Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Saddar Bazaar - The Conference of the Birds

Another of my very favourite psych albums that has barely left my turntable/ipod since it first blew my mind many years ago, 'The Conference of the Birds' is that rare and beautiful thing - an album that has a truly unique sound. Imagine the psychedelic lovechild of Ravi Shankar and Spacemen 3 brought into the world by Ry Cooder and you're somewhere close to the sound of this album. Essentially trance music, droning sitars and metronomic tabla filtered through a late night narcotic haze, it's a beautiful and magical album, brimming with imaginative use of various exotic instruments. One of Delerium's finest releases.

Track listing:

1. Sukoon
2. Arc of Ascent (Part One)
3. Kiff Riff
4. Garden of Essence
5. Sukoon (Reflection)
6. Shamsa (Sunburst)
7. Baraka
8. Arc of Ascent (Part Two)
9. Freedom Rider
10. Neelum Blue

Get it here

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Magic Mushroom Band - The Politics of Ecstasy

Ah, the memories! Back in the 80/90s, Magic Mushroom Band were a big favourite with festival-going psychedelic warriors with anarchistic political leanings - a niche market, I'll freely admit, but a pretty hardcore one! I managed to catch them live a couple of times and they were always great fun, a psychedelic blizzard of swirling, energetic music and mind-bending lightshows.

This is the debut album released in 1986 and is a definite favourite of mine. Influenced by the usual suspects favoured by festival bands in the 80s - Hawkwind, Gong, Here and Now etc - it's a wonderful mix of space rock, space dub, space pop, space ambience...space everything. Production quality varies, as it is, I believe, a collection of hastily recorded live takes, but this matters not - it totally captures the feel of psychedelic underground culture in 80s England. A great album and a great band.

Track Listing:

1. Better Up Than Down
2. Revolution
3. Living in a Dream
4. Magic Eye
5. How Does it Feel?
6. Turban Paranoia
7. Hard Stuff
8. Wide Eyed Electric

Get it here

Monday, 13 April 2009

Dr. Brown - In the World of Dreams

My only previous contact with Dr Brown was with 'Freakbeat', a track they contributed to the 'Psychedelic Psauna' compiliation. With its improvised sonic lunacy and a very bassy groove that sounds like it's being transmitted live from some deep underground festival, it was always a favourite of mine. I never managed to track down any more of their output, but thanks to Kev, ex-singer with Dr Brown, I acquired this album a couple of months ago and it's been on the ipod ever since. For fans of bluesy lysergic 70s festival rock, you really can't go wrong. It brings to mind Hawkwind, Pink Fairies, Edgar Broughton, Groundhogs, Here and Now etc. There's various styles on offer, from the full-on boogie of 'Big Red Ford Capri' to the Hawkwind-esque space-rock of 'Magic Cat', from the folk-reggae of 'Celebrate the World of Dreams' to 'Faithless' which, strangely enough when considering the sound on the rest of the album, is vaguely reminiscent of 'Big City' period Spacemen 3. Highly recommended, a thoroughly enjoyable album.

Track Listing:

1. Insecurity
2. Magic Cat
3. The Oak
4. Ought To Tell Her
5. Live To Die
6. Big Red Ford Capri
7. Faithless
8. Unchained
9. Celebrate the World of Dreams

Get it Here

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Boris and his Bolshie Balalaika - Psychic Revolution

'Psychic Revolution' was released by Delerium in 1994 and, if I'm being honest, was something of a disappointment after the thoroughly enjoyable 'Toadstool Soup', Boris' great contribution to the 'Fun With Mushrooms' Delerium sampler.

Boris comes across as a psychedelic novelty act, and falls somewhere between Gong's lunatic babbling and an acid-fried piss-take. Though this approach works well on 'Toadstool Soup', a mind-bending ditty about the pleasures and pains of magic mushrooms, it doesn't work quite so well elsewhere. Throw in some zany songs with serious messages, a couple of forgettable Hendrix covers, some accomplished musicianship and lots of weird and wonderful sound effects and what we have is an album that is mildly enjoyable but ultimately disposable. I'm sure some will enjoy Boris' unique brand of psychedelic lunacy, but me? I just didn't quite get it.

Track listing:

1. Toadstool Soup
2. Onward Christian Soldiers
3. Purple Haze
4. Burnin' With The Fire
5. Blacklisted Blues
6. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
7. Moonsong
8. Goin' Nowhere
9. Psychic Revolution (Sunsong)

Get your toadstool soup here

Friday, 19 December 2008

Praise Space Electric - 2 Leaving Demons

Turn the lights down low, crank up the strobe light, the lava lamp and a jazz cigarette and let the sounds of Praise Space Electric soothe your soul.

This is the 2nd album from Bristol's finest space explorers, released on Delerium records in 1994, and provides another welcome dose of funky, jazzy, spaced-out grooves. The influences come from all over the place - lounge, space-rock, psych, funk, dub, dance, soul, jazz noodlings, ethnic experimentations, spacey electronica...it's a melting pot of styles that just comes together in a way that feels so good. It's more focused than their debut album which, although worthy of a place in any space-head's music collection, is basically a few days jamming released as a mini album ('nothing wrong with that' I hear you say...and I totally agree!)

Blissed-out psychedelic soul music of the highest order.

Track listing:

1. Doc's Groove
2. Sinnerman
3. Rhythm Rhythm
4. Singing The Same Song
5. Diggin' At The Dig In
6. Freedom
7. 300,000 Million Years
8. Waves Of Joy
9. Drain Your Wobbles Away
10. Cybergenetic Experiment X
11. Pebbles

Feel the love here

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Loop - Collision EP

One of the best gigs I ever had the pleasure of freaking out at was Loop at the Roadmender in Northampton in the late 80s. These guys played hard psychedelic drone rock like their lives depended on it and to hear them live was to fall headfirst into the sun at a thousand miles an hour. Repetition was the name of the game, monster riffs and searing acid guitars spiralling off into infinity, their dedication to the one-chord ethic unswerving and relentless.

What we have here is their 1988 EP 'Collision', 4 tracks of blistering, swirling, hypnotic guitars, pumping basslines and mesmeric drumming.

Volume on max or consider yourself banned from this blog.

Track listing:

1. Collision
2. Crawling Heart
3. Thief of Fire
4. Thief (Motherfucker)

Freak out here

Monday, 17 November 2008

Watch Children - How Does It Feel To Be So White?

If acid-fried garage psych, Nuggets/Pebbles style, is your thing, then you'll love this 1989 cassette-only release from the Watch Children. I'm not sure if it's extremely hard or ridiculously easy to get a genuine sounding production, but whatever, the Watch Children have it nailed, this could easily have been recorded back in the day.

BTW, this release marks a first for this blog - the music is not taken from my own collection. Yes, I hang my head in shame. But as I've been asked a couple of times if I have it, I thought I'd post the copy I grabbed a while ago. Where did I get it from? Some blog or P2P network, I honestly can't remember. So, until the original uploader contacts me with a 'how dare you!' type approach, at which point I will gladly remove the download link and refer the discerning psych-head to the original source, may I present to you 'How Does It Feel To Be So White?' by the Watch Children. Enjoy.

Track Listing:

1. Little Plastic Flowers
2. Go-Go Action Girl
3. Pictures
4. Only Girl
5. Immediate Ratification

6. Intermission Part
7. Coconut Lifesaver
8. Hey Girl
9. In My Dreams
10. She's Mine
11. Kind of Retarded
12. Very Pretty Face
13. Watermelon Soup
14. Too Far Away
15. That Nothing's Happening Feeling
16. Teenage Limabean
17. Outro

Get it here

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Medusa Cyclone - Mr. Devil

Medusa Cyclone formed in 1992 following the break-up of legendary Detroit psych band Viv Akauldren, and is the solo project of Keir Mcdonald, VA's keyboard player. To date, there have been three albums, of which 'Mr. Devil' is the second and my personal favourite.

The sound of Medusa Cyclone is almost as far removed from Viv Akauldren as was Jeff Tarlton's acid folk musings. Gone is the wild, choatic psychedelic rock, replaced by hypnotic and disorientating experiments in sound. On Medusa Cyclone's eponymous debut album, it was often obvious where the influences were coming from (Wire, Syd Barrett, Faust, maybe 'Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy'-era Sun Ra). With 'Mr. Devil', it's clear that Keir Mcdonald had moved out of the shadow of his influences and fully developed a sound of his own. While there are some 'songs' here (the minor-chord moodiness of 'Beyond Earth' and 'Hypnosis Take'), the album is more concerned with trance and experimentation. Sometimes unsettling, often beautiful, always hypnotic, 'Mr. Devil' is an abstract, intense journey through many moods and textures. A great record, one of my very favourites.

Track listing:

1. The Smith Can
2. In Diameter
3. Beyond Earth
4. Ouija Ground
5. Invisible World
6. Blind Witch
7. Z-Man
8. Dr. Weird
9. Subzero
10. Lightning Cross
11. Living Bomb
12. Hypnosis Take
13. End Cloud.

Medusa Cyclone are still active, so no download link for this. Buy it here

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Dr Phibes And The House Of Wax Equations - Hypnotwister

Dr Phibes were a fantastic three-piece psychedelic rock band from the north of England who released two great albums in the early 90s. I was lucky enough to see them live on a few occasions and every time, they blew my mind with their hypnotic mix of spaced-out ambience, hard rock and dub. They were all great musicians who obviously had a special rapport with one another and produced one hell of a noise between them.

I remember them being compared to The Jimi Hendrix Experience a few times, and always thought it was a lazy comparison - black lead singer who played guitar like a lunatic backed by two white guys on drums and bass. Must have really taxed those brain cells to think of that one. Musically, they bear little, if any, resemblance to JHE. Who better to compare them to? I always thought they were pretty unique, mostly due to the combination of musicians rather than them doing anything particularly innovative. 'Hypnotwister' is a truly great album, a mixture of feedback-soaked hard rock riffing, dub basslines and rock-solid drumming, some really spaced-out atmospherics and Howard King Jr's deep and powerful vocals. Unlike their superb debut album 'Whirlpool', which is very spaced-out and atmospheric for most of its duration, this is an album of songs and there's not a duff track in sight.

I recently read that Howard King Jr, Phibes' guitarist and vocalist, is currently in prison for the murder of his mother. Some of his lyrics make a bit more sense now. Very sad.

Track listing:

1. Burning Cross
2. Deadpan Control Freak
3. Real World
4. Anti-Clockwise
5. Moment Of Truth
6. Misdiagnosedive
7. Hazy Lazy Hologram
8. Jugular Junkie
9. Bearhug

Get it here

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Jeff Tarlton - Astral Years

More bewitching beatnik acid folk from ex-Viv Akauldren singer and guitarist Jeff Tarlton. This is his debut solo album, released on Delerium records in 1997 and is the first part of Tarlton's mystical exploration of life, the universe and everything, 'Dragin' Spring' being the second. It's a much sparser affair than 'Dragin' Spring', more folky and introspective. Great stuff.

Track listing:

1. My Baby
2. Up River
3. Super-fine
4. Hey Nicole
5. Singleafall
6. Boxing The Air
7. Always
8. Beaconing
9. Tightrope
10. Show Me
11. Ex-Celeration
12. El Oh L
13. Cavatina
14. Astral Years
15. 'bot a czech tea?
16. Waterfall
17. Oh This Moment
18. Bardo Blues
19. The World
20. I Wonder

Get it here

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Jeff Tarlton - Dragin' Spring

After Detroit spacerock trio Viv Akauldren split in the early 90s, the three members went their seperate ways. Drummer Deb Agolli went on to join Detroit psych pop band Outrageous Cherry. Keyboard player Keir McDonald started a solo project called Medusa Cyclone who have so far released three fantastic albums of Wire/Sun Ra/Barrett influenced weirdness, all well worth tracking down. Vocalist and guitarist Jeff Tarlton did the Syd Barrett thing - got messed up on drugs and disappeared. However, unlike Uncle Syd, Tarlton's mind was not irretrievably lost - he followed his mystical muse to Europe, resurfaced in Berlin and, armed with his acoustic guitar and a headful of ideas, began a new life as a street musician. Eventually, with the help of those kind folk at Delerium records, he produced two fine albums of acid folk.

'Dragin Spring' is a wonderful album, full of fragile beauty and dark melancholy, and certainly reflects Tarlton's relocation to Middle Europe. Though most of it is in this vein, Tarlton hadn't completely left behind his Viv Akauldren years - there's a few of tracks of bad-acid rock, one even being an alternative version of an old VA song. Perhaps reflecting his new life as part of Berlin's thriving street musician scene, there's also a joyous communal freak-out that sounds like 'Yeti' era Amon Duul 2. If intelligent and poetic, melancholy yet strangely uplifting psychedelic folk is your thing, then you'll love this album.

Track listing:

1. Sinner
2. Chimera
3. Muse
4. Not Fade Away
5. Restless Spirits
6. Gainrider
7. Telepath
8. Swept
9. My Chores Undone
10. The Eyes
11. Sunrise Semester
12. The Sitting Room
13. No Secrets

Get it here

Monday, 18 August 2008

HLFP 02 - Embryo Thoughts

Now for something a bit different. In between downloading some of the inter-dimensional vibrations featured on this blog, why don't you hop on over to Mike's site, Homemade Lofi Psych, and grab yourself a copy of the just-released HLFP compilation album 'Embryo Thoughts'. It features twenty tracks of psychedelic goodness created by musicians from around the world who are intent upon bypassing the 'wintry hand of death' (err...that's the commercial record industry) and sharing their music on this newfangled invention we fondly refer to as 'the interweb'.

There's plenty of styles on offer, including psychedelic rock, dark ambient, post punk, noise, improvised grooves, experimental, krautrock, stoner rock. I've been listening to it for most of today and can say without any hesitation that it's a great collection of music and ideas.

Details and download here

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Tyrnaround - Colour Your Mind EP

Formed in 1985 in Melbourne, Australia, Tyrnaround were a great band who specialised in 60s psych pop/rock, influenced by Syd Barrett, The Seeds, The Beatles at their most lysergic, garage punk and classic psych. They released a handful of cassettes, EPs and one album before disbanding due to the death of their lead singer.

As I've said elsewhere on this blog, their song 'Paragon Smythe', which was given away with Freakbeat issue 7, is one of the greatest psych tunes ever. And 'Colour Your Mind', their debut release on vinyl, is one of the best EPs of psychedelic pop ever released. There's not an inch of slack here - gorgeous, loopy melodies and harmonies, wonderful Seeds-esque organs and frazzled acid guitars. One of my favourites.

Track listing:

Side A

1. Carroll By Candlelight
2. Francis

Side B

1. Colour Your Mind
2. Suicidal Flowers

Get it here

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Poisoned Electrick Head - Out Of Order EP

Poisoned Electrick Head were certainly one of the stranger bands to emerge from the 80s/90s psych scene. Musically and visually, they had little in common with most of their contemporaries. Whereas a lot of neo-psych drew its influences from classic psych and space rock, PEH were always closer to the satirical sci-fi weirdness of Devo, both in their live shows, which always had a theatrical aspect including costumes and bizarre alien masks, and the jerky and complex time signatures of their music. Zappa, Arthur Brown, Salvador Dali, Gurdjieff and horror/sci-fi movies were also cited as influences.

I spent a lot of time in '92/'93 listening to PEH, especially their eponymously titled debut CD release. It's a superb album, my favourite of their three CD albums, and is well worth tracking down. The EP featured here was released in 1994 and consists of four previously released but rare tracks, three being taken from their impossible-to-find cassette-only album 'Unmistakably Rainbow Trout' and one coming from Delerium's 'Psychedelic Psauna' compilation. Enjoy.

Track listing:

Side 1

1. Out Of Order
2. The Thought You Thought You Was

Side 2

1. Trickeroo
2. Snobs

Get it here.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Dead Flowers - Moontan

A swirling, trancey fusion of Hawkwind, Hendrix, Loop and Ash Ra Tempel comes somewhere close to describing the psychedelic sounds on 'Moontan', the second Dead Flowers album realeased in 1993 on Mystic Stones records. All tracks have a hypnotic quality to them, ranging from the monster spliff-riffs and snarling vocals of 'Chocolate Staircase' and 'Feed It' to the beautifully spaced-out guitar, flute and percussion of 'Gaia's Love Hole'. This is far-out psych at its finest.

Track listing:

Side A

1. Chocolate Staircase
2. Spiral Eye
3. Filling in Time
4. Thought World

Side B

1. Gaia's Love Hole
2. Hammer Rash
3. Slowburn
4. Feed It
5. Hidden Track

Get it here

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Moom - Toot

Moom were a fantastic prog/jazz/psych band that released two fine albums on Delerium Records in the mid to late nineties.

Actually, Moom hail from my hometown of Northampton, England, so for anyone who's reading this from Northampton (and I know there's a few of you!), let's talk hometown for a moment. 'Toot' was recorded and mixed at 'The Egg Room', the Northampton based recording studio belonging to Robert John Godfrey of 'The Enid' fame. RJG, along with Mike Pool and Max Read, also produced and mixed the album. I mentioned that a few of you reading this are from Northampton. An even smaller number of you will be aware that a band in which I played guitar also recorded a demo at The Egg Room sometime in the mid nineties, where we witnessed the surreal sight of Robert John Godfrey dancing suggestively in front of our rather fey bassist as he was attempting to get his bassline right for the umpteenth time. Was RJG attempting to seduce him? Or was RJG merely responding to our bassist's advances? Hmm...we'll never know for sure, but I know what I think. What's this got to do with Moom and the matter at hand? Absolutely nothing, but can't a blogger reminisce for a moment?

Anyway, let's get back to 'Toot'.
It's hard to pin down any sort of influences, but it sounds like Moom have spent many a lazy afternoon listening to and jamming along with a shedful of prog, psych and jazz, then reinterpreted it all in a style of their own. Sometimes, they resemble west-coast psychedelia, especially The Grateful Dead and Spirit. Other times, the Canterbury scene comes to mind, stuff like The Soft Machine, Kevin Ayers and Caravan. Throw in some Zappa, add a dash of Funkadelic and you're somewhere close to the sound of 'Toot'. The musicianship is extremely accomplished, the compositions are often very complex, and the production is as clear as a shimmering summer afternoon...which kind of describes the music too, albeit a very English and willfully surreal summer afternoon. It's a great album and one of Delerium's finest releases.

Track listing:

1. Prelude
2. Sally
3. Astronought
4. The Void is Clear
5. Babbashagga
6. The Higher Sun
7. The Crocodillian Suite
i) The Egg
ii) The Crocodillian
iii) Mayam Riff
8. Waiting For The Sphere
9. Eye
10. I Can't Remember The '60s......I Must Have Been There

Listen to it here, then go and buy it here

Monday, 21 July 2008

Sun Dial - Other Way Out

Whilst this album isn't anywhere near as hard to find as most of the other offerings on this humble blog, I feel that it justifies its place here through sheer greatness.

Sun Dial, though a 'band' in every sense of the word, is in fact a vehicle for Gary Ramon, songwriter, vocalist, and mean acid guitarist. With Ramon at the helm and his band consisting of whoever felt right at the time, Sun Dial released five albums during the early to mid nineties before Ramon disbanded the group to concentrate on producing records for others. A couple more albums appeared when in 2003 Ramon resurrected the Sun Dial name to finish what he'd started. For me, none come anywhere near to matching the psychedelic majesty of 'Other Way Out',
their debut album released on UFO records in 1990.

It's one of the best neo-psych albums around, and is perhaps the one to convince die hard 60s/70s vintage psych freaks that there are indeed some amazing psych albums to be had from the more recent crop of psychedelic bands. 'Other Way Out' contains six tracks of trippy 60s influenced psychedelic rock
(subsequent CD releases succumb to the obligatory and rather annoying extra tracks syndrome, but we're going on the original vinyl here).

Without wanting to sound crass, the album reeks of LSD. Whether this is because Ramon was drenched in the stuff or he's got a post-grad degree in psychedelia is anyone's guess, but whatever, it works. The lyrics to every track sound like they were written whilst Ramon was halfway through a dayglo patchouli-scented acid trip. There's phased vocals weaving in and out of phased drums and liquid wah guitar solos chasing distant flutes into deep space. This isn't an album of meandering and drifting sonic journeys though; five of the six tracks are 'songs' proper, with verse/chorus structures. Only the last track, 'Lorne Blues', a bluesy acid-heavy guitar workout of slow riffing and phased drums, dispenses with the discipline and totally freaks out.

'Other Way Out' is a psych classic and not to be missed.

Track listing:

Side 1

1. Plains Of Nazca
2. Exploding In Your Mind
3. Magic Flight

Side 2

1. She's Looking All Around
2. World Without Time
3. Lorne Blues

Listen to it here, then buy it here

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Dimentia 13 - Mirror Mind

It is perhaps an understatement to say that Brad Warner is a man of many and varied talents. Student and teacher of Zen Buddhism, author of two books including 'Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality', documentary maker, employee at Tokyo-based low-budget monster movie merchants Tsuburaya Productions, blogger for the goth/punk/weird softcore porn site 'Suicide Girls', and, of course, musician and songwriter. Perhaps he is yet to reveal that he is also a lifeguard, an expert on the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet, a renowned cordon bleu chef, and a cross-dressing lap-dancer at a high class gentleman's club. Hmmm, we shall see...

The name 'Dimentia 13' was taken from the 1963 Francis Ford Coppola/Roger Corman low budget horror film 'Dementia 13' (notice the vowel change....very important when googling the band...or the film!), and between 1985 and 1991, Brad released five great albums of melodic garage punk and psych-pop, all on Midnight Records.

Dimentia 13's music started out as extremely lo-fi garage punk on the eponymous debut album and finished up as relatively polished psychedelic pop on the final album 'Flat Earth Society'. 'Mirror Mind', released in 1987, belongs to the earlier efforts, dripping with blatant lysergic references, barely a care for the sound production, but containing a set of great and very endearing songs that I dare anyone not to like. It's my favourite Dimentia 13 album. Brad's voice has something in common with the Wayne Coyne school of 'brave' vocals ie if he had to sing to save his life, he'd almost certainly die, but not before he'd belted out his bum notes with confidence and verve.

Highlights? 'Mushroom Season' is a beautiful, fragile and very haunting evocation of an early morning/late evening walk into the valley on the hunt for magic mushrooms, eventually drifting off into dreamy lysergic observations. 'Bug Soup' is all groovy rhythms and acid guitar, kinda reminds me of 'Electric Music' era Country Joe and the Fish. The wall of noise garage punk of 'Mirror Mind'. 'Naked Truth', slow and beatiful, full of backwards guitar and tabla, has a melancholic acid casualty vibe. It's a fine album, and a classic of 80s psych.

Track Listing:

Side 1

1. Mesmerized
2. Can You Hear The Walls Melting?
3. 20 Years Before My Time
4. Mushroom Season
5. Bug Soup (I Will Miss You)

Side 2

1. Psychedelic Mushroom Cloud Explosion
2. Twice The Speed Of Time
3. She's Alright
4. Roolz Is A Rule
5. Mirror Mind
6. Naked Truth

Listen here, and buy it here.

Looking to experience to purity of the Now in all its simplicity? Or perhaps just after a good read? Then go and buy Brad's books on Zen here.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Reefus Moons - The Word Raven

Next up is Reefus Moons AKA Ross Saxty, one man band, English eccentric and seasoned purveyor of pop music for the mind. Musically and lyrically, Reefus is in the tradition of The Soft Boys/Robin Hitchcock and Syd Barrett. 'The Word Raven', a limited edition LP released in 1991 on Insect Eye Records, contains 10 tracks of finely crafted guitar-driven psych-pop that are a vehicle for Reefus' unique and surreal worldview. Flocks of tractors, life through the eyes of a raven, what if Jesus had been a reptile, tales of gnomes and insects; it's all here.

I've mentioned Robin Hitchcock once, and I'd better mention him again - the influence really is very strong. Reefus' voice is a dead ringer for The Soft Boys frontman, and most songs sound for all the world like lost tracks from 'I Often Dream Of Trains' or 'Black Snake Diamond Role'. And that's no bad thing if you ask me. If whimsical and very English psych-pop is your thing, then you'll certainly find something to like here.

Track Listing:

Side 1

1. Insect Rider
2. Spend Some Time
3. Raven Crauscelene
4. Salamander Raincoat
5. Cormorant In Shades

Side 2

1. Psycho-Gnome
2. Hive
3. Thinking Of You
4. Gardening The Mind
5. The Dinosaur Of Truth

Get it here

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Russell, the saga of a peaceful man.

For those of you who don't know, 'Russell' is the comic-book creation of British artist and writer Pete Loveday. Since the early 80s, the esteemed Mr Loveday has been charting Russell's rise from perpetually stoned and confused hippy to....err, slightly older perpetually stoned and confused hippy.

Although Russell is indeed the focus of this quite fantastic and very funny series of comics, they are much more than an insight into the paranoia of the habitual spliff-head. S
et against the backdrop of the socio-political mess that was post-Thatcherite Britain, it's an acutely observed insight into England at that time from the point of view of various subcultures that were either around at the time when Thatcherism took hold, or sprang up in reaction to it. The forces of law and order were beginning to turn a disapproving eye towards the festival scene, corporate greed was running riot, media-induced apathy was beginning to set in. Trapped in the middle of all this is Russell, up to his eyeballs in magic mushrooms and riddled with self-doubt. If you were one of those who frequented festivals and/or the associated underground scene during the 80s and early 90s, then you'll be familiar with Russell's world.

When I was in my late teens/early twenties (it feels like a lifetime ago!), I kind of identified with Russell, as I'm sure did many others who followed his adventures. Russell's a good bloke, a peaceful bloke, and life and circumstance have led him to the bustling underground festival scene of the 80s/early 90s - hippies, punks, bikers, rastafarians, CND activists, earth-mothers, spiritual seekers, spiritual charlatans, acid heads, women's libbers, anti-globalization protesters, drug dealers, zen gurus, new-age travellers, self-sufficient smallholders, alternative healers. To Russell, all these people seem secure and confident in their roles, and may even in a worst-case scenario be in on some great secret that Russell has been denied knowledge of.

In Russell's world, nothing ever quite makes sense, nothing ever seems to go his way. He finds himself confused and paranoid, alienated from all, even the sub-cultures in which he h
as taking refuge. Russell's best friend, Andy the Punk, appears to be more than happy with his lot of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, which just seems to highlight Russell's problems. His love for politically correct woman's libber, Felicity, is unrequited, and he finds himself constantly trying to avoid the crushing embrace of Eve, an ageing earth-mother, who believes that Russell is her one true soul-mate.

Taking psychedelic drugs by the bucketful doesn't help Russell, but he just can't say no, perhaps wondering if each trip will be the one that finally rids him of his hang-ups and opens up his mind to the beautiful life experiences that those around him seem to be experiencing. Of course, it never happens, and after every trip, he simply returns to being himself - paranoid, perplexed, pissed-off at life but too stoned to do anything about it.

For me, the main thing about the Russell comics is the humour. His adventures are never anything less than hysterically funny. Of course, identifying with our reluctant hero helps in this respect, but regardless, it's very finely observed, very witty, and somehow manages to take the piss out of alternative lifestyles whilst actively promoting them. We have Russell experimented upon, placed in an artificial womb full of amniotic fluid as part of a rebirthing process from which he will supposedly emerge fresh, clean, revitalised and rid of all hang-ups. We have Russell and Andy trying to make a bit of quick cash by setting up a disposable toilet-seat stall at the Glastonbury festival - anybody who's done a festival will know of the infamous sanitary situation. And then there's the 'Russell takes a trip' stories, where we follow him through a series of wild hallucinations, watching his mind disintergrate into a quivering, paranoid wreckage.

For many years, Pete Loveday had a stall at the Glastonbury Festival, where he would sell baccy tins, fimo figurines and, of course, Russell comics. He was also involved to whatever degree in various underground publications and ventures. So, like a lot of great writers, Loveday drew upon his own experiences when writing 'Russell'. How much of Russell himself is in Pete Loveday is anyone's guess, but I like to imagine that he is, or was, as near to the real-life Russell as anyone. And if he ever gets to read this, I'd just like to say a big thank you. You've given me a lot of pleasure over the years.

Russell's adventures can be bought from AKPress, the anarchist and radical book publisher and distributor. Get them here.

Anyone else a fan of Russell and Pete Loveday? I'd love to hear from you, leave a comment!