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Paris to Berlin (Initiates International) $8
Plays Sad Songs for Gurls (Carbon Records) CDR $6

Nineteen home-recorded multi-track guitar instrumentals from Hilkka member Nuuj. While hardly "pop" in the usual sense, the "songs" here do adhere to a low-key, melodically simple approach that's warmer and far less abstract than what happens with most loner-in-a-living-room solo-guitar things. Yup. Recorded 1997-2001. Limited edition of 75.
My Head's in '73 (Gulcher Records) 2CD $20

O. Rex was a living-room band from Brooklyn, New York. Formed in 1973 by brothers Solomon and Jay Gruberger, they were shortly joined by future Gizmos founder Ken Highland. Ken would bus down to NYC from his home in Brockport, New York, to record with the Grubergers on Solomon's cheap reel-to-reel tape recorders. Their output was prolific, although mostly cover versions of Alice Cooper, Grand Funk, Allman Brothers, Mountain, Black Sabbath, 60s garage bands, etc. Fortunately, they also wrote original songs, and we've dug up a big bag full of 43 primitive gems for this new double CD release from Gulcher. Proto-punk, lo-fi, all that stuff—but deep down a sense of songwriting and rock'n'oll that's often brilliant even as it seems very stupid! Hey, they were young!
Solomon and Ken both played guitar. Jay played bass. That meant that one of the three also had to play drums. There were occasional guest musicians--teenage fanzine drifters like Carl Biancucci, Natalie McDonald, and Bill Rowe. And I played drums for one session in early 1976, shortly after the first Gizmos sessions and right before Ken went into the Marines. A few of the tracks with me are included on this new Gulcher release.
Solomon wrote most of the songs--it really was his band--he was the boss! He had an interesting style that crossed late 60s/early 70s hard-rock with earlier 60s styles (from garage to girl group) and a blunt primitivism that recalled the Velvet Underground, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not! A few faves: "When I Get There," "Feel My Love," "One Minute Love," My Sweet Charlie," "Moon Watcher," "Schizoid Girl." At times, the tunes almost seem generic, but within that sameness is what makes them so good: a pop-like simplicity that's direct and hooky as hell! And crude!
Ken's songs were more colorful--a jumbled mix of teen autobiography and stolen licks from his favorite rockers. He lifted the teen-fantasy "I Shoot Up" from the Velvets' "Heroin," while "Harvester Hop" is about his actual teenage experiences. And there are versions of "That's Cool (I Respect You More)" and "We're Gonna Rumble," which would later be recorded by the Gizmos. Plus cool collaborations with Bill Rowe ("One Way Jay" about a Jesus freak, not their bass player!) and Jay Gruberger (the very non-PC "Boogying With The Jubas"). From the earliest O. Rex period, 12-year-old Jay himself contributes the original "Mountain" (the story of his favorite band!).
The band recorded MANY cover songs. We've included a handful of the best ones: the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" (Grand Funk arrangement!), Link Wray's "Rawhide" (wrong chords!), the Yardbirds' "Shapes Of Things" (me on drums--yikes!), Skyhooks' "You Just Like Me 'Cos I'm Good In Bed," Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love," and the Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard."
The trio released one record in late 1976: the maxi-single “My Head's In '73" b/w "Califawnia Gurls"/"Suzi," released by Solomon on Oral Records. "My Head" finds Solomon already nostalgic for glam-rock only three years after the fact, and keeping with that theme, "Suzi" is a rockin' love song for Suzi Quatro. Ken's original "Califawnia Gurls" is one of his very best--a true-life tale about his time spent in Southern California while stationed at Camp Pendleton with the Marines. It's bitter, funny, and ferocious! After the release of the single, the O. Rex boys met drummer Ken Kaiser, at which point the band mutated into the Afrika Korps. The AK, of course, released the classic MUSIC TO KILL BY LP in '77.
--Eddie Flowers
Vae Victis (Bar La Muerte; Italy) CD EP $9

19 minutes of what the Bar La Muerte catalog describes as "an explosive mix of grindcore and improvisation . . . chaoscore?" Drums and guitars pound, sax screeches, Stefania screeches, the room clatters, the band clangs, the entire disc seems to wobble--and it sounds good. This edition of Italy's ever-groovy OvO consists of Stefania Pedretti and Bruno Dorella plus Jacopo Andreini (Bz Bz Ueu, Enfance Rouge, Nando Meet Corrosion, etc.) and Capoccia (Concrete, Los Vaticanos, Comrades, etc.). Released 2001.