Albert , 7/10
Love Poke Here , 8/10
If possible, Ed Hall even increased the psychedelic-madness quotient of the Butthole Surfers, beginning with the repellent bacchanals and hallucinations of Albert (1988). At the least, they grotesquely increased volume and speed on their classic Love Poke Here (1990), a gargantuan, shameless blunder that evoked Captain Beefheart's blues, voodoo exorcisms, drunk bluegrass hoedowns, Jimi Hendrix, breakneck hardcore and redneck boogie. Gloryhole (1991) was the punk equivalent of Beckett's absurd theater. The slightly more serious (at times even melodramatic) Motherscratcher (1993) and the slightly better structured (at times even linear) La-La-Land (1995) were also their densest stews of heretical sonic events.
(Translation from the Italian by Nicole Zimmerman)
Ed Hall (from Austin, Texas) were perhaps the greatest disciple of the Butthole Surfers during the grunge era. If it was possible, Ed Hall even increased the psychedelic quotient and the volume and speed along with it. The result was one of the most comically catastrophic sounds of the era. In reality, when you read between the lines, you read a serious apocalyptic (or at least depressed) attitude, in line with nihilistic spirit that was a large part of hard-core rock. The music of Ed Hall, at its most basic, was grim expressionism updated to greet the post-nuclear society.
Formed in 1986, the group debuted with the album Albert (Boner, 1988), a glorious accumulation of musical “debris” reminiscent of Red Crayola in the method of execution: the most violent distortions, satanic vocals, and torrential rhythms. The old power-trio, Gary Chester (guitar), Larry Strub (bass), and Kevin Whitley (drums), pursued sadistic sound with a more quarrelsome and dirty “cowboy” style. Cracked, a galliard revelry with a western swing rhythm, assimilated demented warbles, Scottish bagpipes, and a circus strut. The same swinging pulse was passed on from song to song, culminating in a burning guitar solo in Candyhouse, worthy of Alvin Lee. With 2 solid tribal dances for drunk punks (such as Who’s Ed and Jungle Lobot), a bluegrass assault like that by Fetchin Bones in Poo Poo, and a psychedelic instrumental such as Ball Dirt Cookie, the group highlighted its hallucinogenic energy.
Love Poke Here from 1990 was perhaps their classic. Despite, ironically, the disordered carousing, scarred by sharp guitar and the worst vocal harmonies, they triumphed. Many of the tracks have a drunken dance type of sound and count as drinking songs, like Ollie or harsh Spanish dances, like Filbert (a variation on the theme of Summertime Blues). But the others were true revelry one might find in a bar that does not hide the cultural background of the group, part blues-rock (Pay For Me, Blue Poland), part country-rock. It was in the second genre that Ed Hall gave the best pantomime, first with square dancing revelry and the country style of Hearty Tom Foolery, and then the hauntingly jumpy syncopated bluegrass of Sam Jackson. Hardcore for Ed Hall meant break-neck chaos: Cornbull and Car Talk were the exemplary examples. Two instrumentals stand as the eternal testimony of their derelict style: Turkey, an oriental march (and with lots of screeching to accompany the dizzying distortions of Chester), and Go To Sleep, a “surf” tragic-comedy for the blaring twang of an armored rhythm.
It’s not surprising then that in Gloryhole (Trance Syndicate, 1991), those songs are all given proper name titles, rediscovering the more learned side of Butthole Surfers (see the drunken Scam Cobliber), but at the same time accentuating the irregular harmonies, until they reached the point of excess like that of Beefheart in the chaotic Roger Mexico. The instrumental scores were the most violent, dense and stabbing, but at the same time could be slow like the dark-rock of Black Sabbath: Hortense Buttermilk was an acrobatic guitar show from Chester, capable of alternating between the martial phrases of Led Zeppelin, the dissonance of Sonic Youth, and hints of jazz-rock; Luke Flukenstock was a solid wall of violent sounds; but the definitive work of this infernal power-trio was heard in their hard-rock “tornados” in the instrumental Bernie Sticky. The combination of humor and noise created a variation of the absurd rock of the Butthole Surfers, of whom the glorious recollection of Rachel Hourglass was emblematic, between choruses in 60’s style and a noisy boogie that was radiant compared to Lynyrd Skynyrd. However, above all, their instrumental determination and cohesion was where the group excelled. Ed Hall became, in spite of themselves, a complex mass of thunderous and scorching southern rock that brought a thread of insanity like that of Red Crayola and moved increasingly towards more skeptical positions.
In the meantime Whitley decided to dedicate himself to Cherubs and his position as drummer was taken by Lyman Hardy.
Motherscratcher, 1993, adopted a more dramatic sound, with heavy and oppressive arrangements. Band members matured a bit or perhaps just became a bit faded. The chaos and discord of the tracks like Big Head (an even more overwhelming martial rock and roll than Kiss), Lungs (Black Sabbath double time), and above all White House Girls (a grotesque voodoo-blues which also echoes, at times, their favorite refrain from Summertime Blues) became grim and emphatic, having the effect of confusing instead of amusing. The subversive program of Ed Hall kept a semblance of humor in the tracks that (memories of David Thomas done by Captain Beefheart) experimented with the ballad form: Twenty Dollar Bill, that was off-key, ramshackle and out of tune; Urgent Message For All Mankind, that was an obviously persistent party of non-sense; and Dave The Prophet, which makes a singer from a “shouter” and adds a swinging beat. The most striking was however that Ed Hall decided to put to a more noble use their harmonic eccentricity: on the 2 more ambitious tracks one hears several disjointed and derailed improvisations of modern rock, with several guitar solos that were more broken and coarse than those of Hendrix. These tracks are Gnomes (in which a long dissonant introduction, deaf beats and melodious distortions pierce a passionate heavy-metal riff) and the enormous psychedelic blues jam that was Afghani Harvest Period. These were jams in which anything and everything happened. In comparison to the instrumental Satori In Manhattan, Kansas was a peaceful oasis.
La-La-Land (Trance Syndicate, 1995), with Lyman Hardy as drummer, not only confirmed the group's stature, but further refined its cynical styl. This was an album that bursted with sound effects and was certainly better structured. The group’s new, bizarre balance gave testimony to this, such as Pollution, which sought to find a miraculous balance between manly southern boogie, deafening jamming with a jazz falsetto like that of Cream, the robotic rhymes by Gong, and the horror of Black Sabbath. Focusing their energy resulted in the most powerful tracks of their career. A gleeful component was always present which overflowed in Weird Song, a jest a bit like a worn out square dance, The Hybrid, a sermon recited in the atmosphere of the crime dramas of the 30’s, and Music For Couches, a classical, pastoral instrumental that parodied the new age. The theme of the album was the inclination towards Arabic harmonies (notes on the cover list an improbable recording in Algiers). Fanblades Of Love was, in effect, a meeting (at full volume) of a dizzying Arabic dance and a storm by the riffs of Led Zeppelin. Middle Eastern elements emerged as well on Angel, chanted at a tribal rhythm. The group’s strength was, however, a demented version of ritualistic horror, evidenced by Huge Giant Omen, a voodoo-blues in the grotesque, and the slow free-jazz of Flipper. In this colossal sound aberrations of the true pirate spirit of the group triumphed. From here Ed Hall traveled to the delirium of Parallel Universe, shouted by a possessed preacher on guitar sobs, but the pace was short. The martial hard-rock spatial finale was Hawkwind, from 1970-71, which arrived almost as the inevitable consequence of the “sins” which preceded it, like naturally crowning impiety. The album continued, however, a track without a title that was 20 minutes long and was a collage of avant-garde noises (slot machines, video games, roulette wheels) connected by a gloomy vibration in the background. The album finished with a more eccentric standard, but perhaps with a menacing allegory of their music. Their revelry to infernal rhythms always made one afraid but they were decisively more ordered than before. Also, the members aged, but, as was the case with other “terrorists” in America, like the Cows, they aged in a dignified manner; or rather a repulsive one. Their instrumental style was compact, rocky, and rapid, as a commando’s manual might teach, given to imaginative noise on the guitar and unbound beats on the drums. Surprisingly, on this album, Ed Hall appears to have heard a lot of the German music of the 70’s (Faust, Neu, Amon Duul) and of Canterbury (Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen), and the group finished by proposing an improbable bridge between the hallucinations of the present with the experiments of “then”. The ultimate “freaks” of America, Ed Hall dash about in rock music with the same irreverent humor of Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, Residents and all the dissidents.
Gli Ed Hall (non a caso di Austin, Texas) furono forse i massimi discepoli dei
Butthole Surfers nell'era del grunge.
Se possibile, gli Ed Hall aumentarono persino il quoziente di follia
psichedelica. Al tempo stesso, aumentarono il volume e la velocita`.
Il risultato fu uno dei sound piu` comicamente catastrofici dell'epoca.
In realta`, fra le righe si puo` leggere un atteggiamento seriamente
apocalittico, o quantomeno depresso, in linea con lo spirito nichilista di
gran parte dell'hardcore. L'arte degli Ed Hall e` in fondo una forma di
truce espressionismo aggiornato alle istanze della societa` post-nucleare.
Formati nel 1986, esordirono su album con Albert (Boner, 1988), un glorioso accumulo di detriti musicali che ricorda i Red Crayola per il modo in cui sono eseguiti: distorsioni violentissime, canto luciferino, ritmi a cateratta. Il bislacco power-trio, Gary Chester (chitarra), Larry Strub (basso) e Kevin Whitley (batteria), persegue quelle sadiche missioni sonore con il piglio dei cowboy piu` rissosi e sporcaccioni. Cracked caracolla gagliarda con ritmo da western swing assimilando per strada gorgheggi demenziali, cornamuse scozzesi e cakewalk da circo. La stessa cadenza swingante viene tramandata di brano in brano, culminando nell'assolo bruciante di chitarra di Candyhouse, degno di Alvin Lee. Con due solide danze tribali per punk ubriachi come Who's Ed e Jungle Lobot, una scorribanda bluegrass alla Fetchin Bones come Poo Poo e uno strumentale psichedelico come Ball Dirt Cookie il gruppo mette in luce le sue riserve di energia allucinogena.
Love Poke Here del 1990 e` forse il loro classico. Nei suoi baccanali disordinati, sfregiati da una chitarra affilatissima e deturpati dalle peggior armonie vocali, a trionfare e` soprattutto l'aspetto parodistico. Molti brani sanno di girotondo d'ubriachi, e valgano per tutti un canto da birreria come Ollie e una sarabanda scollacciata come Filbert (variazione sul tema di Summertime Blues). Ma altri sono autentiche feste da saloon, che non nascondono il retroterra culturale del gruppo, sia esso il bluesrock (Pay For Me, Blue Poland), sia esso il country-rock. E` forse nel secondo genere che gli Ed Hall danno le pantomime migliori, prima caracollando nella quadriglia sincopata e campagnola di Hearty Tom Foolery e poi lanciandosi invasati nel bluegrass sincopato di Sam Jackson. Hardcore per loro significa caos a rotta di collo: Cornbull e Car Talk ne sono gli esemplari. A imperitura testimonianza del loro stile sgangherato rimangono i due strumentali: Turkey, dall'incedere orientaleggiante (e con tanto di miagolii ad accompagnare le distorsioni da capogiro di Chester), e Go To Sleep, un surf tragicomico per twang stentoreo a ritmo di panzer.
Non stupisce pertanto che Gloryhole (Trance Syndicate, 1991), le cui
tutte intitolate con nomi propri di persona, riscopra il lato piu` goliardico
dei Butthole Surfers (vedi l'ubriaca Scam Cobliber), ma al tempo stesso
accentui l'irregolarita` delle armonie, fino a lambire gli eccessi di Beefheart
nella caotica Roger Mexico. Le partiture strumentali sono violentissime,
densissime, lancinanti, ma al tempo stesso rallentate come nel "dark rock" dei
Black Sabbath: Hortense Buttermilk e` uno show del chitarrismo funambolico
di Chester, capace di alternare frasi martellanti alla Led Zeppelin, dissonanze
alla Sonic Youth e accenni di jazzrock;
Luke Flukenstock e` invece soltanto una parete spessissima, granitica,
di suoni violenti; ma la prova definitiva di questo infernale power-trio si
ascolta probabilmente nei tornadi hardrock dello strumentale Bernie Sticky.
Nel frattempo Whitley ha deciso di dedicarsi ai Cherubs e il suo posto alla batteria e` stato preso da Lyman Hardy.
Motherscratcher del 1993 adotta invece sonorita` piu` drammatiche,
arrangiamenti piu` fitti e plumbei. I collegiali mattacchioni sono maturati, o
perlomeno si sono intristiti. Il caos e la cacofonia di brani come Big Head
(che ha l'incedere dei rock and roll piu` travolgenti dei Kiss), Lungs
(i Black Sabbath a doppia velocita`), e soprattutto White House Girls
(un grottesco voodoo-blues in cui riecheggia ancora una volta il loro ritornello
favorito di Summertime
Blues) diventano truci ed enfatici, hanno l'effetto di disorientare
invece che divertire. Il programma eversivo degli Ed Hall conserva una parvenza
di humour nei brani che (memori di David Thomas come di Captain Beefheart)
sperimentano sulla forma della ballata: Twenty Dollar Bill, che e` tutta
stonata, sgangherata e scordata; Urgent Message For All Mankind, che
ovviamente e` invece un baccanale incalzante senza senso; e
Dave The Prophet, che sfodera un fraseggio canoro da "shouter" e un passo
La-La-Land (Trance Syndicate, 1995), con Lyman Hardy alla batteria,
non soltanto conferma la statura del
gruppo ma raffina ulteriormente il suo stile eretico. E' anzi uno dei loro
dischi piu' densi di eventi sonori, e certamente il meglio strutturato.