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Live from the Basement 1975-1997 (Gulcher Records) $10

Oh boy! Listen up, music lovers and noise heads, improvisers and olde-skool punks: This 'un's gonna knock yer sox off! It's a collection of the 7-inch vinyl output from the Screamin' Mee-Mees, legendary pre-punk crazies from St. Louis, Missouri. With this disc, Jon Ashline and Bruce Cole finally get the respect they probably still don't think they deserve. Such is the self-deprecating racket-roll these two yahoos have been spewing about in Bruce's basement since 1972. This disc picks up the story with the release of their debut EP Live From The Basement, recorded in '75/'76, but unleashed during the punk-rock frenzy of 1977. The Mee-Mees were punk more by timing than by design. It's true they grew up on the Stooges, Velvet Underground, and 60s garage sounds--like many early punk-rockers--but they were equally influenced by more outside sounds like Amon Düül I, the Godz, Silver Apples, Captain Beefheart, etc. Although a few of their songs are composed in the old-fashioned way, most are spontaneous eruptions of rhythm, sound, and absurd word play. I should also mention that the Mee-Mees possess a very strong all-Amerikan sense of stoopid. They recorded a second EP, Home Movies, in 1978, but it remained unreleased until their comeback in the '90s. The '80s were pretty dry for the duo, but they returned in 1992 with the Clutching Hand Monster Mitt LP. The post-Monster Mitt singles are all here: "Pull My Finger"/"Family Tree" (Electric Records '92), "Life Never Stops!"/"Oscillations" (Dog Meat '94; B-side is the Silver Apples song), and "Answer Me!"/"Arthritis Today" (Brinkman '96). Also included is the Mee-Mees' cover of the Twinkeyz' "Cartoon Land" from a split single with Mike Rep & the Quotas; and "Squawk Squawk Squawk" from a comp EP for Whump! fanzine. The most recent tracks are from Bruce Cole's 1997 Venusian Plateaus solo EP, which you probably missed completely. Bruce took a very natural turn into more overt forms of improv, noise, and drone. Half of the Gulcher CD tracks are re-mastered from the original tapes, most done properly for the first time after various botched vinyl jobs. There are also numerous extended versions, with music, noise, and conversation not included on the original 7-inch releases. Lots of great sounds here, boys and girls! And it all comes packaged with a 20-page booklet full of rare photos, reproductions of the sleeves, an interview with Bruce Cole by Jeff Kopp from Head In A Milk Bottle fanzine, and notes by yours truly.

--Eddie Flowers

Plastic Hong Kong Door Bell Finger (Gulcher Records) $10

The Screamin' Mee-Mees are back! And it's back to basics, kids. For the Mee-Mees' first proper release in eleven years (after a slew of archival digs more recently), they turn away from the psychodelik tweaks and layering of their 90s recordings. The duo returns to its basic mid-70s form: two adult children bashing away and making it up as they go along. That's Jon Ashline on drums and stoopid ad-lib lyrics, and there's Bruce Cole on the guitar. The guest bass seat this time is filled by Ann Rerun, the first female to enter this brotherhood's inner sanctum in its 35 years of existence. The five "tunes" with Miss Rerun concern a variety of social topics: plentiful gasoline, fried chicken, spillin' stuff on people, special sales, and reality itself. Bruce finds his voice on the brief but brutally effective "Blue Trashcan." The boys get kinda "experimental" with a lengthy double-guitar thing called "Flyin' Skull Fragments," which sounds like what a Captain Beefheart demo might've been like if Mr. Van Vliet plucked at guitar strings instead of playing one-finger piano. The two final "top secret mysterious unknown bonus tracks" find Bruce screwin' around with his audio generator in a fidgety Krautrock-like manner. The end. Now, how 'bout a sip of the Mee-Mees' new hot sody? It's been settin' in the sun for quite awhile now.

--Eddie Flowers
Warp Sessions 1972/1973 (Gulcher Records) 2CD $15

Five years before they released their first EP in 1977, the Screamin' Mee-Mees (Bruce Cole and Jon Ashline) were already making lots of racket. The two musical outcasts would get together in Bruce's St. Louis basement and switch on the tape recorder to document their undisciplined musical madness. Jon banged on drums and homemade percussion, yelping out spontaneous lyrics. Bruce added guitar and other electronic junk to the mix. It was self-contained and must have seemed like an elaborate private joke to the duo--freaking in the basement, isolated and pure. In 1972, a little bit of the outside world entered in the form of "Hot" Scott Fischer, a local rock writer who had found underground notoriety in the pages of rock mags like CREEM and PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE. Scott was the first writer to make the connections between Krautrock and the Stooge-garage-rock underground of the early 70s.

The first recorded session with the Mee-Mees and Fischer took place on the balcony of Fischer's apartment. As the boys jammed their primitive Midwestern blend of the Godz and Amon Duul I, local kids showed up to gawk, and the cops eventually shut down the proceedings. Almost an hour of chaos and space-age freak-out came from this meeting: "Edge of Space," "You're Now in Our World," "Take Cover," "The Attack of the Intergalactic Cement Mixers," "In the World of Space," and a spastic take on the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray."

In 1973, the trio got together again, this time in Bruce Cole's basement (the scene of pretty much all other Mee-Mees recordings over the next three decades). This yielded more crazed rambling and free-form jamming. The outer-space themes had already been replaced by something darker, hinting at punk-rock that was already in the air: "I Am Nothing," "Mommy I'm Falling," and two more originals that even had titles which would later become underground touchstones: "Final Solution" and "Another World." No, they don't sound like the Pere Ubu or Richard Hell songs of 1976, but what did Ubu and Hell's Voidoids sound like in '73? Oh yeah, they didn't exist yet! Yes, these guys were "ahead of their time" in more ways than one.

Thanks to the ever-groovy Gulcher Records, the two WARP SESSIONS from '72 and '73 (released as limited-edition Slippy Town CDRs in 2000 and 2001) are now available on a handy double CD. Also included is the previously unreleased "Floorbored," a bit of lunacy done by Bruce and Scott for the amusement of Jon, who had left St. Louis for college. Dig!

--Eddie Flowers