Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Plastic Crimewave Sound - Flashing Open

Plastic Crimewave Sound
Flashing Open

AOTM #43, December 2003ce
Released 2003 on Eclipse Records
Side One
  1. No Vision (3.37)
  2. Caged Fire Theme (7.17)
  3. Go Away (5.47)
  4. Perfect Glass Orchards (6.52)
Side Two
  1. Giant’s Eyes (5.27)
  2. Husk (3.03)
  3. Down & Out (Junky Lament) (5.48)
  4. Roar Back and the Waves (2.47)

Note: During my many recent emails with Comets on Fire’s Reverend Ethan Miller regarding their new album on our Fuck Off & Di label, M’Lud Miller (noting my cryptic ROME WASN’T BURNED IN A DAY sleeve allusion to Randy Holden’s POPULATION 2) wondered aloud whether now wasn’t the perfect time to make such a ’69 sludge-trudge atrocity Album of the Month. I gots to say I too was dreaming of just such an act, when it did occur to me that I’d also been listening to this Plastic Crimewave LP an awful lot lately and that, flawed as it is, this LP is damned current and reviewing summat current is always gonna stand for summat good, espeshlee when the past few reviews herein have belonged to a truly bygone age. That said, POPULATION 2 is gonna get done and done good in the very near future Album of the Month stakes (honest Seth!). It’s just that Plastic Crimewave is so clearly an ascending Duke of the Puke-o-thon that he and his bunch of post-No Wave sick-o-delick miscreants need enlarge-ing and need it RIGHT NOW, dammit!



What It Isn’t

He’s a guy, he’s a band, he’s a multi-coloured forward-thinking arthole of Tardis Dementions. He’s a Futuretro freak, he’s a sibilant gas, he’s a rock’n’roll-a-holic, he’s a pain in the ass. He’s uptight, he’s outtasite, he’s kimming quite fowley every Friday night. He makes records, he writes reviews, he does great artworks, and (more to the fucking point) this guy’s got VIEWS! Gentlemen and (even-more-to-the-point) Laid-eez, I give you Mister Steve Krakow AKA Plastic Crimewave his self...

I’ve made FLASHING OPEN into album of the month as much for what Plastic Crimewave and his band stand for as for how they sound. This LP sure ain’t perfect but its quantum yelp always stinks up the bedroom good and has kept me coming back to it these past 4 months or so, which is saying a great deal. Furthermore, this lot maybe billed as ‘Chicago’s Premier Psychedelic Punks’, but Plastic Crimewave Sound is a damn sight more outsider than that simplistic billing forewarns. There are bad drugs at work here, and someone has been lacing this band’s curry with too much cooking speed (never a bad thing). Apart from Mr. Wave himself and his cute cohort, the excellently named (and still-young-enough-to-be-necking- anything-in-the-medicine-cabinet-past-its-sell-by-date) female guitarist Cat Chow1, the rest of these guys are old and their skin is cold. More Motley Hoople than Motley Crue, this neurotic gaggle of outpatients look like some two-bit evening school scientist re-constituted the Jerks while Teenage Jesus weren’t looking. That’s right… the bass player, keyboard player and drummer of this cowboy outfit were all forged of a Friday afternoon by a Creator with one eye on the-weekend-starts-here. Sexy as Robert Fripp, hairy as Robert Quine, rock’n’roll as Robert Duvall – it’s hard to believe Plastic Crimewave himself didn’t knock this minging trinity together from ferrocrete one particklier creative jazz coffee morning round his Chicago flat. Personally, I’d rather bum Dr. Wobert’s be-bowler’d bass player than make it with any of these Sweeney Todds… until they pick up their instruments and play, dat is… Oo yeah!!!

R. Mark Lux was the original bass player in Temple of Bon Matin – yup, this was the Edwin Shirley Greasy Trucker who contributed that pre-Motorshed Lemmy-in-orbit spiral Fender P-bass to their incandescent take of ‘Born to Go’ (truly one of my all time faves, babies). Quelle provenance, motherfuckers! Drummer Lawrence Skog Peters may be a hulking thuggish dullard (his own description) but his love of The Move and Can makes this minimalist one hell of a Rooster Cosby-type percussionist2 (only uses floor tom, hi-hat and snare) whose lack of a kick contributes mightily to the DISCO SUCKS undertow of this tsunami. As you would expect (nay, insist upon), the keyboard guy’s a right munter – Nick Rhodes pretentions without the dosh. His book of polaroids having been rejected by every underground publisher in Illin’ Wah, the aptly-named Andrew Lord Ortmann rationalises it all by contributing a fascinating modified Korg MS-20 (uncontrollable as fuck in any sitch, just ask Thighpaulsandra!) to this band’s indelicate time-zone straddling ur-fug.

So that’s the lowdown, now for the showdown:


BOOMBOX EXPLOSIONS is bitty, gritty and shitty - like Sightings doing Mars or maybe the Sternklang album without the compressor mike.

What It Is

Opening with the restrained reversed guitar and vocal mantra “No Vision”, FLASHING OPEN initially comes on like a San Francisco psychedelic band trapped in the plumbing of Pere Ubu’s DUB HOUSING. Or maybe it’s CHELSEA GIRLS-period Nico as backed by The Godz playing ‘Eleven’ with TENDERNESS JUNCTION-era Fugs production. Bootiful! “No Vision, No Vision, No Vision” intones Mr. Wave as the ice shifts under his feet and the sibilant tappety cymbals prepare the listener for a whole side of this Living Dead progressive bunny-hop. Hail, I even put my CD on iTunes repeat and copped a 20-minute feast of this one track so it surely works as meditational music. Where’s the 12” re-mix Mr. Wave?

But “No Vision” is a similar curve ball to the one that Comets on Fire threw at us with FIELD RECORDINGS FROM THE SUN’s equally mesmeric opener “Beyond the Ice Age”, and bears no relationship to the rest of the LP. And as we awaken into the 7-minute nightmare bludgeon fuzzbass riffola of “Caged Fire Theme”, we got malicious Hugh Cornwell vocalese over Monoshock-meets-Comets post-Stoogedom multiple rhythm geetar rapid fire strumming a la Faine Jade’s “It Ain’t True” with Bobby Gillespie-period JAMC standing drumming. Mr Wave is sure pissed off about summat interesting, but the band certainly ain’t about to let him high enough in the mix for us to clock just what it is. The burning tail-out is a luscious Monoshock-type cat strangler of Grady Runyanesque proportions.

“Go Away” is excellent remedial generic No Wave-by-numbers as played by (early 80s Australians) The Makers of the Dead Travel Fast in a Barrett Floydian-mode. Here, Mr Wave is a shark-eyed magician officially banishing a particularly annoying ex-lover by standing on the highest broch on the north of Scotland and fixing her with his evil eye whilst conjuring up a white van full of ‘tween time bailiffs-from-hell to redeem from her all the gifts he misguidedly laid on her ungrateful butt down the years. From a spindly Cloud 149-meets-Brave Boys Keep Their Promises balalaika tinitus lilt, the whole thing suddenly kicks into a 5 a.m. Glasgow City Centre garbage removal, as Mr Wave’s Barrett-circa-Maisie drone puppeteer vocals her off the highest local cliff.

Gold Blood LIVE

Gold Blood LIVE

It’s unfortunate then, that side one should finish with the inconsequential filler of “Perfect Glass Orchards”, which starts off boring and gets more boring until even the band are sound asleep. Hail, even Prince was bland was he wasn’t inspired. Still, this is no more than a surprise blip and we gots to accept it (ye bastards). Especially as the opener of side two is a spectacular Basketball Jones-meets-Safesurfer-meets the Universal Panzies’ “Star Bard” delirium grunt descent into a sub-bass abyss where only those with John Cale’s voice will survive with their souls intact. This is “Giant’s Eyes” – a disused Wilsford Shaft (Medieval Period, yeurgh!) ‘80s string synthesizer and frantic tempo changes fail to redeem Mr Wave’s barbarian muse as he sinks lower and lower into filth and muck of promentalbackwashpsychosis that only the true voyager can even aspire to.

But wait up, salvation’s here with the frantic Solipsik-meets-Mars-type No Wave of “Husk”, in which a pre-chordal Mesolithic landscape is being invaded by a foul brood of chariot-based Bobby Quine acolytes all intent on eating horseflesh and banishing the Dog from his rightful place in the domestic pantheon. Fuck ‘em, screams Mr Wave and lets Helen Fordsdale loose on ‘em, here manifested as drug-addled Cat Chow, with enough attitude and No Chops to whip their irritating Frippery and shoot it all up into the Two Towers’ air conditioning system.

I guess the so-called Junky Lament of “Down & Out” is Wire’s “Lowdown” as played by all the fit members of John the Postman’s Peurile. That’s right, no fucker can play it properly but they don’t half hit those strings hard, babies! Always the greedy and multi-tasking artist, Mr. Plastic Crimewave is a tender soul underneath it all with a need for closure, babies. Cain’t be finishing the LP without shedding a tear or three. So we get wound down and out by the moody discomfiture of ‘Roar Back and the Waves’, a tragic tail that only the true artist could conjure up. I mean, how sad is this opening lyric?

‘Sore cracks in the grave.’

Whoa, babies. I’d never even thought about that concept before. Imagine dying just at the moment when you had a real bad wedgie and zero access to the petroleum jelly! Eternity with a sore crack is My Kinda Nightmare! No no no, I can’t handle it, Mr. Wave and I refuse to accept your metaphor, dammit… Oh okay then, yooz the man o’the month so I’ll let it incubate a while and… This LP is a right hoot’n’holler hoedown, I can tell ya.



Beyond SWASTIKA GIRLS – concerning Galactic Zoo Dossier & some other Crimewavean achievements

Being a man with his own set of crayons and his own permanent place at one end of the kitchen table, Plastic Crimewave is also want to do some pretty lovely drawings from time to time. These manifest in all kinds of album sleeves, of course, but to my way of thinking there’s nothing quite so beautiful as his GALACTIC ZOO DOSSIER3 magazines. Yup, named after Arthur’s lost whatever, this is a glittering over-achievement for all the anal retentive anoraknopoids of da planet. The one I’ve chosen to illustrate is the Guitar God edition because DAMMIT I WANT THAT BASS ON THE COVER! And inside is a chance for Mr. Wave to get het-up over such obvious dirtbags as Asahito Nanjo AKA Nanjo Asahito; lovingly draw up Collector Cards of various guitar monsters (Leigh Stephens, TS McPhee, Straight James Williamson, Tony Hill, Lord Randy Holden, Peter Laugher, though Derek Bailey is deffo the Joe Shlabotnik of the pack!), plus give away a mighty free CD of previously unreleased sonic thang ur-klang wang dang thang Q Mang (Acid Seven, Musica Transonic, What Four, Sleddog, Butt Warmers, Drekka, Stairway to Heavens, Mr. Wave’s old band The Unshown, even Poland’s late 60s legends Grupa ABC) try sifting through this wreckage and working out watt groop’s playing watt track!).


LIVE IN OSAKA with Cotton Casino and Aska Temple is tumultuous and impossibly beautiful psychedelic weather formations.

And as if that weren’t enuff, Mr. Wave also inhabits an occasional series of 2-piece electro No Wave outfits with highly attractive puzzled-looking female cohorts (Mandy Neushnee-sexy as opposed to Gillian New Order). Gold Blood is a C60 cassette-only project with film director Amy Carghill, in which the duo take the melody of ‘As Long As He Needs Me’, that mawkishly peon paeon to patriarchal wife-beating from Lionel Bart’s OLIVER, and subsume it under a barrage of arthymical industrial suffering in a RAW & ALIVE stylee redolent of Fripp & Eno’s magnificent ‘Swastika Girls’. Carghill’s jagged Vox Jaguar organ transcends even Martin Rev’s ROIR-period HALF ALIVE-period Suicide for sheer heart attack, and I’d love a split-screen video of the two to go along with it! Black Hole is the other bizarre male/female duo, and this far more instant and immediate unit sound closest to San Fransisco’s Minimal Man or maybe that weird early-80s German duo 39 Clocks. Singer Rebecca Slither comes on like Daisy Chainsaw’s singer doing Blondie’s ‘Rip Her to Shreds’ over splatter-chatter programmed drumbox and the APOCALYPSE NOW featured-chopper rotor blades add a great deal to their ‘urbanising the countryside’ sonic policies.

Now, this ain’t a P. Crimewave article cause I ain’t got the resources or the time to do dis multi-tasking fella justice. Hail babies, I ain’t even heard his old band Utopia Carcrash, and his SPLENDOR MYSTIC SOLIS album with Kawabata Makoto and Asahito Nanjo seemed more like a nutha Nanjo-needs-to-keep-da-releases-commin’ than any essential entry into Mr. Wave’s true oevure. Moreover, my world is in such chaos right now I cain’t even locate the excellent 7” he sent me six months ago, so what kinda researcher am I? An Nth Uzi-ast (that’s watt) and no more nor less. So getcha sexy rears down to gemm.com or Ed Hardy’s wonderfuel Eclipse website or hassle the unhasslable gentlemen of Midheaven and Forced Exposure to unload some hard earned shitters and lob ‘em Mr. Wave’s way, got me? It won’t all be perfect (thank the Goddess and Odin and Mithra) but it will inform your psyche and allow in all kinds of solar rays and midnight crawler thunks. Do it for the Druid and do it for your selves, he’s on one and he’s NOW!!!

  1. Cat Chow is Japanese-American and describes herself as ‘Hello Kitty with a gun’! For all the male groupies out there preparing to bunk on their first British tour, she’s yours for large amounts of ‘good cheap drugs’ or ‘really good free drugs’ (her words).
  2. Unlike Rooster, who’d think such a description of himself meant ‘a small wild animal’, Skog gives himself away a bit by describing himself as ‘fiercely-minimalist’.
  3. GALACTIC ZOO DOSSIER is available from Drag City, PO Box 476867, Chicago, Illinois 60647, USA