With so many alter egos and in-jokes flooding Negativland's Universal Media Netweb (social critic Crosley Bendix, psychiatrist Dr. Oslo Norway and the smarmy Weatherman among them), keeping track of who's who is more of a nuisance than a necessity. Core member Richard Lyons sometimes bullies the pulpit in drag as Marsha Turnblat, a deep-voiced Christian stormtrooper unveiled during the band's True/False 2000 tour. Nearly two decades ago, he portrayed delusional radio personality Dick Vaughn, a would-be super-jock who "replaced" Negativland's Berkeley-based Over the Edge show with market-friendly music sanctioned by the suits of the hit-saturated California Superstation. Those fabled broadcasts eventually morphed into the country's very first '70s-nostalgia show, with Vaughn spewing wistfulness for dreck like Gilbert O'Sullivan and Commander Cody -- that is, until 1984, when his promising career ended in a fiery jetliner crash.
More than two and a half hours long, this edited two-CD package (originally a cassette-only release for SST in 1990) combines what the band deems to be the choicest moments from those bygone days. It's one long, meandering stop-gap vanity project, all right, full of off-air surveys, sketches and crank phone calls that will provide hardcore fans an intermittently amusing souvenir from the mid-to-late Reagan years. You'll learn about Pat Boone's milk intake, hear award-winning "ear-witness" news updates and take your best shot during the celebrity-wives quiz. You'll experience "everything from p-corn to pop-nuts," if sportscaster Roy Storey ever gets his way. Meanwhile, Spanish-speaking sideman Enrico leads Dick through a junkyard of found-sound artifacts (with more audio stock than even Ed Wood could have used), including several old-timey radio adverts, preserved in their entirety for the ages.
By the time Negativland announces the death of Caveman's Ringo Starr, the entire farce feels as dated as a leisure suit, which is probably the point. Surprisingly, Over the Edge -- still the longest-running block of free-form radio in radio history -- soldiers into its eighteenth year. But if the job of a culture jammer is simply to rehash "moribundity" (loosely translated here to mean nostalgic stagnation), then let the buyer beware. At least the proceeds will go toward the band's fair-use defense fund.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.