Thursday, January 25, 2007

Blue Cheer 'Vincebus Eruptum'

Rating - 5/C

Blue Cheer's first album consists of 6 songs, 3 of which are originals and 3 of which are covers. The covers have mostly all been done, and covered by far more adept bands in more definitive performances, but that's a part of the slipshod charm of this band. They aren't the best at what they do, even when they're among the first to do it, and if you can get over their primitiveness, or see it as a partial virtue, you can actually enjoy this as a raw, ragged but glorious noise rather than turning off for the horrid racket it also sounds like. Critics talk about Black Sabbath being raw and shoddy, I suppose they don't even mention Blue Cheer because, by their standards, words wouldn't suffice.

A lot of these songs sound like they want to be Hendrix' Purple Haze. Or Fire. Or Manic Depression. Even the covers. Listen to Summertime Blues - tell me they're not trying to slip the Purple Haze riff in there! And the original song, Doctor Please, cops dynamics off Manic Depression. It even sounds at moments like a very, very tone-deaf and musically challenged youngster's attempt to play Manic Depression, if you squint your ears and listen sideways! The solos are all pentatonic-destroying squalls from a guitar that thought that this lovely thick tone (gotta give credit) meant it was going to get to wail out like Jimi's baby. But, no, instead it's put through the silliest sub-par attempts to channel Hendrix this side of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Erm. Scratch that last bit, I like SRV, peacock tattoo and all. There's a moment on Second Time Around where the guitar comes back in after a quiet bit, and you can hear it screaming 'no, mama, no!!!! I wanted to wail them cozmik electric ladyland blues! Not THIS!!!! SAVE ME!!!!!!'

Stil, it's not all Experience-whackery. Second Time Around and Out Of Focus, two more originals, both have fairly distinct riffs and nice dynamics. The vocals sound really good a lot of the time - totally raw and raucous and with a limited range, but somehow they work. It's only against the mellower verse backing on Doctor Please that the vocals seem really bad, because they have no convincing soulful or mellow settings at all. The cover of Rock Me Baby suffers from some silly attempts at dramatic noise making, but Parchment Farm is nice enough. Their blues isn't very authentic, but their heavy-rockisation of blues is fun to listen to. It would be a lot worse if these people tried to do an authentic blues jam.

Interestingly, apart from the jammy length of these songs there isn't any trace of the psychedelic feel to be found on the first few songs on their second album, released later the same year. Maybe that was an attempt to sell out? They were from San Francisco, after all. Wo knows? The second album's better, anyway.

The Eiderdown-Stuffing Bottomline: Pretty raw stuff. They are moved by their betters to play sped-up power-trio blues rock, but shine because of energy and enthusiasm rather than technical prowess. Still, it is proto-metal of a sort, and that may be one reason to hear it. Another would be that it can be great fun.

No comments: