Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Greatest Albums of All Time In No Particular Order (entry # 2)

Shock Headed Peters- Not Born Beautiful (1985)

This unfortunately completely obscure act was fronted by Karl Blake, a descendent of the poet William Blake (it seems from my research). Hence, there is a poetic and quite literary bend to the guitar noise mayhem utiliized at times (it has been noted he adored Black Sabbath and Vanilla Fudge at a time that it was not so cool to do so) and augmented it by pastoral passages of very, very traditional British motifs both in music and in words via the “Beat” style of poet/singer/reader Rod McKuen, an American. So that is all very easy to digest and get, right?

In short, there is no band out there that sounds like these guys-then or now or ever. That is a very good thing indeed-they are iconoclastic and singular and I find this album to be seminal and otherworldly straddling many styles and centuries of musical influence. Though only one song from this album (Say No to Funk) is currently on their myspace page, you will get a sense of their diverse sound approaches by visiting it here:

The album kicks off with “Say No to Funk” which is sorta funky but all over the place with military/heavy metal drumming and thick riffs and echoed chanted vocals augmented by a slow falsetto chorus with deadly harmonica lines. Yeah, that all makes sense in just over 2 minutes. Next up, “Ideal” seems to be fronted by a harpsichord riff in a baroque style that IDs what all majestic Brits circa 1800 wanted-”I want a house with big thick doors big brown room and rippling fires and real big chimneys”. Perhaps this “ideal” was lifted from one of William's poems? I do not know, it does not matter. This tune is among the most soothing I have ever encountered and Karl's voice is haunting and illuminating. “Chatel D'Amour” follows with a love death dirge with delicous e-bow guitar effects. Karl emotes with the opening lines that define it all: “My girl's so nice, she wears pink dress, she likes strangers, I can't say I do.” It appears the relationship is not all that good. “Dog Eats Dog Eats Dog” is next, with coy flute and thick bass counteraction building to a frenzy of jazz sax chaos. Side one closes with “Bad Samaritan”, a litany of church bells and bird songs that morphs into another dirge, although more like an industrial one similar to those of Throbbing Gristle accompanied by the closing line of the title “We're not born beautiful”.

Side two starts off with “Parabola”, a disappointing throw away new wavey track that is inexplicably featured as one of the five on their myspace page so you draw your own conclusion by listening to it there. But redemption is next in the form of “Miserable Worm”, another lovely baroque dirge highlighted by Karl's deep and poetic vocal approach. The hits keeps coming with “Mons Repos” all dark violins and spaghetti western guitars and sinister vocals describing a place “'round here” you do not want to be. “Wheel in the Bait” is much like “Parabola” in approach though more accomplished in execution. Finally, the coda, is “Kissing of the Gods”, the simplest track on the album, a plaintive cry of despair augmented only by sparse piano, bass and vocals that get to the gut as Karl states “I think locked in a cage puts all heaven in a rage”.

This album is one I return to again and again as it has a timeless quality almost 25 years later. They all should. Very few do as we all know.

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