Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Vincent Black Shadow

Vincent Black Shadow

AOTM #73, June 2006ce
Released 2006 on Heart Break Beat
Side One
  1. Child of Orion (2.49)
  2. Real Wood (5.20)
  3. Blow It Up In The Sunshine (3.59)
  4. Colours and Feelings (1.10)
Side Two
  1. Ain’t No Law (6.29)
  2. Raoul (2.56)
  3. Legend of Sex (4.11)
  4. Drunk In Space (3.09)

Note: This bunch of Baltimore malcontents take their name from an overly endowed 1936 English motorcycle that crossed Bonneville salt flats at 150 mph, in 1948, ridden by a mechanic wearing only a bathing suit and sneakers. The motorbike was powered by two 500 cc engines working together in the form of a hugely belligerent 1000 cc V-twin, in an area under the rider’s seat so restricted that one reviewer famously described the engine as looking as though it had been ‘forced in with a whip and a chair’. During his short life, my dear friend the late Pete De Freitas, erstwhile drummer in Echo & The Bunnymen, wanted nothing more from life than to be the proud owner of one of these beasts. So this review is for Peter Louis Vincent DeFreitas (1961-89). That a band has come along worthy of its legendary automotive namesake is a major result for rock’n’roll.

(I Wanna Be) Gnawing On Bones Like Mark, Don & Mel

Okay Motherfuckers, it’s official. Rock’n’roll is dead, long live rock’n’roll. This 21st century has finally superseded 1965… 1969 and 1970… and Cleveland 1975, too! It’s all been conflated into one single end-of-the-world ANIMAL HOUSE party wherein the fratrock of The Swamp Rats, The Sparkles, The Sonics and The Hangmen of Fairfield County nowadays co-habits with the lyrically enlightened post-Doors, post-MC5 early/mid-70s proto space-metal of Granicus, Groundhogs, Bleib Alien, B.O.C., and most of Todd Clark’s various incarnations. What my saying? I’m saying, Brothers’n’Sisters, that the king is dead, long live the king and all the great truisms and platitudes of the West are henceforth shown to be real … Punk’s not dead, the north will rise again, don’t eat the brown acid, only the industrial heartlands make for classic rock’n’roll, King Arthur’s only sleeping, divorces makes winners only out of the lawyers, and that ain’t no way to treat a lady… I mean I’ve had it notarised and authenticated and duplicated in triplicate an’ everything! Finally… finally… finally… in Baltimore’s Vincent Black Shadow we gotta Son of Orion lead singer figurehead sexy enough to make the (ob)Scene Kid swoon, and the Emo drool, and all sonically delivered by Siamese twin lead guitarists formed of Leigh Stephens’ bell-custard over a Bill Ward-meets-Scott Krauss-style soul beat harsh enough to satisfy even the most overly-zealous melted plastic brains of every sexagenerian lowbrow with an axe to grind (the kind with a vinyl collection stuffed chock full o’45s by The Wild Colonials, The Primitives, The Wig, The Stereo Shoestrings, The Caretakers of Deception and The Outcasts, plus umpteen anally-filed and plastic-covered LPs by Speed Glue & Shinki, Monoshock, Shockabilly, Terminal Lovers, Tiger B. Smith, Blue Cheer c. VINCEBUS ERUPTUM and OUTSIDE INSIDE, HIGH RISE LIVE, the Mainliner of MAINLINER SONIC, LIVE ALBUM-period Grand Funk, KINGDOM COME-period Sir Lord Baltimore, Juan De La Cruz, The New Gods’ AARVARK THRU ZYMERGY, Rallizes’ HEAVIER THAN A DEATH IN THE FAMILY, plus any amount of Skydog-styled French boots of The New Order and Sonic’s Rendezvous). So sell your motherfucking Bang and (gathering dust) Dust LPs and pronto, Tonto! That’s mostly 50% acoustic Zeppalike anyway. And flush your DMZ down the drain, your Leaf Hound down the pan. No, better still dump those suckers in a skip so their market value forces Shadoks to re-issue them! Why? Because of Adam Black Savage, brothers’n’sisters. He’s the singer with the Vincent Black Shadow and – like Alice and Iggy afore him - he’s a sexbomb to boot, styled and gorgeous and even has his own GHD hair straighteners (the best and hottest on the market, not Nicky Clark’s as some would claim). Unlike every other singer in the underground who is NOT HOT, Adam Black Savage also has a great attitude towards hygiene, shells out mucho dollar for his hair dye (gotta be Schwartzkopf LIVE, natch!) and wears a white shirt that’s still as clean when he takes it off at night as when he first put the thing on. And when yooz laying a horny broad every rock’n’roll night, it’s those details (not having surplus PP3s for your wah pedal) that makes your legend grow. You think I’m shucking and jiving ya, don’t you kiddies? Well, I ain’t goofing one iota on Brother Black Savage because because because we (you, me, the freaks that count) need each and every figurehead we can muster to prove to the outside world that mung worship rock’n’roll in the non-corporate sector ain’t the mug’s game the Rock Biz Greedheads (A&R twats, CEO cocksuckers, Music Publishing Old Way agent prevaricateurs and beaters around the bush) believe it to be. And when you have a quintet as unmercilessly on the right path through the forest as Vincent Black Shadow, all you need to go that extra half-mile to the rocky summit is an Apollonian figurehead, a Dionysian prince of the underworld, a Gerard Way of the Third Way (to put it in Buddhist terms everyone can reach). Who else we got, brothers’n’sisters? Well, I know we’ve got one uber-Mod hottie in the form of Plastic Crimewave who’d most surely cut it on a sartorial level, but even he’s too aged, too sage, and just too down with Reid Fleming and Flaming Carrot for the tots of today. And if weez any chance of stopping the Already Too Self-Satisfied New American Underground from side-stepping the Rock completely and accidentally all Frankenmorphing into that moustache guy out of Growing (gimme a break!), then Adam Black Savage is the way forward because he has a larynx that sounds like he eats mountains for breakfast, yet from his look it’s clear that he regularly shags women under 25. Now you know me, and I ain’t about to lay a ‘rock’s a young man’s game’ argument at your doorstep. But it ain’t purely the realm of Ye Oldesters neither. Motherfuckers, we are representatives of a Heightened Lower Realm. We ain’t in the basement with Joey and DeeDee anymore, weez in the sub-basement with Herr Leibling (you seen Uncle Bobby lately? Too scary…) and a cadaverous condition is being had by all. And so we need new skin for the old ceremony, new blood for the old veins, and Adam’s the only guy wan enough to lure the pouting sallow youth to our outdoor temples in the groves. Moreover, with regard to the sound made by Vincent Black Shadow, their unrighteous Israeli Wall of Sound issuing forth behind this Great Stone Eater is an ultra confident stop-start micro-Detroit machine-shop of the highest order, nay the newest order! Mix one part of Blue Cheer’s ‘Out Of Focus’ with two parts early Pa Ubu (‘Non Alignment Pact’ via ‘Cloud 149’), then filter all through Beefheart’s ‘Moonlight On Vermont’. Drain and serve on a bed of Terry Knight production values, and you got this debut LP by Vincent Black Shadow…

Music To Bring Down Boeotian Battlements

VINCENT BLACK SHADOW is a monumental debut, and damn me if it ain’t righteous the way they bring in the whole ship and cargo at just over thirty minutes. Place yourselves in central Greece, brothers’n’sisters, for that is where our tale ‘The Legend of Side A’ begins with ‘Child Of Orion’. High on the broken battlements of Orchemenos sits the heroic bearded figure of Bobcat Rufus Platt, each drum having been hefted, dragged, threatened and cajoled up to the citadel from the Boeotian Plain below. Bobcat commences a massive soul stomp in the Don Brewer/Scott Krauss manner, and wakes from its slumber the whole of Boeotia, home of Orion. And it’s up here high upon the citadels of Orchomenos, ancient capital of Boeotia, that we first glimpse Brother Black Savage searching frantically at the foot of the dusty dry-stone walling for the eyes of his blinded father Orion. Insurgents armed with solid-body-six-strings join Bobcat high on the citadel and proceed to lambaste the scenery with the kind of braying Glitter Band-plays-kazoo marching band guitar snarl that was at its height of popularity in the early post-Christian late 1960s, but which continued to inform the rock genre until the middle of the 22nd century, via the accidental re-discovery in 2078 of the DEVOTION LP, an unlikely 1970 hybrid proto-metal doom epic from the pre-Mahavishnu’d mind of John McLaughlin during his forgotten Black Sabbath-informed period on Douglas Records. That’s Outer Dave Litz standing in the doorway, his dreadlocked longhair streaked with dry egg and cereal, for he is the Guitar Muncher and often makes his most beautiful sounds when he’s eating the strings. Parallel with Outer is his shorthaired be-shaded counterpart Dan Van Owen. When he’s strangling hoary clichés out of his axe, some call him just Dan Owen, but it’s the ‘van’ of vanguard that is the key to this man. And when Dan kicks his middle name into gear, The Van accelerates to new heights. Over this fully-loaded twin fuzz Mekong Delta soul stomp, Adam Black Savage fesses up to being the grandson of Poseidon and the son of that great Boeotian hunter who took so much shit from Apollo and Dionysus. It’s a barbarian classic, if you’ll ‘scuse the oxymoron. The ducking and diving triple riffing of ‘Real Wood’ kicks in next, a raging Tiger B. Smith dumb punkathon, with stop-start rhythms somewhat akin to ‘I Want, Need, Love You’ by the legendary Australian band The Black Diamonds, but played harder as though by ABSOLUTELY FREE-period Mothers. That bass – what the fuck? A single torn 8” speaker cone mike’d up by someone’s home tape recorder’s microphone. Is the Savage yelling ‘It’s hard work’ or ‘Sod work!’ Both ways is fine by me, as bottleneck guitars and blistered bluesy fuzz bass underpins the ‘American Woman’-styled harmony twin lead. The Savage screams over and over: ‘Tell me I’m a sucker, tell me I’m a sucker…’ over and over and fucking over into the ending. Then, with barely a moment’s rest: ‘Heat rays is what we’ve got going on’ and the small beginning of ‘Blow It Up In The Sunshine’ suddenly blows up and opens out into a flattened and shimmering motorik kraut (small ‘k’) road-trip in an open-topped pre-WW2 Mercedes (black with massive fenders) in the style of Can’s ‘Mother Sky’ or The Stooges’ ’Loose’; as the Savage wishes he was a lightning bug because he’s out of control, he’s out of control, he’s out of control. Then, as the urging siren guitars feedback on and into each other in pure coagulating sonic alchemy, the sky turns red and the Savage’s lupine howl announces a sunset, as the feedback guitars, panned now hard right and left, decorate the horizon with the good jismick juice. Side One concludes with ‘Colours & Feelings’, a kind of one-minute instrumental ‘Boris The Spider’ bass-player take on the GET CARTER-theme that swans in, does a once around the block, then sods off quick. I want more… ‘Ain’t No Law’ kicks off Side B like Joy Division playing a demented Hawkwind song (DOREMI-period), with FX of the Thirteen Floor Elevators persuasion, as the catchy bastard ‘Ain’t no law, ain’t no law’ chorus blasts a seemingly endless repeat, that is until they slow it all down to half-speed (this is becoming an excellent habit) and THEN some (Joey Smith-stylee), as the scything schrieking feedbacking guitars howl and stratospherize the nacht into a towering ack-ack anti-aircraft gun search for enemy planes flying too high to be detected up at 50,000 feet. Then we’re off to the pure LOVE IT TO DEATH of ‘Raoul’, a kind of Alice-meets-side-two-of-the-red-Grand Funk second LP. Darker than usual is the ‘Legend of Sex’ with its lead bass and Terminal Lovers/Downside Special rock melody over uncanny and strange chords, eventually dropping down into another classic repeated chorus: ‘Does anyone know about the body?’ Some places this band go allow the bass insurgency to climb right up there freaking out alongside the guitars, leaving excellent room for a fuggy haze of chordless free-rock to hang about the air conditioning system, facilitating the entrance of the final song ‘Drunk In Space’ to kick in like early Alice does with the free-rock of ‘Return Of The Spiders’. ‘I know no God’ bawls the Savage over a riff somewhat akin to The Stooges playing a pounding and far more remedial version of the ‘School’s Out’ riff. The Savage would only need to sing ‘let me in’ at this point for the Alice-Iggy Cycle to be completed, but the twin 15 minutes of this Vincent Black Shadow is already over, Brothers’n’Sisters. However, I’ll tell you this, gentlemen of the Shadow, you’ve achieved one excellent and real motherfucker of a debut. It’s hard as nails, catchy, obsessive, smart and dumber than almost everything out there. This stuff will be on the compulsory listening list in a few years’ time, of that I’m sure. You catchy motherfuckers deserve to go far.

Heart Break Beat Records: heartbreakbeatrecords.com