MENLO PARK

 

You ever had to scrape a brain off a sidewalk with a shovel?

 

BUNNYBRAINS - Sin Gulls (Goring St. Eddy) 1988-1988

A singles comp, delivered from on high, using the vessel of the always-astounding Menlo Park label. Seeing the Bunnybrains live, itís hard to imagine (if youíre a newcomer to their music like I am) that theyíve been around for at least 15 years. They are getting older, and there have been plenty of lineup changes in the interim, but everybody seems to be having so much fun up there, you imagine that they just decided to start playing shows last week. If youíve not heard them, or had the opportunity to see them play live, itís a big shambling circus of whit people dressed like a touring funk band. No really, thereís a guy in a dress, a gal in a sparkly halter top, a fellow with long hair, shirtless, with tight pants and a furry bass guitar strap, and when I saw Ďem, one of Ďem was dressed all in military fatigues, a straw hat, wraparound shades, and a megaphone. Tell me that doesnít sound like the second coming of the funk mob! But itís not.

The Bunnybrains play psych rock the way I wish more people would play it; slow ní loose, lotta grit, very little "soloing" per se, otherworldly rants and moans, more than one person singing at the same time, people walking into the audience, stuffed animals flying everywhere. You know, fun. Not "serious," like those jagoffs in Acid Mothers Temple. Fuckiní Makoto threw a TANTRUM when I saw Ďem at Fireside BowlÖI donít know if his equipment wasnít working, or he was just lost in "the moment," but he threw his guitar down, stalked off stage, and sat down by the bowling lanes all by himself. Tell you what, the stuff he was doing immediately before didnít lift me half as high as the Dan Bunny/Chandy Pinkeye guitar phalanx either! AMT wants to show you something important. Bunnybrains wants to show you their thingies while giggling. Iíd rather fart and blame it on the dog than sit in the lotus position and contemplate Byron Coleyís navel anyway, so I take the Bunnybrains every time.

Actually, a lot of people (the band included) tend to compare the Bunnybrains to the Butthole Surfers. Thereís that, in the way theyíre acid punks that arenít afraid to jam, but especially in the later years, as the song structures get looser and open, they remind me more of Flipper! Compare Flipperís "Blowiní Chunks" live album to any BBís live show, and youíll see what I mean. Thereís tons going on, most of which you canít hear because itís all so loud, with a big, solid drumbeat keeping it from falling into noodling. Drummer Horlick Choi and bassist Bobby Bunny are like a beacon in the fog: however much any person in the band gets turned around or disoriented while changing the world through a Boss super-distortion++, thereís always a focus point to come back to. And as Eddie Flowers, a man frequently more perceptive than myself once said, "once you realize that RHYTHM + SOUND = MUSIC, an infinite number of possibilities become available to you." Which is why, when I heard that Bobby Bunny (bassist who recently left the BBs proper to join BunnyBrains88, a revival band from the original lineup) was planning on releasing a 10CD/6VCD Bunnybrains boxset, I thought to myself, "You know, Iíd buy that! Iíd even LISTEN to it!" Probably a lot tooÖprobably at a time when I should be reviewing other records, but no matter. Thatís an issue for later this year, and weíll not worry about it now.

Since this goes back as far as 1988 and as far forward as 1996, there is a lot of change in the sound, but itís only apparent if you start at track 1 and then skip to track 17. The progression is pretty smooth otherwise. From the focused punk thrash of "For You Iíd Kill" and the amazing "Iím Obsessed With My Looks" (an unusual take one what would seem to be a straightforward theme: "I wanna tear my face/I wanna tear it with dirty fishhooks/I wanna give Ďem something for the textbooks/ícuz Iím obsessed with my looks/Iím so pretty/I wanna charge Ďem money to look at me/cuz a face this beautiful, this unique, this glorious/you SHOULDNíT GET TO SEE FOR FREE!!!" You think _Sassy_ or _Jane_ might wanna release this as a flexi-disc?) down to the hulking sludge and space-rock mumble-scapes of "Space Symphony #3" and "Whitewater Bathtub," the most significant addition to the later albums is the ubiquitous Q-cord played by La Personna (of U Can Unlearn Guitar, Cock E.S.P. and others), which has the dual effect of being spacey and transportive but not especially ponderous. Sometimes sounding like the oscillator wheezes of someone like Ben Wolcott (To Live and Shave) or Alan Ravenstine (Pere Ubu), it mostly adds something even more alien to the already bugged-out spectacle.

Because itís all recorded as small, digestible chunks (these were mostly either singles themselves or split singles with other people), itís something you can put on and take off while youíre dressing up (and putting makeup or cologne on your beautiful face) for a night out, as opposed to full-length regular albums like "Show Me the Bunny" or "CD*1993," which tend to make me late for work/forget to eat. This also has more (and better) funny bits on it than any other albums. You get the OJ Simpson getaway narrative of "Onic Outh," the plea for responsible parenting that is "Bus Boy Bop," and such mildly smutty classics as "How Am I Supposed To Tell You I Love You (When Your Dickís In My Mouth)" and "On The Floor Again." More fun than is allowed by the 2003 Modern Psych-Rock Policies and Procedures Manual by a factor of two.

RELATED:
BUNNYBRAINS - Show Me The Bunny (Bunnybrains.net)

Short of the very strange 3" CDR "Einsturzendle Neubunny" (who since the days of Can has done such a fine job of coming up with so many parodies of their band name?), this is the most modern Bunnybrains recording, and the one mostly likely to sound like the Bunnybrains if you were to chance upon them in a live setting, though guitarist Raimondo packed up and hit the road soon after these sessions were laid down. Along with "CD*1993," this has the longest and loosest jams of all their albums, and is my favorite by a long stretch. "CD*1993" had that 14 minute version of "Model Bitch (Fashion Version)" that really sends me, and this one has a 10 minute track called "Blessed Mary, Mother of All Saints" that gets my pick of the week. I guess because I like to hear the Bunnybrains stretch out and let fly more than most bands. Iíd rather be hogtied and laughed at by former grade school teachers than endure another 20 minute Fushitsusha "interstellar exploration," what Iíve heard of the Charlambides gave me the hives, and in general, noisy psych jams just leave me feeling like I wasted an afternoon, perhaps because they put too much empahsis on "out" and not enough on appealing to your good-timin' glands.

The Bunnybrains still understand why drunk people will leave your party when you put the Major Stars on, but will groove and sing and dance and kiss each other (and maybe you!) when you put tracks of equal length/dissonance on by Jimi Hendrix, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Butterfield Blues Band, maybe even Canís "Monster Movie": without a groove, itís all just halfassed free jazz. Horlick Choi gets pretty complex on the traps at times (complex by psych rock standards) anyway, but he knows where the backbeat needs to be, and what part of your lower body it needs to kick (front or back, dontí matter). I mean, you KNOW this is classic rock! At one point, the mystic warrior poet/guitarist Dan Bunny launches into an impromptu verse of Chicagoís "25 Or 6 To 4" in response to the driving bassline. Thereís hammer-ons, things sometimes follow the beat, but they can get real gone too, daddio. Itís out, and itís also real in, sometimes. Canít be afraid of that either. Start with this one, not only because itís great, but itís very near to being sold out. You can get it from the band themselves.

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