There’s always been a fundamental difference between hippies and punks, as the Young Ones aptly demonstrated time and again. I’ve always thought that hippies, with long hair and flares, earthy colours seemed kinda soft around the edges, fuzzy; punks were strictly defined, rigid lines and angles, ‘sharp’ was their adjective. So when you start talkin’ ‘bout psychedelic punk I get a little... hazy. That’s the label slapped on Baltimore’s Vincent Black Shadow, not to be confused with Canadian female-fronted garage-pop the Vincent Black Shadow. Nope this is definitely Vincent Black Shadow, sans the. And what does this fusion of fuzzy and hard sound like? A caterwauling railway to a thousand words of oblique sexual innuendos? Certainly does. This rollicking 30 minuter is sure to set your legs a-quiverin’ and your speakers ablaze with a sultry blend of erogenous zone-stroking careful instrumentation with punk layered in like three shots of Stroh in the office Christmas party punch. And a punch it certainly packs, with a lyrical superiority to rival Iggy himself, lead singer Adam Black Savage wastes no time sand blasting his vocals across the spectrum in the greatest Iggy fashion, vocally gesticulating and cavorting as the songs come to broken-LP stages of rotation, slowing right the fuck down until all that you can hear is the wind.
The guitar? Does it pull a Joe Strummer or is it tuned in to Radio Moscow? Blissfully I can report that it fully High Rises that shit up, possibly stopping at the greasy middle-of-nowhere gas station run by Mainliner circa Mainliner Sonic on the way home for a mars bar and three litres of diesel to drink before getting into character, except though a HD camera, both Live and Mainliner Sonic were welcome additions to any distortion freak’s record cupboard by virtue of being distorted up the arse, and then put in the thumbscrews of lo-fi until very little remains except an oil-slick of total heaviness, this isn’t that heavy. It isn’t a criticism because the bass is the all-seeing eye of some pissed-off Pagan god who ain’t got as much power as the Great Magnet but can sure fuck your shit up if you cross him, and by buying this record you sure did rile that fucker up for laying down some heavy unholy vengeance, both fists. The drums are the only thing that seems even slightly controlled in this whole katzenjammer. But only because they’re like a caged animal whereas all the other instruments are like grizzled mountain men and their powerful hairy feral dogs roaming the moors with axe handles and hessian sacks. We’re talking full Hills Have Eyes.
Rock and roll is dead motherfuckers. Didn’t you get the memo? What gives these cats the right, what gives these cats the balls to keep pumping out this all-new Raw Power workout all over again? Rock and roll died a long time ago and any addition to it now will just be a plaintive trumpet call across a lost battlefield. All that’s left to do is exactly what Vincent Black Shadow go right ahead and do. If the Stooges were crawling under tables looking up skirts, Vincent Black Shadow are the punk pallbearers who snigger through the ceremony, drop the coffin and sweep the bar at the wake. Not a trace of respect for anything and they’d rather we didn’t have any respect for them either. This is exactly how that shameless cat Iggy wanted to go down. Not put on some podium but remembered as the wild-eyed gangle that had the balls to do things when music was on that none of us would ever do in public, Dirrrrrrty things my friends. “Tell me I’m a sucker/tell me it’s a crime” pleads Adam Black Savage as the guitar survives virtually constant bucket-kicking throughout Real Wood (yeah, that’s the actual song name, Real Wood). All through the album the songs are pulling up their baggy trousers lest they fall down and reveal what they’ve got swingin’ around down there. I’m sure that they’ve gone and studio’d a Shake Appeal cover for us all because be sure that nobody makes an album this Stoogey without have absolutely no fucking respect for that record. Raw Power is the album Vincent Black Shadow were sitting directly behind in the exam room and you better have done your revision too or you ain’t gonna get the gag. And trust me, you really wanna get the gag – and Iggy probably wanted to get a paternity test on these four spectral motha’s soon as he clapped ears on this stuff.
|Photo - Josh Sisk|
Of course the Stooge proto-punk is only half the deal, it only be one of the fillings that keeps this sweet shit together. What about the ‘psychedelic’ bit of the psychedelic punk? Well I’ve already mentioned that the band has a superbly English ambitious slowdown about once a song, however they’re feeling, and everything slides down on the dial, like your hand slipped and knocked it into sloooooooooooowwwwwwww, appealingly Sabbathian by way of the Troggs, who really ought to hold the mantle as the British Stooges. And while all that Stooge guitar is leaping about front and centre grinning like a slit throat at the audience, there’s all this wah pummelling layered behind, just check out the opener Child of Orion; that beast is loaded with wah up to the eyeballs (which is the best way to come on to wah, no doubt). The psychadelia makes it a true product of the underground rock it so clearly and cleverly apes, taking those sub-sub-sub-Hendrix wah licks and putting them through Stoogification. And handily it’ll also act as a great advertisement as why you should buy your shit direct from the labels, head down to the label website and get a hold of this baby (and their sophomore album – mine’s in the post, perhaps to make another wittering in a few weeks) and it’ll be cheaper than off Amazon, and all your money goes to the good guys and none goes to the greed heads. Now ain’t that a sunny time?
Normally that would have been the end. I’ve said what needs to be said about this visceral exciting chunk of the good stuff and now I’d sign off and go sit in the pub and think about death, but I’ve had a few more worries since typing that last thing and I had to hip y’all to what I’m thinking. I’m currently compiling a dissertation on how the internet has (or hasn’t) killed rock writing dead-er than if you packed all the writers on to a jumbo to go see the Zep reunion, and a dope-freak gang hijacked the plane and decided to make a revolutionary gesture by crashing it into Simon Cowell’s house, and Vincent Black Shadow is a great case-and-point as to why rock writing is on the autopsy slab being cut up by the janitor for giggles (the janitor in this story played ineptly by myself and my scum-sucking unpaid compatriots), Vincent Black Shadow represent something wholly good, and even if you don’t like it it’s sure worth talking about it. Like any band of revolutionaries they take from all the right pools of the past but create something really genuinely exciting and welcome in today’s market. It’s Stooges and Troggs the whole way, be sure, but I love it more each time. Now in a decent world the album would be totally slain with inaccurate bullshit from overpaid underworked hacks about how it was totally original and would get at least medium airplay. That was the joy of rock writing of yesteryear. Even in the most industry-wanking rags, occasionally the writers’ and editors’ personal fave undergrounders would slip between the pages. Vincent Black Shadow fly under the radar of today’s arsehole shitbag music press like a B52 armed with as many kilotons as you can handle. They’re the kind of band that would get talked up by rock star rock writers, if they still existed, ‘cept they don’t motherfuckers because you twats buy corporate sanctioned shit-flannel called music. I mean Pitchfork abandoned negative reviews... there’s no critique motha’s, nobody wants to admit that most new music is totally shit (for your eyes only lovers, most new music is totally shit). You’ve to try it all for yourself and dig pretty deep for the good stuff. I try to alert you to the most recent developments but I’m just one busy guy with only one set of perceptions, you gotta get plugged in to find the good stuff. Undercut the music press if you’re not happy with it and ask if it’s giving you what you need. Music press ought to be the voice of the fans in big brash font on a newsstand, but somewhere along the way they started to defect and switch sides and now it’s all just marketing. Just thought I’d lay that on ya. Check out Vincent Black Shadow. Give ‘em love by buying their record, give it a spin and then give ‘em love for being so righteous, give your rock writers love if you treasure what they do and give the shit ones nothing but the cold shoulder.
Get the good stuff from the Heartbreak Beat Records website here ('bout halfway down).
Written under duress by Steven.