Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Thin White Rope

Released 1987 on Frontier
Reviewed by ur, 07/09/2000ce

I think it's really difficult to find something more out of fashion than Thin White Rope. They released their last record in 1991, but it seems one thousand years ago: that's how the world turns, the best ones are gone and forgotten.
It's a pity, because Thin White Rope were really an excellent band, when the American underground scene still had a meaning. They came from Davis, and music press quickly labelled as desert rock: to me, they seemed a bizarre connection between gloomy Kafkian imagery and acid country rock. I was 16 when I bought Moonhead, their second album: its cover was beautiful and promising, and when I first played it everything fell in its place. The opening track, Not Your Fault, starts with boomish, glossy drum sounds typical of the mid 80's recordings, but when singer and chief songwriter Guy Kyser begins to to howl in his rasp, crude vocals even the pitiful production is forgotten. Guy sings about a crazed charachter obsessed by a sinful femme fatale, backed by a twin guitar assault: suddenly 25 years of r n r history are gloriously summed up. Thin White Rope played simultaneously in the Sixties tradition and with a dark, subversive New Wave flair: the guitar work has the radiant complexity of Television and Quicksilver, when the rhythm section recalls the numbed quality of Joy Division. This crossing of different influences is enriched by country & western touches, eastern-like vocal melodies and the omnipresent fuzzed up guitars: built over massive rhythm patterns, the songs are burned by the unpredictable, roaring attack of the two guitarists - miracolously, they never fall apart and the dense, dark lyrics superbly delivered by Kyser are always audible. In Moonhead, the title track, he sings with vigorous (and pretty impressive) hate for himself; Come Around is a sordid memory from childhood; Mother is a rather chilling description of a return to the hometwn. Every song in this record has a bleak edge: Kyser mumbles stripped down considerations about life, sex and death, and he seems a scientist who describes microscopic life forms. Mankind is reduced to puppet-like dimensions: around us, there's an enigmatic, useless, obscure universe, apparently enemy of any feeling and thought. If someone has some kind of knowledge of Italian literature, Kyser's Weltanschauung is very similar to Giacomo Leopardi's ideas about men and nature - the same ideas that brought poor old Hoelderlin to craziness.
Sometimes, things go differently: Thing, for example, is a delicate acoustic piece, a sad tale about a disintegrating relationship - but never mind, there was also a humorous side in Thin White Rope, a little blackened maybe, but always funny.
Live, Thin White Rope could indifferently play covers of Johnny Cash and Suicide, Can and Marty Robbins, Hawkwind and Duke Ellington: they were by far better than on record, and all their fury could finally hit your face like a hammer.
Kyser disbanded the band in 1992 and went to college. Nowadays, he works as a botanist at the Davis University: you can find his studies about weeds all over the Internet - and I think his subject of studies has something to do with his music.

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