Kim Salmon and The Scientists Musical Temple O' Love
Grab this, the only Scientists material that's been available for years, while it's still available. Compiled for Sub Pop by Scientists front man Kim Salmon, the liner notes sum up Absolute best: "This collection of recordings represents the best of the Scientists at each stage of their career from 1981 to 1987. It doesn't run in order of release of recording date but in order of conception by the group. Hopefully this will give the clearest picture of the group's intentions and progress through those years."
An all-time fave of mine, the Scientists produced some of the most hypnotic noise yet. Last time I thumbed through a Sub Pop catalogue, they were discounting this gem. Pick it up. Although I wish it had even more songs on it (i.e., everything the band ever produced), this is a MUST HAVE with Blood Red River, Backwards Man, Nitro, Murderess in a Purple Dress, Shine, human Jukebox, Set it on Fire, etc. The arrangement of songs in order of their conception really does help one get a better feel for the Scientists' many noisy phases of swampy degradation.
Scientists: Demo Derby
Will someone sell me their copy of this incredibly noisy jewel? As rumor has it, some producer named Paul Delnoy heard these guys at a Dutch(?) fair and wanted to capture the incredible intensity and sonic havoc of their live performances on vinyl. The result is stunning and timeless. The production on this expresses swamp at its most ominous. "Backwards Man" might just be the nadir of our psyche--at least it seems to take the listener there. Turn the bass up on this song to hear Boris Sujdovic play two hypnotic notes on his bass through a tremolo peddle while Tony Thewlis and Kim Salmon squeeze the chaos out of electricity on the necks of their guitars and drummer Brett Rixon's hypnotic drums redefine the sublime. Relax. Close your eyes. Watch images erupt from the molten lava of your most primeval imagination.
Here, like elsewhere, Salmon sometimes sounds like he's being attacked by a cop with a taser. If you like Peter Aaron's screaming with them Chrome Cranks, listen to Kim Salmon--the guy who did it first and even more decadently. Surely this isn't for everybody. Most prefer the glossy, one dimensional sounds of people like Alanis Mourissette, and etc., but if you enjoy exploring the messy underbelly of your own subconscious, the Scientists get me there better than anyone else.
*more on this album later*
Scientists: This Heart Doesn't Run on Blood, This Heart Doesn't Run on Love...
A pounding, swampy angst erupts from these songs. Perhaps the Scientists' most driving, relentless recordings--their musical style and lyrical content reflect an explosive angst here even more than elsewhere. (Since this is the only Scientists album that actually has published lyrics--and some fucking great ones too--I'm going to overdo the quotes on this review.) This album captures a key and fascinating period of the band's career--1983 seems to have been the year where the band plummeted deep into the unconscious. "This Heart..." captures this well, "Hear that wild dog/howling down in the bog/his teeth aren't home until they're/grinding on your bone./This life of yours is a game./The only prize you get for winning/is this life of yours."
If you're wondering what the music might sound like, just look at that album cover to get a visual representation of the musical hell contained within, "This is a heart that beats on pure nitro/nitro heart, nitro heart, nitro brain/in no pain." Loud, noisey, driving, this album should've been played at that makeshift stage in the swampy forest of Apocalypse Now. It sure as hell beats the pants off of anything the Doors every blubbered out, "Crazy heart of my craving world/it's a sad old world that gives birth to a flame/that'll be her ruin." Jim Morrison a great poet? Fuck his fat, bloated corpse. These be lyrics here, "There's something draging this frame along, cramping its style to its own end."
Although the album is a wonderful nightmare, "Solid Gold Hell" is still perhaps the best gateway drug of a song for a Scientists neophyte because it sounds real cool and is initially catchier (if that word can be used for the Scientists work at all) than their more obscurantic material, "I stand by the fire/I stand by the fire/while a soild gold guitar swings a heart throb of carnal desire./I'm getting real used to living in a solid gold hell." I came across a copy of their video for this song a while back and it is truly the coolest video ever made. Drummer Brett Rixon only seems to move his arms from the elbows down, and the others all act like they should be standing in a bar in a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. Well, maybe they'd first have to change their freaked out clothes and cut those Fogerty bobs.
Scientists: The Human Jukebox
The last, and likely most challenging of the band's albums, "The Human Jukebox" marks another radical transformation/decomposition in the Scientists' music. Call it an industrial wasteland. Call it the influence of London on these Perth, Australia natives. Or think of it as the few precious remains of shipwreck on a beach after storms and mutiny. The Human Jukebox replaces the desolate sandstorm, "Lord of the Flies" openness of the group's earlier work with urban decay, dark bars, and a dreamy celebration of death (it does, after all, include an overhead train derailment in one of the songs). Without both Rixon (drums) and Sujdovic (bass) to generate their steady percussive hypnotic grind, the songs break down into simpler, more disparate components.
As a result, this goes where music hadn't really gone before. "The Human Jukebox" anticipates the Tetsuo films. Salmon finds new noise-producing devices and approaches. The songs, and the album overall, possess the perspective and feel of someone who's died from an overdose on junk, turned cold in a corner, and then somehow revived--no longer feeling quite alive, but obviously not dead either. The album cover shows the mummification of a living person, or the cyberfication of one longing for death, or both. Maybe this thing is an obsession with both death and immortality, "it must be nice/to die at night…with a minimum of fuss/they're'll be no sudden flash of light/just a little more dark/but will I still see stars…"
Call it Frankenstein rock. It has a nihilism to it--I mean a sense of emptiness, "distortion is the only truth/with this much distortion, who needs proof, who needs the truth?" It reinforces my own notion that consciousness is a flickering light that will easily and inevitably go out. We are brains in fleshy machines that break down--all glandular secretions and electricity, "just think, your brains are dead." Call this science fiction rock.
The song "Shine" resides in the middle of this landscape--it's beautiful, sleazy, and has the optimism of a battered orphan, "you shine like a torch/you're so out of place I think you must be a dream." Call it a sublime and colorful sunset on Forbidden Planet.