guitar, a honking harp and a melody that suggests a mid-Sixties vintage football chant. If this is the kind of stuff 360 Twist! plans to put out, pray that the company stays afloat for a long, long time (360 Twist! Records, P.O. Box 9367, Denver 80209).
The next four slabs of vinyl come to us from disparate sources. Blood, Sweat & Beers, a split 45 featuring Four and the 8 Bucks Experiment, includes six songs brimming with teen angst. The first two numbers by Four, "La-Mar" and "United Pansies," too closely resemble each other to achieve maximum impact, but they're diverting nonetheless. And the Experiment? "Red Line" sports an unpunk-like tempo, "Train Wreck" moves at a herky-jerky gate, and "One of These Days" lingers as a result of a structure that's practically pop. A good introduction to two of the Denver scene's up-and-comers (Blue Moon Records, 2075 S. University Blvd. #264, Denver 80210). Two other good acts, Sissy Fuzz and Gina Go Faster, share a split single available on the Blue Lamp imprint. "Unglued" finds the Sissys in good form--the song is pleasantly nebulous and unhurried--while "Nice Boy" is an exercise in spontaneity: Each tempo change seems to occur totally at random, yet the shifts are almost always for the better. A nice pair (available in area record stores). Less effective is "Blue Hearted Fool"/"I Never Will," by the Tennessee Boys, the Portuguese rockabilly act that made such a splash in Denver a year or two back. The excitement these four bop cats produced on stage isn't captured on vinyl; Pedro Serra's lead vocals are so oddly recorded, in fact, that I had to check my turntable to ensure that it was playing at the correct speed. (It was.) Perhaps future efforts by the Boys will more successfully demonstrate their charms (Wormtone Records, 3339 W. Moncrieff Place, Denver 80211). Another miss is A Day in Erie, by a Boulder combo that calls itself A. The A-side, "Brecks Shoes," ambles along in a nondescript manner, while the three-part "Star Wars Trilogy" that adorns the opposite face is a simple goof--poorly recorded drums and guitar interspersed with lines like "Luke--I am your father." Unfortunately, James Earl Jones does not make a guest appearance (Squishee Records, 1050 Rose Hill Dr., Boulder 80302).
Acrobat Down is the latest project from Aaron Hobbs, late of Small Dog Frenzy. (Also a onetime Dog is Hans Buenning, who moves from drums to guitar in this new entity.) The group's demo isn't exactly weighted down with printed information--the names of the songs aren't even listed--but the recording makes plain that Hobbs hasn't lost his touch for ringing vocals, seductive melodies and good vibes. Here's hoping we hear more from these guys soon (417-0481). MKONO's Primal Future is exotica of a rather more serious stripe than that once practiced by Martin Denny; Erik Meyer and the rest of his cadre wish to simulate authentic world-music sounds, not camp them up. Their efforts aren't entirely successful--there's a new-agey feel to "Nile Dance" and some of the other pieces here. But the concentration on rhythm (nearly everyone plays a conga) and an extremely layered percussion style render the majority of Primal Future quite listenable. They've got the beat (available in area record stores).