Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Von LMO - Red Resistor

Von LMO
Red Resistor


AOTM #52, September 2004ce
Released 1996 on Variant Records
  1. Mass Destruction (9.43)
  2. Flying Saucer 88 (6.53)
  3. X + Z = 0 (31.12)
  4. Atomic Sound (5.17)

Note: Prepare to be boarded, Motherfuckers. Von LMO came out of a decade of suspended animation to make this album, so give it a proper listen, brothers and sisters. This Von LMO druid’s had a 60 year+ career-of-sorts and employs the kind of artless vocal delivery that’s gonna make a few of you duck in fear for the future of your culture. But don’t be afraid because he’s the saviour. And no, he don’t scream any louder than the next moron, he just drones on and on at the same sustained and insulated max. vol. Think Cyrus ‘9 times the colour red explodes like heated blood’ Faryar on The Zodiac’s COSMIC SOUNDS, Jim ‘When I was back there in seminary school’ Morrison, Burton ‘I wanna do it to a duck in a 12-ton-truck and fade away’ Cummings, or maybe even Lou ‘neatly pump air’ Reed’s mike technique for his response vocals on ‘The Gift’, then refract the whole schmeer through Patti’s ‘Radio Ethiopia/Abyssinia’ title track and multiply by 10,000. Moreover, Von LMO rams home his message (on behalf of some higher galactic authority apparently) about advancing the human psyche- and always with that same monotonous level of brute force on each song, whatever his generic AXIS BOLDERS WOODMANSEY RONSON backing may be proto-plodding. And, no, Von LMO ain’t one for nuance ‘cause it reads too much like nance, and this is one No Romantic weez talking up. Also, he most surely IS heavy metal the way the late-60s defined it (Brian Butterfly/Brute Cheer), though modern nu metallers’d probbly hate him and spurn him because he’s a Utopian. Von LMO claims also to have been born in two places at the same time – to Sicilian parents in Brooklyn, NY, in 1924, and also simultaneously on the planet Strazar. Well, I’m a spaceman myself and I’ve been to both his birthplaces and they both stink, so give this oinker Von LMO a break because, to turn Howard Devoto’s lyric on its face, although he ‘came from nowhere’, he sure as hell ain’t ‘going straight back there!’

Note 2: This review is dedicated to Mitch Fogelberg AKA Rubin Fibreglas, Grady Runyan and the Seth Man, who already know all this stuff.


Von LMO interviewed on WFMU on VJ day, 1945

Beam me up, Scotty, there’s no foil on the Kit-Kats!

This music is genius. This Album of the Month may be eight years old, but sounds as though it was recorded yesterday, or in Ancient Sumer 5,000 years ago. And, for the artist himself, what a fuck of a long time it took in coming! Portentous as TWO THIRDS (Myers & Percy’s monumental 600-pages-long ‘Neolithic monuments are the works of Martians’ paperback), in other words full of sound and fury but deffo signifying something-though-possibly-not-what-the-original-creators-intended), Von LMO’s 1996 monster classic RED RESISTOR is as fucked up a piece of monolithic religion as ever was barfed out from below the Bo Tree by the Buddha. Riffs the size of moons batter lyrics the size of planets, whilst Titans and Frost Giants scatter before this man’s Jupiter-sized Humvee. His aristocratic band (a real Chernobylity) here on Earth is David Tamura on so-called guitar, Robert Lee Oliver II on seven league bass and multiman drummer Howard ‘Crash’ Valentine, who collectively manhandle rock’n’roll’s stinking rotten corpse into a darkened cell in Abu Ghraib prison, anally rape and torture it – on behalf of Freedom (natch) - whilst filming it on modern Super-8 as Von LMO alternately intones ‘Advance Yourself’ messages interspersed with ‘Be Afraid Be Very Afraid’ messages interspersed with his trademark speed-o-light guitar solos (or is that speed-o-sound? Whatever, same difference). The all new 9 minutes of ‘Mass Destruction’ is followed by 7 minutes of the all old ‘Flying Saucer 88’, which is a children’s playground-powered nya-nya-nyee-nya-nyah assault undermined still further by the half-an-hour-plus of ‘X + Z = 0’ (even throwing in some of 1977’s ‘We’re Not Crazy’ by Red Transistor at around 19 minutes in), all of the aforementioned being so clod-plodding that the 5-minute long LP closer ‘Atomic Sound’ is as positively streamlined as Neil Merryweather’s Space Rangers hommering James Gang’s ‘Funk 49’ in comparison.


Red Transistor

In Von’s world where any colour is bad, the saxophone of ex-cohort Juno Saturn is long gone, as are any approximations of musical scales, as are the lyrical subtexts of the earlier works. Moreover, this entire band plays icky No Wave riffs mixed with anti-climb paint, that won’t wash off, that cause rashes, that float about in the ether and cause dead zones to rise up around them. And all the time, Von is screaming lyrics about our need to advance ourselves. Yup, ‘Advance Yourself!’ shrieks from every corner of every piece of artwork on each and every Von LMO’s record cover, as Von LMO advances upon us like Michael Ryan advancing down Hungerford High Street, backed up by a spectral army comprised of Mongolia’s Golden Horde. Surprising? Probably not, really. But, then again, how could we ever be that surprised by a guy whose debut LP opened with the barmiest libretto since Bobby the Calv plainsonged Hawkwind’s SPACE RITUAL into the record shops back in ‘72. Dammit, we gots to print in full those first-off LMO words from back in 1981 for the CinemasCoptic (sic) vision they conjure within the larger place of our minds:

‘6 million years ago today,
A message was seen travelling through space -
Transcending time,
Moving faster than the speed of light,
Breaking the sound barrier,
This message was known as the Future Language
And we are here to deliver this message to you… now.., (pause of the Gods)

LONG LIVE HEAVY METAL!!!’


FUTURE LANGUAGE '81

Now I know what some of yooz thinking, punks… that this LMO (pronounced ‘Elmo’) druid’s just an uncultured yokel; a Daft Vader who considers breaking the sound barrier (740.5 miles per hour) and travelling faster than the speed of light (186,281 miles per second) are pretty much the same deal because all that stuff goes faster than his kid sister’s fixed-wheel tricycle. Me, I thunk the same thing for a few listens, until I heard LMO’s later 1990s albums and saw that this fucker had – over the course of two decades - bigged up his original trip 10,000 fold and brought it on to a whole new level of gunky ostentation up/down with the rest of we planet squatters. Now, listening to that first LP armed with the new knowledge of his ‘90s oeuvres makes that intro text seem damn kosher – indeed, it was possibly (to my way of thinking) intended as a Cosmic Curveball-to-hoodwink-the-unwary. And if you take the LMO’s complete canon of recorded work – 1972-96 – then it’s as violent and barbarian a piece of sonic football-hooliganism as ever stomped that single slab of granite that calls itself the Central European Plain (gotta be Von’s Transylvannian ur-Heimat fer shure), and CEO Von LMO is head locust and chief slasher-and-burner with a one string razor many of you will wish he’d left at home. And yet I find his wakeful barrage of incessant and staccato clod-hopping so tremendously invigorating that I’ve been listening to the 31-minutes of ‘X + Y = 0’ on heavy rotation for the past coupla weeks. O, the days just fly past.

at Max's Kansas City, '81


And yet, until I wrote that big Monoshock article last year, Von LMO meant no more to me than Nena’s ’99 Luftballons’ or that ‘Rock me, Amadeus’ Euro-hit dude with the jerky walk. Indeed, I’d dismissed this Von LMO as yet another late-70s sub-Lene Lovich sub-sub-Devo-alike with an unpronounceable name and a rent boy cohort called Juno Saturn on bad bad (terminally undergrad) sax. Too much of the FUTURE LANGUAGE LP had reminded me of Devo doing X-Ray Spex, and the interim years had been informed only by a very average single from ’94, which sat in the back of my 7” collection, sounding something like a very unsure COLLISION DRIVE-period Alan Vega doing Kimmy the Foul, displaying a so-called Industrial sound so weak that Nine Inch Nails wouldna wiped their senile granny’s arse with it. But as Grady Runyan, Ruben Fibreglass, Scott Derr and Aluminum Queen (collectively the very great Monoshock) had obviously made such an effort to collaborate with this Pyramid of Geezer (and failed miserably at it by their own admission), I figured the very least Von LMO warranted was a thorough aural excavation by my good self. So, when RED RESISTOR plopped through my postbox, I dutifully plugged in my headphones and depressed the stylus of my prototype Sony Sonic Pessary (‘Hey Pals – No Needle Sharing!’) and… whaddya know? This guy weren’t Stiff’s answer to James ‘Fat’ Chance & the Contortions after all! Sure, Von’s whole modus operandi was informed by the same poisoned-with-ROUND-UP withered branch of the anti-rock World Tree. But whereas Chance’s semi-formed NO NEW YORK-period ‘Flip Your Face’ gem wuz ultimately no more than 3 minutes of snack-o-smacky populist underachieverdom, dear old Von El the Mo copped several Fleet Air Armfuls of the same Afghani off-road dust, epoxied a Beatle wig on his balding noggin in a Kimmy the Fowl-stylee, and turned the whole Shitty Shitty She-bang bang into a third (and fourth and fifth) way to the stars (I knows it – I’ve test driven this sucker!). Which ain’t half bad considering he’s never had a moment’s earthbound success in all of his (un)natural. A loser in a losers’ scene, LMO even got dropped from that 1978 NO NEW YORK LP that Eno produced,1 in favour of such deliteniks as DNA and Mars. While these irksome unhipsqueaks wuz getting two trouser-trax apiece, LMO was getting zip. Which is why I’m a little dubious when I read on one of Von LMO’s posters a quote about him from the New York Post:

‘Radical revolutionary music at extreme high volume intensity representing tomorrow’s generation’.

PALLADIUM NYC 1980

No way. I think he just made it up and attributed it to The Post. Claiming that the Muppets based their Elmo character on him is another of this Future Cave Dweller-Fella’s mantras, along with the assertion that Devo and Sonic Youth both studied his future language without his permission, after being clued in when copping a glimpse of his ‘International Transmitting Symbol For Universal Sounds ®’. According to the sleeve notes of the re-mastered FUTURE LANGUAGE album, he’s currently suing Bill Gates for stealing his inter-galactic peace logo – Go Von Go! And yet, after a series of stop-starts with a coupla decades in between, this prize-winning Intuitive Non-Career Mover has gradually built up a proper discography (of sorts) with which we can judge first his intentions, and then his achievements. This Album of the Month reveals the level of commitment that this guy has to the message. That he hasn’t ever felt the need to cloud the issue with tunes or instrumental variation is dedication to the point of vocation. However, as merely sustaining this level of Mung Worship since the late-70s requires a super-human determination, let’s first look back at the Von LMO that I so long ago dismissed as a peripheral NO NEW YORK dork excluded from his own scratch’n’sniff-o-thon.

‘Reverse Trappology’ or ‘What Do You Want From Life?’

Von LMO ‘was born in the black light dimension in 1924. In 1925, at the age of three, he began his musical studies on electronic violin, sixteenth level piano…’ before bringing his musical career to ‘an abrupt halt’ experimenting with the building of rudimentary space ships. ‘It was in one of these self-constructed ships that he left Earth to explore the universe. He crash landed on Saturn, where he met and studied orchestration with the late Sun Ra.’ From here, Von LMO travelled to the planet Strazar, before returning to earth, where he was influenced by the Glenn Miller Big Band to ‘wed his message to the big beat… Sixties encounters with unidentified forces, UFOs and positive force fields convinced him to BECOME the big beat; so he became a reverse trappologist.’2

1994 COSMIC INTERCEPTION POSTER

LMO formed Funeral of Art in 1970, and flew to London to no success at all (what I’ve heard is spacey and alien but also corny as hell). He spent a coupla years creating the infant karma of Pumpo, whose musicians were all first timers in rubber suits banging on chainsaws and powersaws. Their sole 1974 LP did shit, at which point he formed Why You… Murder Me? and began to lose his hair. Coming simultaneously out of New York’s Brooklyn suburbs, yet influenced by the wilds of Planet Strazar (which is entirely composed of Meteorites with a Caffe Latte core) was always a chore for Von to reconcile, as Strazarians are all gay and love graffiti the way the English love their gardens, and not screwing around is a jailable offence there. So, ever the refusenik, Von LMO married a beautiful Afghan Hound on Venus and innocently returned to Earth, where he honeymooned in Mecca, thinking nostalgically that he’d show his newly beloved that piece of sacred Meteorite in the middle of the Kaaba. Of course, Islam is a princely religion with roots neither in farming nor pastoralism, so dogs to them are useless and, therefore, perceived as extremely unclean animals. So when Von, in a fit of rebellion, was busted for graffiti’ing ‘Allah is not gay’ on the Kaaba walls, the Islamic patriarchs broke the neck of his brand new Ibanez Iceman guitar, shoved his new canine wife’s pooper-scooper up his arse as punishment, and deported her to the restaurants of Korea with ‘Allah is one hungry Motherfucker’ tatooed on her shaven butt. Heaping this series of indignities on top of Von’s discovery that baldness is considered unattractive on Earth (he sacked his Venusian manager for allowing him to have appeared bald on his first LP FUTURE LANGUAGE) was almost too much for him – which is why he nowadays combines his Utopianism with Wanton Scaremongering. Indeed, so Zelig-like has Von become in the past two decades (claiming regularly to be in suspended animation in order to explain his disappearances, and allow his movements to become un-traceable) that the disparate strands of Amerika’s ‘Axis of Evil’ – Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq – are now thought by the CIA to have been too bizarre to have been conceived of in The White House, being instead a Von LMOnian concoction to pay the world back for having been so thoroughly dissed. Indeed, Von himself is now under suspicion as being a genuine Cosmic Trickster of Lokian proportions, and perhaps one who knows well enough the rends in the cosmic fabric to come and go at will, and who possibly created Tin Machine whilst inhabiting one of David Bowie’s more solipsistic dreams in retaliation for The Thin White Duke’s unwarranted continuing success on Planet Earth. Von has also come under fire from the occult community for reducing author Stan Gooch to a burned-out shell living in a Swansea trailer park, and making it impossible for J.K. Rowling to write anything decent under 700 pages. Personally, I think there’s still enough evidence to prove that Von LMO is one of the good guys. His best album to date being this magnificent RED RESISTOR suggests that it was informed by his (albeit unsuccessful) collaboration with Monoshock3 from the previous year, so – his plastic wig and perpetual shades aside – he’s clearly still very much informed by the good people of earth, and (most especially) the most grungey mung worshipping people of earth at that. We can but await his next move with excitement, and I’m planning to visit Amerika next year, for the first time since early 1998CE. Hopefully, I can seek this guy out and we can together search out a few of that continent’s more hidden ancient portals. Until that time, brothers and sisters – ADVANCE YOURSELF with all the Von-informed music you can ingest. And if this write-up jerks Von’s turkey enough to bring him after me, well, I’ll keep y’all posted…



FOOTNOTES:
  1. If I’m talking about the release of the NO NEW YORK LP strictly from the point-of-view as a member of the Liverpool Punk Scene, you just gots to excuse me as that was very much the angle it hit me at. People there were in two categories: the ones who hated it and ignored it, and the ones who hated it and bought it. I occupied a rarified 3rd Category of One Member because I loved it. I loved the staring eyes of Bradley Field (Teenage Jesus & the Jerks) most of all, but also held The Contortions’ James Chance’s black eye in particularly high esteem, D.N.A.’s Arto Lindsay’s albino African famine victim deffo won me over, as did The Contortions’ Pat Place’s Cherry Vanilla-like out-of-focus-ness, Gordon Stevenson’s widow’s peak. The music was, unfortunately, something less. Teenage Jesus was entirely great and shoulda done four LPs in 16 months and THEN split (the 1st LP woulda been 34 songs, 2nd woulda been 34 songs, 3rd would been 10 songs on side one and one longee on side two; last LP woulda been silence performed by no original members). In what-passe-for-reality The Contortions opened the whole LP and scored big with the first two songs (‘Dish it out’ and ‘Flip your face’) before, most unfortunately, becoming side two of Pere Ubu’s THE MODERN DANCE (the fat Witness whining a-rhythmically as opposed to the full-on Stooge-ified post-Rocket From The Tombs thing).
  2. All quotes are from the Variant Records-approved ‘The Von LMO Story’, c/o Variant Records, POB 3852, Redwood City, CA 94064-3852, USA.
  3. Rubin Fibreglas gave me this account of the Monoshock/Von LMO collaboration, which I felt needed to be printed in full for the sake of posterity. Herr Fibreglas wrote:

    ‘[Von LMO’s producer, Peter] Crowley approached us about the possibility of LMO coming out to San Fransisco to do some shows using us as his backing band. That Von LMO would emerge from the black light dimension to seek us out as his backing band was pretty impressive, and we gave the plan a collective thumbs-up. I don't remember the exact date that LMO came out (I could find it if you want), but he showed up at Scott's pad in red smoking jacket, jet black wig and very dark sunglasses. He didn't remove any of these items that evening, and ultimately stayed in character the entire weekend. We rehearsed with him that first night, having already practised the songs a bit under Crowley's direction, and talked about strategy for the shows, etc. As we spent more time with him that first evening, however, it became increasingly apparent to us that LMO took his persona so seriously that he wasn't much more than a big self-parody. That being said, he could still sing with style and intensity, and he knew how to make his guitar go screech and skronk in a metallic sort of way. Even so, it was soon made quite clear to us that our germinal, expulsive, chaotic approach to music was at odds with LMO's desire for backing by technically proficient, anally-retentive studio hack robots. I think there were 2 shows and a live radio performance set up, and LMO seemed to see the weekend as a worldwide showcase for the return of "Von LMO". He also seemed to be feeling a lot of pressure to be presentable in a strictly professional manner, and in turn was on our backs constantly to whip us into combat readiness. As our time together wore on, the situation became very "us against him", as he had proven to be a dictator and we became disenchanted with, if not hostile toward, this Von LMO reality. We played the radio show, and as I recall, there were some problems. I don't remember whether the show was live or taped, but I do know that later that evening, or the next day, LMO insisted that the station destroy any tapes and not air them. I don't remember the performance being poor, but the tension between his need for technical proficiency and connect-the-dots playing, and our belief in raw, emotional, unselfconscious intensity on the one hand, and self-deprecating humility, on the other, really interfered with any potential chemistry, and made the performance stilted and emotionless. In all honesty, I think we were crestfallen. We'd had pretty high hopes for the collaboration. But following the LMO-deemed radio disaster and our deteriorating relations with him, either a show was cancelled or it was just decided that the whole collaboration would be re-evaluated. At one point things were finally so bad that we threatened to bail on the big Sunday show. LMO was treating us like slaves and it was just so contrary to our musical approach. After a flurry of meetings and calls, we finally all agreed that the ultimate performance would consist of a 45-minute "International Hello" style maelstrom segueing into Red Transistor's "We're Not Crazy". Looking back, I think that all the tension really helped to make for a blistering performance. Grady was at his peak, as he and Aluminum Queen appeared to mock LMO viciously yet subtly behind his back while on stage. Grady affected some bizarre, gender confused guitar playing persona... I'd have to revisit the video to recall any of Aluminum Queen's specific performance antics. While we played, there was a video (produced by LMO) showing Von LMO and some kind of CGI aliens floating in space, etc. LMO brought out a drill at some point and applied it to his guitar, which struck me as kinda conventional. Finally, the chaos imploded and became a volatile version of "We're Not Crazy", which was really fun to play as we were so energised and emotionally spent. The fact that it was a sold-out show and that the kids seemed to be real into it was definitely a plus. I think that in the end we were glad to have been a part of the experiment, but were also relieved that the collaboration had finally run its course. As a post-script, I should add that the Von LMO weekend coincided with my upcoming University exams and a number of graduate level papers due that following week. I was left with no choice but to indulge in a form of study aide that enabled me to go without sleep the entire weekend. Yes, those were dark times. Yes, I was in pain.’



Singles Discography

(w/Red Transistor) ‘Not Bite’/’We’re Not Crazy’ (Ecstatic Peace rec 1977/ released 1990)
‘Cosmic Interception’/’Ultraviolet Light’ b/w ‘Inside Shadowland’ (Variant 1994)

Album Discography

FUTURE LANGUAGE (Strazar 1981)
COSMIC INTERCEPTION (Variant 1994)
RED RESISTOR (Variant 1996)
TRANCEFORMER 1978-82 (Munster 2001)
MAX’S KANSAS CITY, 9/11/81 (Seidr 2004)