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GAYS IN THE MILITARY
People Is Beautiful (Gulcher Records) $10
This new Gays In The Military CD, "People Is Beautiful," is a thick slab of balls-out psychedelic sleaze-rock as delightfully misanthropic as its Peter Bagge-drawn cover art. GitM have long reigned as one of Chicago's most consistently entertaining live acts, combining the spectacle of high-concept arena rock with the creepy sex vibe of a 42nd Street slime pit, and now they're bringing their obsessions and fixations to bear on their first "studio" recording.
The concept of Gays In The Military was born in Greensboro, NC in 1995 with three young UNC-G students Art, Matt and Jeanna and one dropout, Brian. After about a year of playing largely improvised psych-punk inspired by the early work of the Butthole Surfers and the Flaming Lips, GitM added a second guitarist, Ryan (of Greensboro's Raymond Brake), and became BRN MTN LTS, a new incarnation which took the original GitM concept into the realms of heavy metal, black magic, and full frontal nudity. After six months BRN MTN LTS called it quits, Art and Matt went on to form the Mercury Birds, who split when Matt moved to Texas and Art started his dead-on Southern rock project, All Night.
In 2001, Brian found himself living in Chicago and decided to restart the band with fellow college radio DJs Geoff, Chris, and Melissa. After playing around Chicago and releasing Meat Gazers, a full-length CDR on underground noise label Scratch-N-Sniff Entertainment, GitM added Mike on rhythm guitar and recorded "People Is Beautiful" for Gulcher Records. The summer of 2005 found GitM reunited with their old drummer Matt and touring the country with NC guitar rock icons the Cherry Valence. Now, having just collaborated with Chicago underground filmmaker Miss Julie Fabulous on a video for their MP3 single "Evil Physician/Evil Position," GitM are concentrating on rocking the Midwest, taking their stage show to a higher plane, and working on a new concept album entitled Fairy Tails.
Musically, GitM's output has run the gamut from spooky lo-fi home recordings to sound collages made up of dialogue of exploitation movies to blistering hardcore party rock jams. Always eager to pay tribute to their forebears, GitM have covered songs from Judas Priest, the Butthole Surfers, and most recently, the Godspell soundtrack. "People Is Beautiful" showcases the boys' love of the broad spectrum of rock music, featuring singalong choruses, rumbling squelchy guitars, one-note Greg Ginn-style solos, keyboard sounds that go from ELO-inspired melodies to the cacophonous squealing of Roxy Music-era Brian Eno, and lyrics inspired by tales of the sexual underground, exploitation flicks, life on the road, and the band's own twisted sense of humor.
Never a joke band but always on the lookout for the next laugh, Gays In The Military have proved once again with "People Is Beautiful" that writing great songs doesn't preclude having a hell of a good time with it.
1976/1977: The Studio Recordings (Gulcher Records) $10
Back in print! Third pressing! Back in March 1976, when the Ramones were still a local New York band and the Sex Pistols weren't even a rumor in the U.S., a group of teenage fanzine writers, rock cultists, and heavy-metal dudes got together in Bloomington, Indiana, and recorded the first Gizmos EP. The strong influences of the Dictators, the MC5, the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, 60s garage bands, and 50s rockabilly crashed head-on with musicians self-trained on Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Santana, and Hendrix. The underground success of the first EP led to another session in April 1977, which yielded two more EPs: Amerika First and Gizmos World Tour. 1976/1977: The Studio Recordings, the first-ever legitimate reissue of Gizmos material, collects the three EPs by the original Gizmos, along with eleven previously unreleased outtakes from the two sessions. The 16-page CD booklet contains mostly unpublished photos, Richard Meltzer's original liner notes for the first EP, and extensive liner notes by Gizmo Eddie Flowers. Founding Gizmo and main songwriter Ken Highland went on to record with a long succession of bands, including O. Rex, the Afrika Korps, the Hopelessly Obscure, Johnny & the Jumper Cables, the Exploding Pidgins, the Kenne Highland Klan, and the Vatican Sex Kittens. Rich Coffee, who was one of the three Gizmos guitarists, has been in a long string of bands too, including Thee Fourgiven, the Unclaimed, the Tommyknockers, the Egomaniacs, and the Excessories. Eddie Flowers has led the ever-mutating Crawlspace since 1985. Also includes guest appearances by MX-80's Rich Stim and Johnny Cougar Mellencamp (no kiddin'!).
||THE GIZMOS |
1975-1977: Demos & Rehearsals (Gulcher Records) double CD $14
The Gizmos' story of early American punk is re-told with 54 previously unreleased tracks and a 20-page booklet. Included are Ken Highland's '75 demos that started the whole thing; Ken and Eddie Flowers, as the Rockabilly Yobs, accidentally discovering swamp-trash-punk; Rich Coffee's stoner-rock band Cerberus joining Ken for the first Gizmos rehearsal; Marine-era demos by Ken; and Ted Niemiec's demos for the '77 Gizmos sessions. With versions of faves like "Mean Screen," "Chicken Queen," "That's Cool," "Muff Divin'," "Human Garbage Disposal," "Cave Woman," "Amerika First," "Kiss of the Rat," "Gizmos World Tour," and "Hey Beat Mon!" And six songs that Ken recorded with the Afrika Korps in 1977-78. Plus many unheard and even unremembered tunes! How could the classic Giz-rock of "Talkin' on the Telephone" and "Seaside Boogie With a Jack-Off Solo" have remained unreleased for all these years?! The booklet is packed with riff-by-riff details from Krazee Ken and Ready Eddie, and lots of unpublished photos.
Live in Bloomington--1977/1978 (Gulcher Records) double CD $14
This includes 18 tracks from the only two shows the Ken Highland-era Gizmos ever played, 3 tracks by the "original" band from the one show they played without Ken Highland, and 27 tracks by the Ted Niemiec/Dale Lawrence Gizmos. With most of the hits, a few unreleased originals, and lots of covers.
Phil Hundley sez: "Somewhere in between the celebrated and much-beloved Ken Highland Gizmos and the beloved and much-celebrated Dale Lawrence Gizmos lies the pretty much ignored and unknown middle period Gizmos: the Ted Niemiec Gizmos. No mistake about it, this was Ted's band. I had just turned 16 when I read a classified ad in Indianapolis' Radio Free Rock announcing that something called the Gizmos was looking for a drummer. Make a record, it said. Maybe tour the world, it said. It just so happened that making a record and touring the world (or at least playing Max's in NYC) were, at 16, the two things I needed to do before I could die happy, so I answered it. And I would have been the Gizmos' drummer (beloved and much-celebrated) had not Shadow Myers also answered that ad. I got to settle for being what Bob Richert referred to as the 'Handsome Dick Manitoba' of the band. What Dale Lawrence referred to as the 'fat teenager playing the tambourine.' What have you, I liked being a Gizmo. In Ted's band. Three or four times a week I would leave school and drive the 50 miles down to Bloomington to rehearse or, as you will hear, play a show. The shows were fun. We played a youth center in Clinton, IN, and two kids showed up. Ted brought them up on stage and made them background singers for a few songs. They had fun. The Gizmos were fun. Ted was fun. Even when lots of people would show up. Sometime after the shows and days on this record whatever the hell punk was turned awfully angry and serious and pious and self-reflective (and too often self-righteous) and stopped being fun. The Ted Gizmos were fun. Listening to these recordings, most of which I had never heard before, I found myself grinning, laughing and having an awfully good time. Rock'n'roll can do that for you. It does that for me. I suspect it still does that for Ted, too. While Ken is all over disc one and Dale is all over disc two, these are Ted's discs. If his alter-boy-caught-with-porn-mags persona is a little goofy, it is also a hoot. After all, he was just holding onto them for a friend (probably Ken). If he seemed a little dubious signing 'I Shoot Up,' he knew how to rock it and that's what matters. I've never met Kenne Highland, but I love his records. Dale Lawrence may still rather not have had a fat Manitoba in his band, but I love his music anyway. Nearly thirty years later, though, I am still rather pleased and proud to have been a teenaged Gizmo. In Ted's Gizmos."
1978-1981: Never Mind the Gizmos Here's the Gizmos (Gulcher Records) $10
Gulcher catalog: "1978-1981: NEVER MIND THE GIZMOS HERE'S THE GIZMOS assembles the 14 tracks originally released on Gulcher vinyl by the post-Ken Highland/Eddie Flowers Gizmos. After the original group scattered in early 1977, vocalist Ted Niemiec and Gulcher's Bob Richert put together a sextet of new Gizmos. In 1978, they toured the east coast and recorded the EP NEVER MIND THE SEX PISTOLS HERE'S THE GIZMOS. Standout tracks are early versions of 'Cry Real Tears' (Vulgar Boatmen) and 'The American Dream' (Walking Ruins), and a cover of the Sex Pistols B-side 'Did You No Wrong.' Within two years Niemiec, rhythm guitarist Steve Feikes, and tambourinist Phil Hundley were gone, and downsized to a quartet of Dale Lawrence, Billy Nightshade, Shadow Myers, and new guitarist Tim Carroll, the Gizmos released the 1980 split HOOSIER HYSTERIA album with Dow Jones & The Industrials. Highlights include the manic 'Dead Astronauts,' ironic 'Rock & Roll Don't Come From New York,' and Al Green's 'Take Me To The River.' A year later, unaware of their impending Indiana fame, the band relocated to Hoboken, New Jersey. With new drummer Robbie Wise, they recorded several demos with the MX-80 Sound production team of Mark Bingham and Mark Hood. Only 'The Midwest Can Be Allright' was released then, on the 1981 Gulcher compilation LP RED SNERTS; it took another 20 years for the 1981 NYC DEMOS CD-EP to appear. A bonus living room take of 'Please Panic' concludes this collection; although they unmercifully slagged their mentors, Bloomington's high school Panics covered several Gizmos songs, including from this CD 'Tie Me Up,' 'Pay,' and 'Reggae Song.'"
||THE GIZMOS |
Rock & Roll Don't Come from New York (Gulcher Records) $10
25 tracks from1979-1981 by the post-Ted Niemiec "fake" Gizmos (Dale Lawrence, Billy Nightshade, Tim Carroll, Shadow Myers, Robbie Wise). Includes their tracks from the Hoosier Hysteria split LP, The Midwest Can Be Alright--1981 Demos CD EP, and Red Snerts comp. Plus lots of previously unreleased studio and live stuff. With 16-page booklet.
Hoosier Psychopaths: The Official Recordings 1981-1994 (Gulcher Records) $10
Of all the sick and sordid sagas to come floating out of the punk rock scene in isolated Indiana, none are more twisted than the ravings of Tommy Afterbirth and the band he founded in the late 1970s, the legendary Gynecologists. Tommy learned to love the seedy underbelly of pop culture at his father's drive-in movie theater, in the small redneck town south of Indianapolis where he grew up. He had an entrepreneurial spirit and opened a record store as a high school student. Already passionate about rock and roll, Tommy naturally gravitated towards the Iggy Pop & The Stooges brand of musical mayhem. He befriended a cheesy heavy metal band called Stone Edge that played mostly covers, but did have one original, a cruel putdown song called "Dog Face."
Tommy came up with the idea of recording and pressing the vilest gross-out novelty record EVER and corralled the members of Stone Edge to participate. He scribbled out some perverted lyrics about the Brady Bunch, and the band quickly threw their musical weight behind them. "Dog Face" was already written, and Tommy targeted Hoosier native Jim Jones and child killer John Wayne Gacy for additional subject matter. Voila!—we have FECES & PSYCOPATHS, the debut Gynecologists EP.
The next item in our carnival of sounds is the Gynecologists second 7-inch EP, KINDLER, GENTLER NATION. The vinyl was released in 1989, but half the tracks were recorded much earlier, in early 1983, as part of an eleven track demo released in 1984 on a cassette titled A GOAT...YOU GEEK. The lead-off track, "Ron And Nancy," combines two of Tommy's great obsessions, kinky copulation and Republican politics. Tommy's vocals were spot on; listen to him gleefully sing "Even Ed Meese got a piece!" KINDLER, GENTLER NATION's three tracks from AGYG—including "The Shape Of Things To Come" from the 1968 exploitation flick Wild In The Streets—alternated with three songs recorded sometime after 1984 including another cover, "Ride Captain Ride" by Blues Image.
Backtracking chronologically, we now have the remaining eight tracks from A GOAT...YOU GEEK. As with later recordings, most of the songs were impromptu compositions, and cover the gamut of subject matter near and dear to Tommy's elephantine heart, including abortion, bestiality, TV personalities ("Gym Gerard"), and left-wingers—listen to him wail "Those traitors don't even deserve a decent burial" on "Kent State." Oddly, with his love of Ronald Reagan, Tommy had no problem pasting Nancy's head on a picture of a woman being screwed by a dog for the cover of AGYG.
The dozen remaining tracks on our CD first saw the light of day on the Gynecologists second cassette-only release, 1994's AUTO-EROTICA ASPHYXIA & VARIOUS MOLDY TURDS. Once again the themes of scatology and weird sex which run throughout the Gynecologists career were highlighted. Another classic rock cover—Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band"—makes an appearance; how Tommy loved pop music of all colors.
After 1995, Tommy's focus turned to booking bands at local nightclubs, but he couldn't shake the Gynecologists. Working with guitar legend Frankie Camaro, they recorded SHARON TATE'S BABY in 1998. The album remains unreleased. In 2002, Tommy suffered a stroke and moved out of state shortly thereafter, but his mighty punk rock heart continues to beat and inspire. Fortunately we now have this compact disc to document one of the most notorious punk rock singers in history, Tommy Afterbirth of the Gynecologists!
--John Barge (of the Panics)