Big Youth — Screaming Target (1972, Jaguar)
Don’t use the rules, they’re for the fools and you’re a fool if you don’t know that.
The nice thing about Marginal Brevity, in all of our beautiful irrelevance and obscurity, is that no one gives a damn about us. Though some might find such profound disinterest demoralizing, that misses the bigger picture. Instead, in our self-contained world, we’re feeling pretty liberated. We make up our own rules. Maybe we want to proverbially flog a dead horse. Maybe we’ll have and eat our cake. Maybe we want to put in our two cents on a record that has been written about to death. No, this ain’t Sgt. Pepper’s or some Velvets live cut. It ain’t even some classic mono release. Tonight, we revisit the explosive Screaming Target by that titan of toast himself, Big Youth. Toasting over K.C. White, Dennis Brown, Leroy Smart, Gregory Isaccs, and other grand slam cuts from the early 1970s, Mr. Manley Augustus Buchanan, following in the steps of his fellow countryman U-Roy, does his bit to put deejaying on the musical map. Literacy, love interests, and skylarking are among the topics of debate, with soulfully saturated production courtesy of one Gussie Clarke and the heavy, heavy patois courtesy of one Big Youth. A quintessential Saturday afternoon record. It doesn’t matter if the sun is doing its thing or the rain is doing its, Big Youth is bound to blast you outta’ there. Whilst his back catalogue is pretty solid, none of Big Youth’s subsequent work has the rawness or immediacy of Target. No surprise, the grooves are well worn on the house copy. I’ve listened to this record at least hundred times, and like a fine wine, it gets better with age.
Holger Czukay – On the Way to the Peak of Normal (1981, Electrola; 2013 reissue, Grönland)
Listen [partial playlist of the album on youtube]
More restrained and less bizarre than Czukay’s 1979 Movies, 1981’s On the Way to the Peak of Normal feels like the lost alternate soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train. If Movies was a carnivalesque appraisal of rock music, On the Way is an acid trip, wondering through the vacant lot where the big top has just up sticks. Side A kicks off with the brooding title track, which grooves and moves like a a tune culled from the Suzuki-era Can catalogue, featuring an amalgam of distant horns and whistling oscillations. “Witches Multiplication Table,” a tune penned by producer extraordinaire Conny Plank, no less, keeps the creeps going. Had Count Dracula ever been chronicled in a film by Sergio Leone, I’d expect to hear the brief and enigmatic “Two Bass Shuffle,” as the accompanying score. Public Image Ltd.’s low-end agitator Jah Wobble assumes bass duties with Czukay on drums, not your Toccatta and Fugue in D Minor bullshit by a long shot. Side A is thematically consistent and it’s rather easy to lose yourself in Czukay’s grooves and off-kilter sonic motifs. The flip side, is arguably one of the greatest tunes of all time, the sultry “Ode to Perfume.” An 18 psych-kosmiche slow-burning come down. This is Sgt. Pepper’s, if the Beatles had come from Mars. Imbued with a near operatic sense of grandeur, yet ultimately retaining a sense of intrigue and risk, the track manages to be that rare feat, a work which is both sexy and artistically engrossing at once. Dark and spooky vibes permeate this release, but not in an unsettling way: it’s the end of the night, your head is swimming, and you want to fall asleep, but can’t. This record is playing square in the middle of that head space.