Saturday, July 30, 2005

Butthole Surfers: Rembrandt Pussyhorse

Touch and Go LP, 1986

It's no surprise that truly stupid music can also be the most unsettling ever made. I think I played this once or twice, taped a few cuts and then buried it on the shelves, sort of like the way you shelve memories of things that truly terrify you. By that I mean nature's creations -- deformed dangerous people (yes, I'll admit I'm a "lookist") or armies of black slimy ugly swarming bugs or wild feral animals that you encounter outdoors when you don't have a gun. But it's pretty rare, at least for me, when the stuff in movies or books or shit that supposed to scare you really does... although come to think of it, I suppose that scene with the banjo-picking albino in Deliverance made me piss my pants a few times. And this record has the same effect. I really wanna forget it but not because it's bad or anything.

Mostly recorded in the same chemical haze that produced Another Man's Sac and then was (reportedly, no one seems to remember) augmented with other tracks done in '85 or '86, Rembrandt Pussyhorse is said to be their most experimental. Yeah, uh huh but considering their earlier works it does represent a slight move towards the "conventionality" that would characterize their later, mostly inferior work. F'rinstance, there's the almost melodic "Creep in the Cellar" and then its trance dub sister version ("In The Cellar") that open and close the record. The framing of the record with these two songs suggest concept album as well (oh no, Gibby!) although about the only concept I could come up with is that its a mostly fucked-up mind-map of the band's collective brain as expressed through Gibby's improv lyrics and Paul's guitar strangulation and drummers (and some anonymous bass player). There's no credits on the record so I'm not totally sure who did what here.

Highlights include "Sea Ferring" with its stream of consciousness lyrics: "like a ballpark like a hiccup like blood clot like a brain stroke"... "Mark Says Alright" with the band's dog growling and sound effects and some of Paul's best studio acid jazz guitar improv.... and as if one Guess Who GF Railroad reference wasn't enough, there's also the classic cover of "American Woman" that is torn apart and re-processed as an industrially damaged John Donne-quoting police hostage stand-off -- and yet it still manages to pay tribute to the originalGrand Funk Railroad... or what about "Perry", done in the voice of an obnoxious trendy English kid (which may or may not have been about the Jesus & Mary Chain). And there's some new instruments including organ - used to eerie effect in the ambient-industro "Strangers Die Everyday" and piano. There's also some backwards-mixed violin ("Creep in The Cellar") which was found on the used multi-track tape they were using and it oddly fits with the song and saves it from the afore-mentioned conventionality. "Whirling Hall of Knives" was featured in a previous post although I had forgotten its provenance (perhaps that goes along with wanting to put this nightmare out of my mind). I could go on - it's fucked up and crazy and maybe a teensy bit overwrought at times.

Songs:

Live from the same time period of release:

Links:

Buy this record (on CD)

Just for Gagging (detail from the back cover):

5 comments:

Dave said...

"American Woman" was by the Guess Who, not Grand Funk Railroad.

I remember seeing some weird video that had clips of the Surfers sitting in a bed getting interviewed, and Gibby was saying in a deep announcer voice: "Mark Farner! Don Brewer! Mel Schacher! Together they are - Grand! Funk! Railroad!"

Jim H said...

Thanks for the correction. The fact checker ran away screaming when she heard me playing this and I haven't seen her since Thursday night.

Jim H said...

Oh and the video bed interview was from Blind Eye Sees All - which I think is on DVD and can be found at Netflix.

Matt said...

hi apart from connecting your computer up to your stereo, what sort of software do you need if any to convert all your records to digital format.
yours,
ignorant

Jim H said...

Actually, I don't connect my computer to my stereo but that's one way to capture the analog. You need to make sure your sound card is up to the task. Instead, I bought a CD Player/Recorder and record directly to CD-R/Audio. I then convert those files to .wav (via Roxio Creator Classic). If the .wavs have too many clicks and crackle (or if its too hissy), I use a special program Dartpro to reprocess. I only do this rarely, though. I then take my sound editor of choice and make individual MP3s from the .wav files. I use either Goldwave which has some better processing tools (including rudimentary crackle/pop/hiss removers and equalizers that work) or Roxio's Sound Editor which allows saving in variable bit rate formats and is easier and faster than Goldwave. I've played a little with Audacity (you need a Lame encoder to save MP3s). Ennnnnyway, I then take the resultant MP3 files, read them into iTunes and use the iTunes ID3 editor (do a right click/get info on a song or group of songs) to add in artist information, cover art. I've also been using this last step to make final volume/equalizer adjustments (there's a volume slider bar in the iTunes editor and a nice little equalizer) as I've found that no matter what I do the volume is always a bit weak on my analog to digital conversion - I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong as I really push the sound levels up during the analog to CD-R phase. voila.

Tedious and time-consuming - there's more, though as I recommend you scrub and clean your records before recording. My weak link is that I should get a better turntable and amp as my current one has too much hum.