Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Godz
Contact High With The Godz

Released 1966 on ESP-Disk
Reviewed by Lugia, 08/01/2004ce

The Godz: "Contact High With The Godz"
ESP-Disk ESP-1036, recorded/released 1966.

1) Turn On
2) White Cat Heat
3) Na Na Naa
4) Elevem
5) 1+1=?
6) Lay In the Sun
7) Squeak
8) Godz
9) May You Be Alone

First up, this has NO connection with a 70s dinosaur-rock band of the same name. No, these are the original Godz. The one and only.

The Godz sound is hard to describe. It's pretty much an acoustic thing. It's obviously some sort of folk thing. It's an East Village thing. It's sort of a Dylan-meets-Shaggs-meets-I don't know what thing. If it were 100% competent, it might almost be an "International Artists unplugged" sort of deal. But there's that competence issue there. It's obvious. Glaringly.

"Turn On" starts off sounding like some bluesy stoner thing. That is, until the rest of the band comes in, all in different...keys? Could these be called keys? And so it goes...back and forth between blues-folk groove and Penderecki goes acoustic as the vocalist howls "C'mon little girl, turn on!"

"White Cat Heat". Ahh...damn. What WERE they thinking? Or on? Everyone going at their instruments as the whole group impersonates a cat fight. Literally. Yowling, meowing...starts up low key, builds into total racket, then goes back to where it was.

"Na Na Naa" is almost music. ALMOST. Save that things get...a little carried away. Frenzied. The vocals gradually drift between soulful and just plain nuts. And all over this Godz-style lets-play-this-one-chord-into-the-ground arrangement.

"Elevem" is...sort of like "Na Na Naa" except weirder, as the vocalist starts droning on "Elevemmmmm...Elevemmmm..." like some defective Zen mantra. And the Zen is afoot, as things...yep...break down into havoc. The bass sounds like some giant bungee cord, drums stutter in a way that makes Mo Tucker sound like Neil Peart. Soon, the vocalist goes nuts, chanting all sorts of numerical gibberish. You watch as the needle slides off toward the label, thinking "what in the FUCK have I gotten myself into with this!?" But it's so ridiculous...primal-silly...that you of course flip the vinyl over to grapple with the rest of it.

Which is no easier to deal with. To add to the threat, the side 2 label is printed backwards. You know you're in for it.

"1+1=?" is almost an attempt to do a ballad. Save that about half of the chords come out of a Mel Bay "Guitar for Shut-ins" book and the other half are stolen from some obscure John Cage piece. So yes...almost. Good thing the maracas are so out in front in the mix.

"Lay In the Sun" is Godz, party-style. Inasmuch as it actually sounds like several hangovers I've had in my life, that is. The chords here, I will note, do seem to be a little more chord-like. However, the drumming on this is amazingly like listening to the results of a dozen spastics turned loose in a cardboard box factory.

"Squeak" uses the violin artistry of one Larry Kessler. It is one of the few songs which makes "The Black Angel's Death Song" by the Velvets sound mellow and laid-back by comparison. Quadraplegics play better than this.

And their signature track, "Godz"...yep, that's the right reaction to it. Gods. As in GOOD GODZ WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING!?!?

Finally, the group causes Hank Williams to spin fast enough in his grave to potentially generate enough electricity to supply Pittsburgh for the next sixteen years by covering his "May You Never Be Alone". Over the top of this, Jim McCarthy goes batshit nuts with a toy flute. The bass strings have been replaced with bicycle inner tubes. And then it's all over.

Now, you might think I don't like this record, judging from what I have to say about it. And there, you would be DEAD WRONG. I LOVE "Contact High With The Godz". Just love it. When I need a super-hefty fix of insane anti-music in the vein of Jad Fair, Daniel Johnson, Jandek, et al...these guys were the innovators of all of that. Them and the Shaggs. It takes real heart to put out a record of primal dumbness like this, and The Godz were all heart. Granted, this sort of thing is apt to rub certain people the wrong way. In fact, it's apt to cause some people to go mad and kill you if you should put it on around them. But if you really want TRUE NOISE, and you want it unplugged, then this has your name all over it. It's stupid, it's glorious, it's gloriously stupid, and it's stupidly glorious. All at the same time.

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