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September 06, 1990 - Image 18

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-09-06

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A.

Page 18

ARTS

The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition - Thursday, September 6, 1990

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Hit the Bong!
And Bong, the hit-a classic

by Greg Baise
Bongwater
Too Much Sleep
Shimmy Disc
Recently at the bus stop, some
guy was giving away copies of the
"#1 Best Seller," "Perhaps the most
controversial and provocative book
of this century"-no, not the H4oly
Bible or The Satanic Verses, but a
Biblical study by one E.G. White
called America in Prophecy. Page
635: "We live in the last days of
history. The end of life as men now
know it is nearly ended."
"The key is now," explains a
double-talking voice on a piece of
Shimmy Disc vinyl. We are living
in the last days: Bongwater joins the
E.G. White consensus in "The
Living End"-the opening track on
Too Much Sleep, which is
Bongwater's second album. "The
Living End" is the apocalyptic
anthem of the year, with Kramer
gnarling his bass and guitars
(perhaps Dave Rick's guitar as
well?) together like two slabs of
hardened lava grinding against each
' other-after all, Bongwater is
singing about living in the
.- magmatic last days of Pompeii.
Dogs bark, maniacal pre-recorded/
sampled laughter is constantly heard,
the canvas is stretched tighter, and
Bongwater are ready to paint their
apocalyptic uniptych. Double Bum-
mer, the classic diptych 1988 double
album debut full length release by
Bongwater must make way for the
genius of this new record, although
all together, the three albums, along
with the odd Bongwater single and
EP and surplus tracks, make an
;. excellent aural equivalent of the
Illuminatus trilogy.
n Nowadays Bongwater is essen-
tially erstwhile performance artist/
regularly employed actor Ann
Magnuson (formerly Magnusson)
: and Shimmy Disc magnate/
engineeraholic Kramer (formerly
Mark Kramer). As usual, Magnuson

provides most of the lead vocals and
lyrics, while Kramer broadens his
already immense horizons by
covering the categories of "Instru-
ments" and "Music," as well as
backing vocals. Former drummer
David Licht has been replaced by a
drum machine, and Dave Rick was
discharged from the Shimmy Disc
family last year, although he is
credited with lead guitars on Too
Much Sleep, and he co-wrote three
of the new songs (two of which are
only available as bonus CD tracks).
Through the incredible post-
whatever (...as if antecedents are
important here. In a couple mil-
lennia, if not sooner, Bongwater will
be revered as the antecedent)
psychedelic music, augmented by
tapes of different ridiculous speeches,
not to mention the waking dream
lyrics, listeners of Too Much Sleep,
and Bongwater in general, may feel
like they are sleeping in the early
'70s, having some technicolor
70mm lucid dreams with a cast that
includes Marcia Brady, Brad, Peter
Blegvad and Anthony Moore, Kevin
Ayers, a Chinese student killed on
the night Khomeini died, and of
course our deadly sane somnam-
bulistic eyewitness to this narco-
philiac/narcophobic wonder, Ann
Magnuson. Magnuson's stream of
unconsciousness spoken/lyrical ex-
cursions, which occasionally popped
up on Double Bummer, are here
mostly benignly relegated to the area
of CD bonus tracks, three of which
are said spoken activities, while the
other bonus track is a cover of the
Soft Machine's "Why Are We
Sleeping?"
A prophecy for America and the
world: Too Much Sleep, a classic
for the '90s, if not all time, will be
looked upon as the antithesis of the
Beatles' "White Album" (that
eponymous thing the Fab Scallys
released in 1968). Everybody knows
that Charles Manson listened to The
Beatles and heard his own prophecy,
which he interbred with some
Biblical scriptures, producing an

Marianne Faithfull
Blazing Away
Island
"There are many songs, not all
are here, but these are the main
songs of my life at the moment.
Anyway, I would never write a
book. Pictures and songs are how I
see it." So writes Marianne Faithfull
in the liner notes for this exhil-
irating collection. Recorded live last
November at St. Anne's Cathedral,
Brooklyn, Blazing Away is the
autobiography of a great singer
who's really been through the mill.
Faithfull pulls out all the
skeletons from the closet and bares
herself in a way that most singers
have forgotten. While torch singing
has largely become a series of moves
and artful poses that are all style and
negligible content (a la Sade and
Everything But The Girl), Faithfull

spills her guts as Billie Holiday dlid
in her later years. While even Ric ie
Lee Jones seems to have turned into
Diane Keaton singing in Annie
Hall, Faithfull picks at her scabs and
shows us the wounds without
superfluous affect.
With a group that includes Gart#
Hudson of The Band, Dr. John, and
guitarist Marc Ribot from Tqm
Waits' band, Faithfull attacks
"Why'd Ya Do It," a gloriously
filthy song about jealousy which has
merited a parental advisory warning
label. She twists and teases John
Lennon's "Working Class Herp,"
accentuating class hatred. Her
version of the traditional Irish balla
"She Moved Through the Fair" is a'
touching as Van Morrison's on
Irish Heartbeat. The bony "Sister
Morphine" is riveting. Along with
See RECORDS, page 17

Perhaps you saw Ann Magnuson seduced and then immolated by David
Bowie in The Hunger. Consult the Bongwater songs "David Bowie Needs
Ideas" and "Talent Is a Vampire" for further information in this area.

incarnation of death for the Love
Generation. Well somebody someday
will listen to Too Much Sleep and
.that person will hear the truth
Kramer and Magnuson are sending
out. She or he will wake up and
perhaps run for president or some-
thing and straighten these messy last
days out.
Evidence of the antithetical
existence of Too Much Sleep? Note
that this time around, there are no
Beatles songs for Bongwater. There
aren't even any Monkees songs.
There are the aforementioned Soft
Machine track on the CD, and the
13th Floor Elevators' "Splash 1,"
which Bongwater turn into a truly
Texan song to sing while finishing
rounding up your bovine livestock

and retiring to sit in front of a
campfire at sunset, or perhaps to use
as a travelogue interlude in an
updated John Ford movie. Roster-
mates Dogbowl are also covered; a
melancholy, romantic song called
"One So Black."
Melancholia pops up all over this
record, especially in some very
unexpected places. Take the
"Psychedelic Sewing Room,"
perhaps the best song on the album.
The music is exotic and'relaxing,
with the combination of Kramer's
organ and the syncopation of the
drum machine giving the song the
tinge of a lysergic Wurlitzer, a feel
the combo duplicates throughout the
album. The friendly mall Wurlitzer
See BONGWATER, page 17

Marianne Faithfull's latest release has a video counterpart, with footage
of her Blazing Away performance, an interview and conceptual footage
filmed in Ireland and New York.f

'43

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