Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Litter—
Emerge


Released 1969 on Command/Probe
The Seth Man, March 2002ce
“Emerge” is one of the few albums balanced equally and squarely upon the cusp of garage punk and proto-metal and in many ways, it was the first second coming (sic) AND last stand of mid-sixties American garage punk. There ARE a few others, granted. But to rage like THIS for an entire album?

But then again, The Litter not only remained ahead the learning curve more than most of their mid-sixties garage punk contemporaries but also sustained themselves as a fantastically tight and assaultive double-guitar blitzkrieg. And in three short years after their inception, they had only gained in terms of overall snot accumulation while becoming more willfully heavy. After several lineup changes and two albums (“Distortions” and “$100 Fine”) the original Litter members were still intact plus recent replacements vocalist Mark Gallagher and lead guitarist Ray Melina. Although their last album, “Emerge” was in so many ways a gathering of promises fulfilled thoroughly in a hefty slab of persistently dilated noise, you gotta wonder aloud at the aura of Detroit heaviness that clings to it so persistently. Was it the fact it was recorded in Detroit at G.M. Studios? Or that the engineer was Jim Bruzzese, the man who channeled The Bob Seger System’s rambunctious “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” LP? Or that it was due to the presence of the dab hand of close Seger associate Punch as the third part of the three-way production? Yes, yes and YES because it exists ‘twixt grease, aggressive heat and just motoring it down with ever-accelerating speed how could it be otherwise? Just take one look at the back cover and you’ll see it: a colour shot of five longhairs resplendent with shit-eating grins superimposed peering over a black and white photo of a dirty urban back street wall posed like a five-man “Kilroy Wuz Here.” Inside the gatefold they’re looking about as badass as a cross between the early Stooges and Crow Music, what with the random sporting a leather jacket here, cigarettes and shades. But the guy with the afro and moustache has such a psychotic expression of joy spread over his face, he makes AND kills the whole thing simultaneously by looking like Banana from The Youngbloods on the best LSD trip, ever.

The arrangements on “Emerge” are only matched by The Litter’s ability and there’s nothing too ponderous or clean and they didn’t cave in to any outside demands the like of bad “soul” imitations, horn sections, strings or any of that other gunk that SO many of their contemporaries fell prey to or were forced to take on (like Troll’s “Animated Music” album or The Shadows of Knight’s “Shake,” f’rinstance). In terms of volume and intensity, “Emerge” just gets higher and higher as The Litter let their psychic energies all pour out so bad it lapped against the dirty baffles of the studio in waves and so what if they were stoned they weren’t gonna do anything but pump it out just as hard straight or stoned anyway and that’s what I call teamwork...they got this drummer, right, called Tom Murray who does a drum solo at the end of the rekkid unlike any I’ve ever heard because you can actually get off on it and it’s not some bullshit show of strength, ego or fantasising he’s Ginger Baker or some shit but just a Midwestern kid with too much energy and probably pilled up on some super strength ampoules that made him tear down the walls so greatly...

From the initial electronic echo waves which crossfade into a building ‘66 fuzz guitar snarl, side one’s opening “Journeys” is a blister burn. Tom Murray’s multi-tiered drum fills cascade all around the thicket of fuzz guitars and lead vocalist Mark Gallagher’s reoccurring cleansing phrase of “Time to rectify/All your sadness” acts as autosuggestion to what the music itself is actually doing: burning out all the bad things from your mind: the paranoia, confusion, low self esteem and self-doubt in your head and it wants you to go apeshit or maybe dance frenetically in front of the speakers or maybe get real high spirited and start to throw yourself against or over the wall. The other great line “And if you listen/We’ll show you how to open up your door” ain’t no lame claim either, since they’ve already busted down the door from the very beginning of the record to the end heaviness newly awoken and refreshed from its forays within the confines of ‘acid rock.’ “Journeys” IS that good, and the record just keeps getting better and better. At times it hints at a sexy Who “I Can See For Miles”-based slow hip shifting from side to side rhythm, but since those guys had been well ingrained in the collective Litter brainpan since ’66 or so it’s no surprise that it would be wind up becoming so deeply and unselfconsciously a large part of their riff arsenal. “Feeling” follows and here again it’s like an amphetamine version of “Heatwave” meets The MC5’s “Looking At You” played by a battalion of guitars strafing an ammo dump behind a setting of savage drumming, heavy on the tom-tom fills. “Silly People” starts oddly sedate and slips into a Quicksilver-type exposition complete with fake scat that gets kinda soppy until the warning cry “LOOK OUT!” cues a quick drum stomp and a mindrocking fuzz guitar bridge that detonates the previous mellow scene -- Which returns only to be re-ignited into oblivion. Simple and rock hard drums set up “Blue Ice” as its lyrics calmly deliberate a twisted psychedelic scenario: “Crystals white/I turn in pain/To escape/The shafts of light/Pursuing me/a window pane...” A scratching rhythm guitar keeps the tension coiled behind the rest of the guitar pandemonium. Soon, Gallagher finally cries out, “Feeling the color/of Beyonnnnnndddddd!!!” with echo that plunges him directly to the land of flashbacks. “Blue Ice” is almost the offspring of Arthur Lee’s “Feather Fish” both musically and lyrics-wise, so natch it’s one of the high-water marks of the LP. Ending side one is an unlikely cover of The Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” Unlikely because the original is pretty and gentle, and how could The Litter tone down far enough to do it justice? Easy: they shoot up to an alien, gut bucket tempo just for the chorus (as the rhythm guitar is scraped out harsh and swift) and just keep on gliding down to a practically Donovan level of intensity for the rest of the track. Much like the previous track, “My Little Red Book” is covered with practically no consideration for the original rendition, except for the lyrics. An opening wordless yelp of “Whougghh...!” great in its uncontrollably anxious and spastic fit tosses the signal for the twin fuzz guitars to break off in circuitous routes all over the place for the rest of the track. It tramples over everything the Love original is AND played at such a volume, it’s true punk in its own ability to lash out even snottier than Arthur Lee. A breather in the form of “Breakfast At Gardenson’s” is somewhere between the quietly reflective moods of The Watchband’s “Miracle Worker” or The Bob Seger’s System’s “Gone.” Which is to say it’s ballad of the album. That is: until they RAVE UP once more as drums deluxe are pounded out with twin fuzz guitars and a madly strummed acoustic racing to the finish...Hey: this was supposed to be the ballad, guys!

They spend the remaining twelve and a half minutes with “Future Of The Past” which opens with the most blaring guitar and lumpen heavy drumming unleashed in a spirit beyond bombast. But true to form it does fall away, clearing a sonic path for quiet intonations of “Marching burning empires/falling at my doggone feet” as it does. But then another air strike is called in and there’s a trembling explosion that once more shatters the once relative near-silence of the song with a loosely-based appropriation of “Hey Joe” at top speed, top volume, top heavy and top everything else that’s delivered with 1000% spirit. A drum solo breaks in and will wind up finishing off the track, serving more as a vehicle for extra energy discharge than anything else.