By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
Why has Mark set up an imprint of his own when Foreskin 500 could probably have scored a contract with any number of nationally known indies? Part of the answer is rooted in last year's collapse of Priority Records. Foreskin was signed to the firm through Basura, a Priority spinoff. But shortly after the appearance of Starbent But Superfreaked, Foreskin's latest and grooviest recording, the powers at Priority decided to shut down its rock division and concentrate on hip-hop, its original forte. This sudden move screwed a number of acts: Congo Norvell's new disc never hit stores and remains in corporate limbo to this day, while Magnapop, the rock act Priority pushed the hardest, is facing a monstrous debt that will be exceedingly difficult to recoup. By comparison, Foreskin was fortunate: The combo owed Priority only $6,500, which Mark agreed to repay. But actually winning Foreskin's freedom has proven to be trickier than it initially seemed. "I talked to their main lawyer last October," Mark says, "and he told me everything should be resolved in a month or so. But it wasn't--and every time I've talked to him since then, he's like, 'Sorry, I haven't gotten to it this week, but I will. Everything's fine.'" He adds, "Nobody has told me we're fucked yet, so hopefully we're not. But it's real obvious that finishing this up isn't at the top of their list."
Because of these experiences, Mark chose not to link Boom-Boom up with Noise, a California outfit whose directors had expressed interest in a deal. "After the Priority thing, I was too scared to do it," he admits. "So I'm going to go through distributors like Caroline and Cargo. I know enough of those people so it won't be completely starting over."
The first Boom-Boom platter is a vinyl version of Starbent, complete with a gatefold design that's already in finer record stores; Mark was able to put it out prior to wrapping the Priority negotiations because the band had been savvy enough to retain vinyl rights. "It's definitely not the smartest thing to have done from a business standpoint," he says. "But I wanted to do it because I thought it would be cool--and it is. I'd like to do a Foreskin remix album, too, but that'll have to wait for everything else to be worked out."
In the meantime, Mark is wrapping up Boom-Boom's first offering by another act--the full-length CD debut by Denver's premier electronic group, Nebula 9. "It's a very 'live' record--like a live mix," he reveals. "I guess I'd describe the songs as trance with a little trip-hop and some spacy, Kraftwerk-y, tweaky analog stuff in there." Also coming soon are recordings of LD-50 and Space Mountain Sound System, who appear together on Saturday, March 15, at Seven South (see page 74). The date will mark the club debut of Space Mountain, which consists of Mark and former Warlock Pincher wildman King Scratchie, who's now referring to himself as Mr. Legendary. "We've been playing parties and trying to get it together," Mark says. "We were the two guys who started Warlock Pinchers ten years ago, but we haven't done anything since that band broke up. So when we got together again, I was just totally blown away by his ability. And the recordings we've done rule. It's definitely on the pop\R&B\dancehall tip, but it's fucked up at the same time."
In addition, Mark is planning to release some of his solo work under the name Le Pimp ("It's dance-oriented beat-box hip-hop--a real weird amalgamation"), as well as a smattering of material by Shok, whom he describes as "this guy from Philadelphia who does remixes for a lot of bands." He notes, "I don't want Boom-Boom to just be a Denver thing. I'm looking at anybody else from around the country who's into the kind of shit that I'm into. That way, I think this can turn into a real label, you know?"
All this activity suggests that Foreskin 500 is now on the back burner, but Mark insists that's not true. The bandmates continue to gig regularly (they'll be at the Bluebird Theater on Friday, March 28, with Shag and Critters Buggin'), and Mark hopes that a new album will be completed within the next year or so. In the meantime, the Foreskinners are particularly proud of the, er, exposure they get in the February issue of Dirty, a California skin mag that placed the boys on the back cover alongside porn starlet Stephanie Swift (for photographic evidence, check the Westword Web edition, at www.westword.com). According to Mark, "She's the one who always plays the underage girl--like the fourteen- or fifteen-year-old just getting initiated, if you know what I mean. One of her movies is called Barely Legal. At first we weren't going to pose with her, but I think the first person they picked got thrown in jail the night before, so they called her. And she turned out to be really great. We did the shoot, and then she came to a show we were doing in L.A. that night and she brought along some of her porn-star friends. Like Michael J. Coxx--he's this little short guy who's got this Michael J. Fox thing going on." Upon seeing the issue itself, he says, "We were really excited--because Dirty is like the perfect place for Foreskin 500."
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).
As for the self-titled CD from Genuine, released on the Aspen-based Not Really Records imprint, it operates in the territory where rock and modern rock bleed into one; it's marginally contemporary while at the same time sounding little different from releases that came out ten or fifteen years ago. There's no question that this foursome--Jason Hlatky, Ian Hlatky, Matt Barnes and Jay Kurts--can play, but their heads aren't exactly overflowing with fresh ideas: For proof, check out "In a Dream" and "The Whereabouts of Annie," consecutive songs that begin slowly before exploding in what scribes at Guitar magazine referred to as "an instrumental frenzy" back when Led Zeppelin still existed. Genuine is proficient, but it definitely colors within the lines (available at area record stores).
Right now the talk of the critical community is Mansion on the Hill, a book by journalist Fred Goodman that chronicles what the author sees as the victory of capitalism over art in the rock-music field. As this description implies, Goodman can be didactic, pretentious and naive: Given the example of figures such as Colonel Tom Parker, his suggestion that that rock music was a relatively pure creative arena until the Sixties rise of Albert Grossman and David Geffen seems ludicrous on its face. The music business has never been marked by philanthropy, and although the rising profitability of the industry over the past quarter-century has certainly had a negative impact on the quality of albums being produced, whining about it demonstrates little more than a keen grasp of the obvious.
That said, Goodman does make some valid points. For instance, he rightly calls critic Dave Marsh to task for claiming to be an objective observer of Bruce Springsteen's career when Marsh's wife was on the Boss's payroll and he himself was a close, personal friend and associate of the singer. And he puts a welcome spotlight on a number of fairly obscure figures, including John Sinclair, former manager of the MC5 and Detroit-based leader of the White Panther Party. Sinclair was a left-wing zealot with a revolutionary agenda, and he paid the price for his radicalism; he wound up serving 29 months of a nine- to ten-year sentence after being arrested for the possession of two joints in 1966. (John Lennon was among those who played benefit concerts for Sinclair.) These days Sinclair lives in New Orleans and performs as a spoken-word artist: If I Could Be With You, a CD on Schoolkids Records that finds him teaming up with Ed Moss and the Society Jazz Orchestra, is an example of his work. He rarely travels to these parts, but he has two performances in the area this week: Thursday, March 13, at the Lion's Lair, and Sunday, March 16, at the Fox Theatre. Stop by and see a man who refuses to go quietly into the night.
These punks nowadays. New on the market is No Thanks to You, Volume 1, a disc recorded live at a MusicLink event in December: Bands in the spotlight include Uphollow, Pinhead Circus, Random Victim, the Hate Fuck Trio and two acts mentioned earlier, the 8 Bucks Experiment and the Hectics. No Thanks can be found in area record stores. In the meantime, the 15th Street Tavern is sponsoring a week's worth of pleasantly punky racket dubbed Cig Stock '97 in honor of Camel, the coffin-nail maker sponsoring the bash. Appropriately, the headliners on Monday, March 17, the opening night of the showcases, are the Fumes, who appear with Sizewell and Sticky 5 Pin. The rest of the schedule: Fort Collins's Wretch Like Me visits on Tuesday, March 18, with the Blast-Off Heads; Fatwater drops by on Wednesday, March 19; Armchair Martian, Chemical Billy and Acrobat Down appear on Thursday, March 20; Zeke, Steerjockey and the LaDonnas are on the bill on Friday, March 21; and Boss 302, Speedholes and (yes, them again) the Hectics wrap things up on Saturday, March 22. Hit all of these shows without a gas mask and you'll be in a cancer ward by the end of the week.
Smokin'. On Thursday, March 13, Saturation soaks up attention at Cricket on the Hill. On Friday, March 14, the Threshers go for the green during a St. Patrick's Day party at the Bluebird; Leftover Salmon hypes its upcoming CD, Euphoria, for the first of two nights at the Fox; Strange Monkey celebrates the release of a new disc, Ebola Shindig, at the 6th Avenue Rock Cafe, with Looking Glass Self; and Westword contributor Marty Jones and his Pork Boilin' Po' Boys panhandle at the 15th Street Tavern. On Saturday, March 15, the Burns Sisters fire up at the Swallow Hill Music Hall; Dave Gershen croons at the Rocky Mountain Center for Musical Arts in Lafayette; Skull Flux tosses a warehouse party (call 575-1389 for details); and Tequila Mockingbird and Power Factor deal with the Wrath of Sharon at the Oriental Theater. On Sunday, March 16, Sweet Honey in the Rock is served up at Macky Auditorium on the CU-Boulder campus. And on Wednesday, March 19, the Dirty Three get Low at the Mercury Cafe. High time, too.