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Swirls Away (Gulcher Records) $8

Gulcher catalog: "The early 1980s were a great time to make music. The liberating effects of punk unleashed a gush of energy and emotion into the mainstream of rock'n'roll. The early 1980s were a horrible time to make music. The liberating effects of punk seemed destined to be co-opted into the synthesized blandishments of new wave. Labels large and small were changing the face of corporate rock, but that face was heavily made-up, shoved under a pile of hair and over a skinny tie. The energy and emotion had to find its way underground, to backwaters like Athens, GA, Minneapolis and, well, Indianapolis. For a short while in 1982, a little band in the Hoosier capital found a big voice and hammered it for all it was worth. Weaned on everything from 60s British Invasion to Heavy Metal to Neil Young to Funkadelic, filtered through bands like the Velvet Underground, the Ramones and, most profoundly, Television, what came out was moody, sometimes dazzling rock'n'roll. What REM was working on in Athens and Husker Du in Minneapolis, Red Glance was doing in Indianapolis: re-examining rock's past and pointing toward it's future. Here are the roots of alternative rock, grunge, emo and whatever else you want to call where rock has gone and is still going. Unfortunately for them, Red Glance was short-lived and land-locked. Unlike REM, HD, and other contemporaries like the Dream Syndicate or the Replacements, they never found an audience or a contract. It would be a shame if Red Glance were ignored again. Not so much for the band--they are all getting old and gray and are used to being ignored. It would be a shame for you to have missed them twice. Just for you, Gulcher Records is proud to present Swirls Away, a collection of Red Glance recordings made over several months in the summer and fall of 1982. Never intended for public release, these recordings were all done live, into little cassette machines.  Even at that, they carry quite a wallop and still sound as fresh as this afternoon. They are all that remain of what was a very good band."
Highway to Helsinki (Gulcher Records) $8

John Sewell/Mean Street: "Hailing from the musical backwater of Muncie, Indiana, the mighty Retreads are a rock-music equation that makes perfect sense. And I'm not talking about the 'heartland rock' morass that is synonymous with 'Little Pink Houses,' etc. That said, it kinda makes sense that a gut-bucket, fuel-injected hot-rod of a band like The Retreads would come from such a mundane burg as Muncie. Propelled by cheap beer, testosterone, maybe a few cheap drugs, and an unstoppable desire to rock like mofos, The Retreads are a no-bullshit band that works their magic well outside the machinations of hype and rock-scene politics  The 'Treads exist out of sheer force of will, and that will is a mighty force indeed. The band started as teenagers with a Ramones fixation, but after a couple years of four-chord hormone-inspired buzzsaw pop, the guys saw fit to retool, revamp, and rock the fuck out! With the musical 'maturity' that occasionally happens to particularly rawk-crazed 20-year-olds of twisted vision,  the 'Treads burrowed further into the uglier side of proto-punk and early metal, producing a sound that is an amalgam of Dead Boys, Stooges, MC5, AC/DC and Blue Oyster Cult, tempered with a hint of stoner rock and hardcore. But instead of just spewing out xeroxes of these earlier sounds, The 'Treads mashed a junkyard full of fantastic rock through their own private trash compactor. Leave it to Indiana's original punk label, Gulcher Records, to give credit where credit's due and dig a winner when it's heard. Originally released on The Retreads' own Cock Rock Records, Highway To Helsinki is a diamond in the rough, honed by anger, desperation, and sheer force of will. What more can be said?  Rock out and 'Do It For The Dudes'! Retreads Uber Alles!"

Alone (Gulcher Records) $8

"Controversial" rock scribe Chris Stigliano explains (slightly edited): "Guitarist, vocalist, bandleader, Johnny Thunders hairpal and Von Lmo confidante . . . Lou has been all these and more. Lou began molding his chops in a variety of smalltime bands in the late-sixties before heading for the shores of Blighty in an attempt to create the new Cream. Upon return to these shores and steady prowling amidst the lower Manhattan watering holes known as Max's Kansas City and the 82 Club, Rone formed his band Cross, which besides actually releasing a just-try-and-find-it single, actually performed at the legendary CBGB Summer Festival in 1975 which drew international attention to the famed Bowery hotspot. Talking Heads, Blondie, Television, and the Heartbreakers were the groups that glommed all of the attention during those hot July/August nights, while Cross' Deep Purple-influenced heavy metal just didn't seem to ignite with the critics for some odd reason. After a gig with future Red Transistor/Blue Humans guitarist and Ed Wood biographer Rudolph Grey in Danger and a spot as guitarist in the crypto-metal proto-no wave band Kongress, Rone saw himself drafted into former McKinley Junior High pal Von Lmo's metallic no wave band, which coincidently was also named Von Lmo! After a few tumultuous months Rone was once again leading new versions of his old Cross followed by a succession of bands throughout the eighties with names like Double Cross, Kross, Triple Cross and (for a change of pace) Funhouse and the Lou Barrone Group. Triple Cross actually made it to wax via a 12-inch EP which sported some of Rone's better HM guitar stylings and a general late-sixties flashback that had me thinkin' Jeff Beck. Flash forward to '05 . . . Lou has left the hectic New York groove for the Amish-infested confines of Lancaster, PA, and in his spare time he's put together this CD for your enjoyment. It is a doozy, showing off Rone's unquestionably good guitar playing that proves that heavy metal (even the 'mainstream' kind) doesn't always mean you have to be sorry to your 'cultured' alternative friends. At times Rone sounds like an angry hoarde of raging scimitar-wielding Arabs on horseback out for Lawrence of Arabia's curlylocks, and at others he recalls the best of his fave guitar godz sorta cranked out and rechanneled for a new millennium. Heck, at times Rone even recalls his no wave avant-metal days with Kongress and Lmo, or at least hearkens back to the time when MX-80 Sound were trying to revive heavy metal as an intelligent music idiom."
Guitar Slinger (Gulcher Records) $8

Phil Hundley (Gizmos, Red Glance), from Gulcher catalog:

It certainly seems that if anyone can say Been There And Done That, it must be Lou Rone.

He's been going there and doing that for a long time. As Lou Harlow in the late 1960s he stared playing with Johnny Thunders in the band that would become the New York Dolls, but split for London to reform the Yardbirds before fame, infamy, and statesmanship found Thunders, et al. The Yardbirds gig didn't work out as planned, so Lou (Rone again) was forced to hang out, playing with Jeff Beck, Keith Moon, Roger Glover, and a bunch of other lightweights before returning to NYC in 1972. Jumping back into the thick of things, he was a prime player (Kongress, Von LMO, Triple Cross, and the inception of No Wave) in the underground scene(s) there for the next quarter century. Oh, and word has it he dated Karen Black for a while along in there somewhere.

Now, of course, you or I could have done all of this stuff, too, if we hadn't been busy doing other stuff instead. I'm almost certain that both Johnny Thunders and Karen Black would have found us all very charming and talented. What we couldn't do, however, is Guitar Slinger.

This is because Lou Rone is a singular artist. He may have lots and lots of influences that may be shared with lots and lots of us, but no one else is or could ever be Lou Rone. In a world overrun with "guitar heros" (and here I limit that to people actually playing them as opposed to those pretending to play them), any number of recording and YouTube stars can and do fill the air with "impressive" and mindless technical virtuosity, numbing their fingertips and our minds to no real purpose other than stroking their fret board extensions. Lou stands, well, alone (or Alone--Lou's 2005 solo debut on Gulcher, like Guitar Slinger recorded at his rural Pennsylvania home).

This is because Lou's astonishing talents are in service of the music, not in place of it. Rone writes SONGS, not series of notes and chords. His playing on those songs isn't simply impressive, it is also moving. Compare the wistful, yearning lyricism on his cover of "Maybe" with the full-out, joyously malevolent glee on "Mallet Face." "Impressive?" You bet. But more important, they say something to our hearts and souls, not just our heads.

This is why Lou Rone matters to me and why he will matter to you, too, if you care more about the music than simply the technique used to perform it. Virtuosity? You bet. But Guitar Slinger Lou has a hell of a lot more than that going for him. Just listen.