Monday, January 03, 2005

Eugene Chadbourne is a Mensch

Well. Got my first House of Chadula release in the mail this week, a 2 CD set of LSDC&W: A History of the Chadbournes in America (I think that was the full title). Twisted, very fun psychedelic takes on mostly country and western tunes, with a backup band consisting of Tom Cora, John Zorn, Dave Licht, and Kramer, known at the time as the Chadbournes (with, of course, Dr. Chadbourne himself on lead guitar... I don't think he was playing electrified rakes or other non-traditional instruments at that point in his career). Acid buddies of mine used to insist I turn Dr. Chad off whenever I attempted to play it during trips -- it was just too twisted for them. One guy (who later got into heroin, leading to the bottoming-out of our friendship) called Eugene's music a "distortion" of the beauty of the whole psychedelic experience -- he was particularly freaked out by the song "Psychedelic Basement," in which the singer (Dr. Chadbourne) protests how he's never going to please his parents, never going to leave their basement where he's getting high all the time; said friend at the time lived in his parents basement, you understand... Another friend, in response to Shockabilly's "Pile Up All Architecture," talked about feeling embarrassed by the squealings of the "poor creature" on the vocal track (again, Dr. Chad), thought it spoke of psychosis, distortion, decay, just couldn't get into it... Skipping ahead to the cover of "Born on the Bayou" didn't help, either. I just didn't understand. It always seemed to me like the man was in perfect control, just had a slightly, uh, warped sense of humour. I could identify with it quite well (until one day where I'd eaten too many pot cookies at a friend's house, had a really bad freakout/physical rejection of the drug, and ended up puking and shitting for hours, finally mostly passing out, listening to my friends talk about how they hoped I wouldn't die, how "bad" that would be as I slumped against their kitchen wall... LSDC&W was playing in the background for that particular trip, and I must admit, it made a bad soundtrack. Faux disintegration tried on for the fun of it is great, but as a background for the real thing... well...). Anyhow, when I cleaned up in my mid-20s to get back to school and get a career of some sort established, I set aside Dr. Chadbourne's music, as perhaps being a bit dangerous for me. I now feel employable enough and in control to revisit it, and must say, it's a delightful trip!

And the packaging! Dr. Chad has made his own oversized (uneven) cardboard cover and beefed up the CD with a whole bunch of extra, authentic Chadbournes material, including takes on "Take this Job and Shove it," 'Octopus' Garden" and others that weren't on the original 2 LP set I remember for my youth. There're a few songs missing (like a great take on Roger Miller's "Dang Me") that were on the LP, but weren't performed by the Chadbournes (Chad, Cora, Kramer, Zorn and Licht), which he deleted for a more pure-Chadbournes experience, and on mentioning this, Dr. Chad has promised to SEND THEM TOO on an extra disc, which he will heretofore include with the 2 CD set. What a nice guy! And cripes, the House of Chadula catalogue is huge -- pretty much anything Dr. Chad has recorded is available through it by mailorder, and with all sorts of bonus material (in my case he included a funky gig poster from a European tour). I'm arranging to buy Country Music from the World of Islam (a Sun City Girls collaboration), Corpses of Foreign War (one of his "protest" albums, recorded with the help of the Violent Femmes) and a few other old favourites. Make sure to request the homemade packaging if you order. Caveat: some of Dr. Chad's recordings abandon the idea of the "song" and involve some very weird noise indeed -- from concept pieces like adapting Bach for the 5 string banjo to free jazz jams. It ain't all Roger Miller. That's probably a good thing, too, tho', eh?

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