Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Chico Magnetic Band


Released 1971 on Box Office/Disques Vogue
The Seth Man, May 2004ce
Even though this absolutely brilliant and overwhelming album is but a half an hour in length, it is so chock full o’ balls and amazing riffs that consistently make all the right moves at the right times it’s downright scary and seems twice the length due to its raging density of vision. Given that (and that fact it seems almost entirely culled from moments of only the top tier fab waxings in my collection) it also seems far longer than THAT because everything on it counts SO BAD it lights a fire in my head, creates a fevered dickswell and comes close to bursting my heart every time I spin it.

Why? Put simply, this freakin’ album has EVERYTHING. And by that I mean it draws from elements of approaches set down by “Phallus Dei”-era Amon Düül Zwei, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Silberbart, Straight-era Alice Cooper, Can, Guru Guru, Groundhogs, Speed Glue & Shinki, Led Zeppelin, Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, Tiger B. Smith and “Free Your Mind”-period Funkadelic (so help me Eddie) and are seamlessly wedged into one album.

Chico IS...The Man. And he is immersed in an ocean of non-verbal language ranging from expressions of spittle-speak to larynx yank projected over a cranked up to fuck-off level trio projecting unbridled heaviosity heaved onto an LP with all the intimacy of a band that lives, breathes, farts, cries, bleeds, sweats, shits, pisses, vomits, cums, eats, buys pot and gets high together. And as if by some process of psychotropic osmosis all are locked into the same psychic force field that alternatively is searching in the wilderness, crying to the sky, crawling just beyond Damascus with their flies and minds undone and their heads on fire with all their passion directed into a funneled pummel that is undying energy the same way life itself is. And its raging power and whirlwind qualities are caught as they claw at the double iron gates of reality to get buzzed into the realm of the beyond with their stinky package of love special delivery, looking for the big old rock’n’roll godhead to sign for it and they wind up shoving it under his nose and promptly fucking off to parts unknown forever after the bittiest output of one album and 3 singles for three separate labels (whose chronology can be traced by the growing obscurity of the companies: one single for CBS called “Pop Or Not”/“Inverse Pop;” Disques Vogue’s issue of two album tracks as “My Sorrow”/“We All Come And Go” and “Girls Of Ocean”/“Phantasm” for Tuba Records.)

Formed in Lyon in 1969 as Chico & The Slow Death because they meant it (man), the following year they renamed themselves Chico Magnetic Band and comprised Chico on death throttle vocals; Patrick Garel on pounding dunderhead drums; Alain Mazet on Richter scale raising bass and Bernard Monneri on howlingly fierce shred guitar with attached fuzz/wah hardwired directly into his frontal lobes. And what this crew laid down was a freewheeling and loose mess that created its own language, cycling as it does through a back catalogue of the collective id, the rejected odd and the accepted stinky: as though every emotion every uttered for generations and every symbolic thrust of the battering ram against the gates of nothingness have touched down all on one album with an overdose of ESP.

Released on the tiny Disques Vogue subsidiary label Box Office, “Chico Magnetic Band” was recorded at two different Parisian studios: Europa Sonor (where Magma recorded their first album and Aphrodite’s Child laid down their classic “666” double album) and Wagram Studios. And judging the results of those last two named records, Europa Sonor had some uniquely sounding rooms on their premises, which carried over with the widest sonic spectrum onto “Chico Magnetic Band.” Producer Jean-Pierre Rawson boisterously captured the group’s thunder live in the studio as clear as an unmuddied lake while also resounding with an unstoppable fury. These sounds are everything I search for in rock’n’roll. It’s tripped out. It’s psychedelic. It’s heavy. It’s very heavy. It roots me to the ground AND it’s got experimental electronic freak outs as well as moments of chilling acoustic introspection that can only portend heavy shit raining down and they never made an umbrella THIS strong to withstand such a torrent. It’s heavy to the soul as well as to the ears, and its not only as bold as love but it’s bolder than fuck and although it only lasts for a half an hour look out because there’s a fire in the hole cause Chico and The Magnetic hommes are not only coming through, but coming through in the biggest way possible.

“Explosion” begins the album not with a whimper nor even a bang but Chico’s entire reason for existence all laid out in one glorious collision after another with Chico yammering, barking, guffawing and channeling consonants in a way irrespective of enunciation and rarely with a literal clue as to what he is freaking out so badly over as his ever-heaving, pulsating soul forces out a welter of incomprehensible sounds in such a riveting and demonstrative manner they almost make even Damo Suzuki’s English/Japanese/neither dreamtime-to-Samurai-rage vocals seem like the Queen’s English by comparison. Sometimes Chico isn’t singing so much as speaking, whispering or just freaking out at the open air around him as the Magnetic Band furry-freak to it all in total free-rock heaviness. The middle section is somewhat related to Deep Purple’s instrumental break in “Mandrake Root” but minus the Hammond plus a full-on percussion section and it’s a million times crazier as Chico goes gaga -- at one point whispering then choking out wave after wave of larynx attack in a spittle-spraying frenzy. The percussion line of franticness hangs so long and hollowly behind Chico’s half-spoken, half-muttered, half-laughed and near incomprehensible pronouncements that only point to certain meanings that are instinctively grasped but cannot be explained, only felt. He’s dropping consonants and vowels left, right and centre and I can only make out “My sweat tastes like a river!” until it’s directed into a 4-lane highway of vocal gibber along the lines of: “Nuuuaaarrgugug!,” “Nene waundah orf zarebbb!” and even “Anmyne cloth iss fallin dawn!!” And the guitar playing is exemplary. The fuzz and wah-wah is used only to shattering degrees for maximum effect and often. Then Chico’s hairy freak-speak re-enters, translating everything into a random free-form gear stripping speech that abides to no known patterns of human language as behind him the band pump out and wrestle up storm up with each perfectly timed drum fill, each burnt fuzz-o-delic guitar lick accented to perfection and those low grunting Tiger B. Smith vocals getting it all on at once is just crazy...especially for this long. Somehow, the piece finally ends with a deluxe CLANG!-HONK!-TWEET! And you don’t really know if it all really happened out loud or what.

Is it heavy?
Yes.
Are they French?
WEEE.

The entire album could just be this first track, and it would STILL be a killer.
Ooh-la-fucking-la.

The instrumental “Pop Pull Hair” sees the entry of electronic technical effects let loose by the French experimentalist Jean-Pierre Massiera and it is far spacier and heavier than the collages he assembled on his previous Les Maledictus Sound LP. The entire track runs backwards with UFO landings while creeping, sucking sounds and an aural casting of long shadows getting longer that threaten to absorb the mental landscape with successive, ominous strides. The quiet entry of “Lot Of Things” and a descending bass begins watchfully like “Sleeping Village” and/or “Brain Brain” by Silberbart with overall “Careful With That Axe” eugenics as cymbals tap in the darkness. This quickly rises into a shattering display of lurching, blazing guitar accompanied with deeper toned Hendrixian quiver-speak as Chico’s words only SOUND as if they’re run backwards as they dribble out from his mouth like blood. Another tempest hammers out by the band at top volume, and then falls away to another simmering comedown. But when THAT guitar solo ensues so unbelievably heavy, before you fully recover from it it’s already onto riffing off the “Beck’s Bolero” section of “How Many More Times” with the band in tow and Chico probably flailing on the studio floor and speaking of which: HOW many more times can this record continue to outdo itself?!! Chico then starts freaking in the echoed darkness with pronouncements like Don Van Vliet and Damo Suzuki in a self-strangulation contest ala Vliet’s palsied “Neon Meate Dream of An Octafish” tongue flapping drool-o-thon, “Tra la, tra la, tra la, tra la…tra LA” choking and sputtering well into the fadeout. With strident, thundering drums “We All Come And Go” cracks open and all is blistering Rock once more and nothing else. The middle section sees Chico’s hastily rushed out vocals crazily falling out into a pile of letters that only assemble in time against a distinctly Biergarten schlager for swingin’ steins-accented melody as he (nearly) sings the title “We all come and go...” Swiftly, the band is already locked in together and promptly off across the instrumental section highlighted by a stunningly blistering guitar solo as Patrick Garel’s double time drumming swings between the legs while simultaneously nailing down every virgin space in sight and the whole band is giving each other so much damn space to blast off that they never miss a beat with all those quick, vertiginous stops and starts.

Side two is just as excellent. “To Where I Belong” opens with a brief electronic swizzle into hyperspace that parts to reveal Chico plus his ever-Magnetic Band playing bongos with cross-stitched acoustic guitars like 1970-period Can jamming in the back garden of Schloss Norvenich. Returning electronic tones whoosh by and vacuum the whole mess up and replace it with cyclical riffs peeled offa Amon Düül Zwei’s creeping, nightmarish “Dem Guten, Schönen, Wahren” as acoustic and electric guitars pull together to construct an epic mystery dance. Then it’s a brutal shift into the furious paces of the electric intro/break-out of Zep’s “Bring It On Home” which they continue to hammer on home all and drape it with downer wah-wah action to make it all the more explosive. Then a surprise return directly back to the Düül death dance which then rears its screeching head back to the previous fury. Somehow, it’s left a stoned trail of mental breadcrumbs and finds itself back to the earlier acoustic passage and a final fade. Things slow down with the ooze away funk of “My Sorrow” all furrowed by Chico’s backward-masked-but-not-really drawl vocal that drags through the primeval soup of creation over clattering percussion accented by searing wah-wah and adorned with a fantastically screeching run-on sentence of a wah-wah’ed guitar solo. It’s so in the pocket, it’s hung like Iommi’s engorged stash pouch on the gatefold of “Paranoid”. Damn: this has got to be the closest thing to 1970 period Funkadelic outside of “Chains And Black Exhaust” and, er, “Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow” itself, come to think of it.

“Cross Town Traffic” is a RIDICULOUS cover and not because it’s inept. It only roughly approximates the Jimi Hendrix Experience track in its shorthanded tongues and soulful misappropriatin’ and the way first verse is sang with the music resigned way to the background all dub-like and no guitar doing the “doo doo doo l’doo” ‘backing vocal’ call and response... Dammit: it is SO fucking loose I betcha Jimi hisself woulda dug how Chico slit it up such a furious treat (maybe even more than Dylan did when Jimi ran rampant all over “All Along The Watch Tower” and/or “Drifter’s Escape”) especially as Chico amends the line “And with you/I can see a traffic jam straight up ahead” speedily into “And I guess there’s no chance/for you to sit on my head!” thus shattering another blues metaphor in the process. This is ridiculous, all right: Chico’s version of “Cross Town Traffic” is an example of getting “it” effortlessly by just going for it whichever way you can and making it all fall together seemingly by sheer force of will and soul alone. “Pop Orbite” finishes the album as Chico and His Mag(net)ic Band get a full-on interstellar send off via the ‘effets techniques’ of Jean-Pierre Massiera as burbles, squeaks and Martian effects surround the band together on its final trudge into the abyss with accompanying Hammond organ and French screaming. All the album lacks is one big explosion FX to end it all.

Do I need ANTHING else from a record? Fuck, man: “Chico Magnetic Band” stands tall as the spiritual column of that burnt pantheon of heavy truth seeking alongside the Vertigo pressing of “Black Sabbath,” Alice Cooper’s “Pretties For You,” Guru Guru’s “Hinten,” Silberbart’s “4 Times Sound Razing” and Speed Glue & Shinki’s self-titled double LP.


(BEWARE: Although ‘Chico Magnetic Band’ appears printed on Lizard Records’ CD reissue, some have been discovered to be accidentally pressed with an entirely different album altogether. Needless to say, it’ll help to look for it in a shop where you can preview before purchasing and remember that the real deal album contains 8 tracks and does NOT begin with a skimpy acoustic folk ballad by Methvseleh! There is also a vinyl re-issue available, which probably circumvents this problem entirely.)