Recordings

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282
Wormed by Leonard
(Thwart)

Taking titular inspiration from Warmed by Love -- a book of poetry authored by Leonard Nimoy -- Wormed by Leonard was originally released by these Bay Area braniacs via cassette in 1988. A press release accompanying this CD/LP reissue half-jokingly refers to it as the earliest non-embarrassing chapter in these transplanted Iowans' career; in actuality, Wormed transcends historical-footnote status by holding its own as a current release. All of the Thinking Fellers' trademark elements appear in nascent glory, from alternatively tuned string-tornado rave-ups and enigmatic home recordings to quirky pop distillations and jokey goofs.

After kicking off on a ludicrously casual note with a messy minute of string-generated feedback and disorder titled "It's Seven," Wormed quickly turns to the Fellers' strengths, segueing into the chiming, airy guitar interplay of "Hell Rules." The band later hands us "Milvus Spectre," a phantasmal half-speed premonition of the upcoming space-western "Narvus Spectre," and who should subsequently stroll down the sidewalk but "Nipper," guitarist/vocalist Hugh Swarts' long-lost sociopathic pooch. Best give 'em wide berth, cuz Nipper likes to lunge.

And so it goes for 14 more tracks, equal parts mad-scientist genre graftings, dynamic guitar-noise forays, and oddly infectious ditties like "Truck Drivin' Man." Many of these tunes might be immediately recognizable, even to those who've never heard the original tape. "Motorin' Flarey Henderson," one of the quintet's first jams, eventually transmuted into "Sister Hell" on the Tangle LP, and several other tunes still surface live on occasion. The Fellers have long since sworn off playing "Nipper," though, so don't even ask.

The final six bonus blasts on this 26-tracker -- aka Side D for those antiquarians who opt for the glorious gatefold double LP -- were recorded around the Wormed era (1986-89). Slightly embarrassing chapters, perhaps, but eminently worth a listen, in particular "Superstar," a slug-paced take on the Carpenters' classic far more unsettling than Sonic Youth's later version, and "Squidder Boy," which kinda sounds like the rantings of Grandpa Simpson on a bourbon bender: something about purple skin, machine guns, large, pasty women, and hip boots.

TFU Local 282 play Sat, Oct. 28, and Sun, Oct. 29, at the Kilowatt in S.F.; call 861-2595.

-- Mike Rowell

The Drags
Dragsploitation ... Now!!
(Estrus)

Dredging the dreck of lo-fi, hi-octane blues, Albuquerque's Drags dish diamond-size ditties that drip with dissonance. Dabbling in the danky drunk-tank among the Cramps, Gories, and Headcoats, the Drags delve deep to deliver deafening drawls with drama and doggerel. Darlings of the Estrus roster, the Dragsters -- CJ dangles his guitar, Lorca drubs her bass, and Keith dents his drums -- drop dexterously into an already divergent domain.

Dig the delicious dada of "Teenage Invasion"! Drop-kick "Mr. Undertaker" to his damnable demise! Dare to discover the dreadful and downhearted "Don't Need You Anymore"! Doff your derby to "Can't Change My Style"!

The Drags' only drawback is their diminutive dub: With eight tracks done in 14 minutes, Dragsploitation ... Now!! is dinkier than a dachsund, its deafness inducing dollops dutifully delivered in a dream's duration. But desist, darling, from dissing or dismissing the Drags' dwarf-size debut as dreadful drivel, disposing the disc in Daljeet's dumpster. Duly dole out your dollars and descend into "10th Man Theme," a dark dirge decorated with devilish dual-whammy dexterity. Or devote a dram to the dorky and driving "My Girlfriend's in the FBI," in which a dynamic dame turned double agent dutifully "reads a lot of books" to "catch a lot of crooks" and gets deployed to defuse and dissect dynamite -- a "letter bomb sent" to the "pres-i-dent" -- before it detonates the domicile of our dreary, duff-dwelling Democrat.

Dangerous and daring, the Drags' debut demonstrates discordant dexterity to delightful dispatch, a dandy defense against the degenerate doldrums. Drink a daily dose.

The Drags play Thurs, Oct. 26, at the Great American Music Hall in S.F.; call 885-0750.

-- Colin Berry

Goblin
The Hits, Rare Tracks, and Outtakes Collection: 1975-1989
(DRG)

Italy is a country that aspires to be over the top ("Yer the president, fer Chrissake, you don't haf to be a criminal"), so it's no surprise that its musicians embraced progressive rock at its most excessive and demonic. That is, to the point of replacing what would seem to be perfectly attenuated accompaniment for imported films with the sort of "Tubular Bells" and flangy guitar masturbation now associated in the U.S. with either suicidal Midwestern boys or, in the case of Rinde Eckert and Philip Glass, NEA grants. But then, with Mariah Carey about to shoot to domination with a cover of Journey's "Open Arms," what do I know, except that it will be the spiritual peak of the decade?

Goblin is slasher king Dario Argento's house band, and has scored plenty of B-movies that transcend their genre (another Italian specialty). If I haven't interested you by now, I have failed as a critic. As a compilation, this Goblin retrospective is very complete, and features much material previously unavailable -- this despite the fact that obscurely legendary Italian prog-rockers PFM had a contract on Emerson, Lake, & Palmer's label! For some reason, the liner notes do not list the names of the band members. Perhaps it does not matter.

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