Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Quill


Released 1970 on Cotillion
Reviewed by Lugia, 06/01/2004ce


Quill: "Quill" - Cotillion SD 9017
recorded either 1969 or 1970, released 1970

1) Thumbnail Screwdriver (5:30)
2) The Tube Exuding (3:50)
3) They Live the Life (9:23)
4) BBY (4:40)
5) Yellow Butterfly (4:15)
6) Too Late (3:40)
7) Shrieking Finally (7:28)

The gatefold sleeve with a pretty ugly psychedelic cover logo in full-tilt drippy LSD-noodly letters greets you, and you open it up to scribbled lyrics (very scribbly, think NEU!-grade liner notes) a small collage of xeroxed tits off to one side. Opposite this are five very hairy men, dressed in a style that would later make Seattle famous. The names with these guys though, are clue #1 that things are going to go off into a whole weird area: Ju-unk Kohl, Da-ank Kohl, Phil Stan D'There, Red Rocket Rogers (very cool, that), and R. Willy North. Ladeez n gennelmen, QUILL! Drop that needle...

It all starts off with a little noodling, cowbell tinks, some weird glissando...and then WAAH! Fine vintage fuzztone guitar, like a beautifully-aged claret, pops right out with the melody of "Thumbnail Screwdriver". This is a fine, fine heavy psych groove...very much in the spirit of the times, maybe with a little garage edge to it. But when the lyrics kick in...ahhh...NOW we see what the problem might've been. They're pretty misogynistic. Actually, quite so. And that voice is not lilting at all, but fairly gruff...too many stems and seeds in the smoking mixture over a long period of time, it sounds like to me. And it's dripping...with sarcasm and nasty sentiments.

And so it goes. The undercurrent to this thing is definitely not hearts and rainbows and flowers and pretty girls, but fear of the future, hate, anger, bad trips, death, and other such nightmares. The 60s's downside. The same thing that quite often annoyed people about the Velvet Underground, I'll note. No paeans to heroin here, but there's still loads of no fun and scary times they'd like to tell you about.

Because what's next is where the madness really starts. "The Tube Exuding" is actually about...no, not that. It's about bad trips. What happened if you ignored Wavy and ate the brown acid. And in the middle there is this AMAZING rush of fuzz guitar and tight, tight playing as we leap into the nightmare vortex of right-left-right-left voices shouting "CHECK! CHECK! CHECK! The print deluding you! The TUBE EXUDING! WHAT! WHAT! WHAT! The world is selling you! What it is EXCLUDIIIIIIING!!!" Disturbing? For 1969 or so, yeah. Fine psychedelic music, tho? Oh, yes...that too.

And then on into these thud-thud-thud piano chords as "They Live the Life" gets going. Again, the mood of the lyrics is dark as hell. Darker than before, even. And the first part of the track is passable, nice psych of the period with maybe a tinge of a jazzy edge to it and then...weirdness. This slow stoner section comes in...and then we're suddenly thrust into..."Tago Mago"? "Aumgn"!? Damn...sounds like it, as the drums start kicking in and building up, and building into this growing paroxysm of percussion that within a few minutes is this towering assault of thunder, pinball machines (yep!) chanting, sheer voodoo madness! And then it all just disintegrates as we get back to the feel of the beginning of the track, but this coda has a somewhat more unhinged feel to it. Might be them, might just as well be you after that bombardment. And then the side's over. No CD here; I don't think this thing's ever seen the inside of a remastering lab.

Side two, and "BBY" gets cranking with a Tower of Power/Sly Stone sort of horn breakdown, and then we go thru some weird changes and then the thudthudthud that tends to typify a good bit of things gets going. It might sound commercial, but it's pretty offkilter. The major part of the track is this odd thing that drifts from one style to another...a little Quicksilver here, a little Airplane there, a smidge of Ultimate Spinach on the side. These boys can play, and they're putting that point across to you. Neat horns, too...sometimes cheezy, sometimes soulful, never exactly normal, though.

"Yellow Butterfly" is one of two out of character tracks on this second side. Heavy, heavy flangetone wah-pedal guitar, right out of the Beatles' "Because" at first, then into this strange filter-swept strumming thing that's probably supposed to be tranquil and such but which actually comes out sounding kind of creepy and haunted. The vocal shot thru a Leslie also contributes to this, jumping back and forth to normal-yet-multitracked and then back into the whirlytron. This _almost_ has a Radiohead kind of vibe to it, to be honest, save that the lyric does seem to date things as being late 60s-ish. It all ends up on this strange Shondells tremolo sounding thing as the vocalist intones "A chiiiild Iiiii...remain..." Wooo....

And then "Too Late". This track doesn't work, really. It's very out of character, and has this very clicheed early country-rock sound to it. Twangy guitar, etc...sort of like a bastardized variant take on The Byrds c. "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" but not really that well done. Weak material and all. I should note that this is the sole track on here not written by doom-merchants Cole and Cole (or Kohl and Kohl, if you follow their lead). We'll skip forward...

To "Shrieking Finally". Like the 9+ minute side-ender on the other side, this is another extended no-fun thing. Which means, of course, it IS fun, as the voices drone Gregorian-style "Is anybody out therrrre? Will anybody take...my pain? Is anybody out therrrrre? Will the words my mind is shrieking fin'ly fade?" and then TA-DUM, TA-DUM, WAAAHHH horns... And the chuck-a-chuck-a primitive beats start in with this walking pace. It's ominous, with little rattly noises against the rest of things, and then they start to rave it up! Oh, hell yeah! The fuzz kicks in, the piano gets blanging, the vocals get that vitriol we heard before. And then it mellows out...but not...as we get into an almost Velvets-like zone crosswired with the Airplane's sound. Strange, a bit disorienting this stylistic juxtaposition. The piano works it out, the guitars get to fuzz and twang a bit, and then...back to verse I as the vocalist howls some real doom, dust and blood and mud, wounds, doom, ashes, death..."The artist is the art/he'll tear it all apart. Destruct, destruct, the robots saaaaay! Re-act-ting to the crowd's hoo-raaaaay!" And then, the song ends.

Not really. Sike! We drop into this little jazz groove, and the voice starts "But things like this don't bother me..." Liar. You can tell. Thing start to kick up again, and then it all goes NUTS! Crashing downward, screeching feedback, ghostly banshee wailing!!! Then back to that last verse there again. And it all ends with some tailed-out feedback and just...stops. No end. Just a halt to proceedings.

So this is and ISN'T typical psych. It's pretty doomy stuff; some of this same ennui and fear turf is the same trash and debris-strewn doomscape that the likes of Ian Curtis would paint nearly a decade later in a good bit of Joy Division's material. Musically, save for one miscue, it's exemplary...very much an exponent of that certain "Beantown Sound" of its day, and containing some fine crispy lysergic moments. And, curiously, it seems like something that is quality enough to see some reissue, if perhaps on some indie reissue label that specializes in such things. Right now, though, it's really an 'unsung' piece of work in a very literal sense. If you like this dark psychedelic sound, though...with touches of Woodstocky grooviness...this might be worth plunking some oolongs down for if you run across a copy. I've had mine since back in those crazy hazy days (imagine me as a little kid, with a blue plastic Motorola record player with a yellow duckie on the lid, with THIS coming out of it. Exactly) and it still satisfies when I need just that certain vintage acid-tinged pick-me-up.


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