Winter 2011, two men meet on a snowy peak, one is legendary guitarist of Dinosaur Jr. fame and all-round cool dude J Mascis, the other an old friend still getting over a near drowning in a Vermont quarry thirty years ago. They crack the same shit every two guys crack when they meet many years later, we should get the old band back together. Convinced now that the drowning was perpetrated by Pearl Jam, the only reasonable way to get back at a thing like that is to release the album they were trying to stop you making, thirty years late sure but better late than not at all. A quick search turns up the third member of the power trio languishing having just finished a prison sentence for passing counterfeit bills, but assurances to his parole officer that only moral laws will be flouted, and all in the noble name of rock and roll, and he’s aboard the Greyhound with the only practice tape of the old band and it’s time to re-record the record they always wanted to release, it and they are called Heavy Blanket and the formless Benzedrine soloing that fills the album from each member has been worth the thirty year wait. Now it’s 1984… I mean, imagine it’s 1984 because it isn’t 1984 just now (ha, it completely fucking is – Big Brother is watching you)… anyhoo. It’s 1984 and three high school friends are smoking dope out of tubas and swimming in a little quarry lake in southern Vermont irresponsibly; they also have big things planned, an album of epic jams built around the frustration of having no more heroes. With the suitably insanely named Johnny Pancake and Pete Cougar completing the power-trio, all was set ready to bust some heads with six tracks of musicianship the like of which nobody had ever really seen before before fate (or possible Pearl Jam) stepped in. The album they had dreamed, that they had imagined and discussed is one of rock’s never-recorded records, ‘cept now they’ve nailed the beauty and it’s available for y’all to purchase and it’s everything you coulda dreamed. That story may be bullshit, but the proof is in the shredding.
(Lemme just lay somethin’ on ya right quick. I’m on holiday at the moment typing this out on my knees in my parents’ house with Heavy Blanket rattling through the walls. I’d forgotten what decent bass sounded like now that I’m not sandwiched between two plebs and I can let the wild rumpus start I’m just blown away by the triple headed hydra of Heavy Blanket, wailing MC5 on acid guitar, a creeping crawling muddy bass drubbing away and an organic set of drums that seem to be playing to their own private rhythm. It’s a stunning piece of work for sure. What was I saying? Oh yeah, I’m on holiday so fuck any pretence this blog may accidentally have had to being topical. I think after the OM review and the mention of a few topical things y’all got the idea that this might not be the lysergic ramblings of a drunk savouring the horrid vibes at the arse end of the American century, it assuredly is and I will be cementing this fact with a buncha crap about the shit I want to talk about, you want to hear about a certain release? Fuck you and your haughty airs because I’ll be writing about whatever sonic trips have been informing my journey to the Caledonian dreamtime. That’s right, it’s the highland holiday again and Heavy Blanket have been giving me pause for thought, but I don’t dare pause their record.)
Dundee is a fucking horrible place. But there was something about it on Wednesday morning as I came across the Tay bridge with this swine howling in my lobes. It’s a flat awful city filled with people with screwed-up (that’s screwed-up in the sense of drawn back as if in disgust not screwed up as in fucked up) faces and tired empty eyes sunken into their skulls. A place where nobody can be truly happy, just a transcending, empty, temporary state of non-awareness. It’s a flat place, small and flat, but with a mist picking out the skylines and the sight of the massive turbines turning as my train swept into the city, I could sense a certain something that wasn’t indifference. Dundee, y’ had mood. That was my first listen to Heavy Blanket too, the sort of album that could only be the brainchild of the adolescent, it’s certainly true that juvenile men have one-track minds. What shall we open our record with? How ‘bout a five minute solo? Sure! But how should we finish it? How about an eight minute solo? Yeah, but what should we put in the middle? There’s jamming and then there’s just joyous self-indulgence. Rampant arrogant rock and roll narcissism spread across black spinning vinyl and shot right across your synapses like so much buckshot sprayed on a wall. Curiously rural too… The sort of noise rumbled in country places by young guys with none of the electric pace of a city. It’s clearly all blues-inflected, and y’ can be sure they love Blue Cheer and all those underground bands because there’s a dribble of Randy Holden running down their adolescent chin and their clothes all smell of Zeppelin, no matter how much you flap your arms. This guitar whirlwind is motherfucking bracing. It’s rushed and lightheaded and feels like a time capsule because in so many ways it is. When I heard the story behind this album I figured it’d be tainted by thirty years of industry crap and wouldn’t be much cop but the sound seems remarkably untainted by the thirty years of shite pelted at journalists, the musicians and the public in the intervening years. It feels young and exuberant, I’d love to see Heavy Blanket play, these mature men playing the same shit they were jamming with when they were swimming in that quarry lake in 1984.
|image - Timothy Herzog|
The album has some genetic links with the Acid Music for Acid People Liquid Sound Company album, a throwout of mad psychedelic jams from artists not renowned for them. Maybe this is the joy of the digital music industry, people are able to release their studio jam bullshit without needing to press and release it properly. I love it; Ian Gerber of the Heavy Company has been linking me to some shit-hot stuff from their new album, including a long spacey jam which just took astral flight. Like so many great albums, Randy Holden’s Population Two and Sleep’s Dopesmoker, the amazing thing about the album isn’t the solid-gold ability to transcend our mortal being, it’s that they ever got the fucker pressed in the first place. Near drownings, getting aboard a bus with the only surviving recording, counterfeit money and international conspiracy at the behest of Pearl Jam is all well and good, but like Randy and Sleep, all this really quite cool shit is eclipsed by just how unrelentingly great Heavy Blanket’s thirty year groove really is.
CDs, LPs and limited LPs available at reasonable rates on Outer Battery Records and digital available via (shudder) iTunes. Check out Heavy Blanket Facebook also.
Written under Dundee by Steven.