THE BON VIVANTS
Black Honey (Gulcher Records) $10
DO YOU REMEMBER ---- that legendary Big Star gig at the Matrix in '66, or how 'bout Moby Grape's killer punk comeback on Dangerhouse in '77, or yeah, the fragile beauty of that period when Garcia & the Warlocks '65 mutated into Mark Smith & the Fall '78--remember? No? Well, the Bon Vivants remember these things and many more--whether they "happened" or not. Heck, on this new Gulcher CD, they "really" do a cover of the Mothers' "I'm Not Satisfied" that has the brain-scrubbed freshness of, say, the Daily Flash or the Sons of Adam, rather than Zappa's cynical crew. Post-punk 'n folk-rock (NOT "freak folk"--eeek!), power-pop 'n acid-rock, howlin' at the Georgia moon like a lonely 16-year-old geek even as you stare at so-called middle-age in defiance. Television Personalities Soft Boys Swell Maps 'n Mr. Barrett hisself--post-Cale VU and the ghost of Arthur Lee--kids still 70s-drunk and runnin' free! SNAP! MANGLE! POP!
The Bon Vivants come from Atlanta, Georgia. That's Ben Young (rhythm and freak guitars, vocals), Rob Parham (rhythm and lead guitars), Ben Lawless (bass), and Jeff Patch (drums). In 2006, they released a 10" record called SOUL ACTION. It came out on Ben's Old Gold label, which has generally released noise, improv, and experimental stuff. The members of the Bon Vivants worked their way through all of those more outside approaches before settling on a song format for this band. It adds a lot to what they're doing now: the deep knowledge of noise and improv combined with structured pop-rock songs. And on their new Gulcher CD, things come into even sharper focus--the lo-fi cassette sound of SOUL ACTION is gone, revealing the band in crystal clarity and sounding better than ever.
Dig the staggered wham-bam of the opening "Entropy," the druggy phased DMT-pop of "Reappearances" (love that guitar solo!), and "Interzone" with its hand-clappin' folk-punk-pop and William Burroughs title. There's the very, um, round and, er, totally stoned "Banana Song" (Hackamore Brick? Donner Party? yer mama gittin' wasted in 1971?). Dude, where's my maņana? You gotta hear the string-driven explosions on the scorchin' "Umbrella," and the extended Television-ish jam on "A or M." Extremely nice stuff. And how do these wise guys close the proceedings? They play a chooglin' country-rocker that sounds like a very loose take on the Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville"! But you know, there's nothin' "retro" here (more like "timeless")--and that's the trick, that's the magic. How come rock music won't just DIE? Because men like the Bon Vivants LIVE!