Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Discovering: Gods And Monsters

The names Ernie Brooks and Billy Ficca probably don’t mean a lot to the average rock fan. But to fans of cult bands of the ‘70s/’80s punk and new wave era, those names are associated with some beloved bands: Brooks was the bassist in the Modern Lovers while Ficca drummed for Television and later the Waitresses. Their names surfaced again yesterday in a press release for the group Gods And Monsters. G & M is basically an on-and-off project for guitarist Gary Lucas, who first made his name playing with the late Captain Beefheart - although I admit that I haven't really been familiar with his work.
This new album The Ordeal of Civility (due in May on Knitting Factory Records), was produced by Jerry Harrison, who also was in the Modern Lovers before being in the much more popular group, the Talking Heads. Only heard one tune on myspace, but it is sort of a prog/new wave melding.

Here is the official press release

A thoroughly modern odd-rock ensemble, Gods and Monsters have existed in
one incarnation or another since 1989. Driven by the vision and relentless
spirit of guitar champion Gary Lucas, these defiant avant-punk architects
have always been united in their uncommon mission. As a matter of course
they are artists first and foremost, intrinsically opposed to the path of
least resistance that invariably leads to knee-jerk cultural assimilation
and soul-killing aesthetic conformity.

All of which brings us to "The Ordeal of Civility," [their latest album,
due out this May on Knitting Factory Records] the title of this collection
and a reference to John Murray Cuddihy's book of the same name. Published
in 1974, Cuddihy's arcane meditation on Jewish identity in an anti-Semitic
20th Century focuses on the unlikely Jewish triumvirate of Sigmund Freud,
Karl Marx and Claude Levi-Strauss, how their revolutionary theories,
philosophies and strategies defied the established order accepted and
promulgated by Gentiles and further describes the Jewish population's
knotty integration into mainstream/European/Christian/Western Society.

[the band is comprised of Gary Lucas - guitars & vocals, Ernie Brooks
(Modern Lovers, Flying Hearts) - bass , Billy Ficca (Television) - drums,
Jerry Harrison (Modern Lovers, Talking Heads) - production, Jason Candler
and Joe Hendel - keyboards] Sift through your mind's archive and surnames
snap into focus: Lucas, along with Brooks, Ficca and Harrison' as well as
Messrs Candler and Hendel' are all clearly compelled towards personal
independence and artistic insurgence. Together, they came to inhabit and
exhibit the ultimate living protest, that is, thinking freely and playing
creatively' onstage and in the studio' generally unfettered by vain
commercial anxieties, lemming trends or other cookie-cutter solutions.

So, what exactly is Lucas trying to say here?

Just that, like his rebellious brethren of yore, he has been out there
musically innovating for many a year (and over 20 critically acclaimed
albums in a variety of genres), in spite of and in opposition to the
pressure to conform to accepted norms and market forces, creating
revolutionary sounds both as a guitar slinger without parallel and
Grammy-nominated songwriter-- kicking against the pricks in what is
genteelly referred to in the standard industry text book as 'this
business of music.' Creating music his own way, music of the highest
quality fitting no known category other than Other, touring relentlessly
and patiently gathering a worldwide fan-base of like-minded folks tired
of the same old same old, be it Mainstream or what is quaintly referred
to as Alternative.

Produced with Jerry Harrison at the controls (savvy hands and expert
ears), The Ordeal of Civility is a razor-sharp effort reflecting Lucas and
co.'s sensibilities without sacrifice or concession. The opening
'LuvzOldSweetSong' is a softer exhibition, nimbly driven by the
Ficca/Brooks rhythm team and Hendel's resonant keyboards burbling low in
support of Gary's understated vocal and hypnotic guitar motif. The sage
advice found within 'Chime On' enjoys the classic twang of a
country-blues, incorporating snatches of forgotten Americana along the
way. 'Swamp T'ing' is a slashing blast of Blank Generation rawk straight
outta NYC' and that's the way, the way that it is.

Throughout this disc the earnest wordplay of Gary Lucas is served up with
great feeling' and consistently illuminated by his unique fretwork. The
folk-ballade "Lady Of Shallott' boasts a medieval feel that should have ye
olde fans of acoustic Thompson and Jansch weeping with joy, while the
screaming slide on 'Peep Show Bible' reminds us why the late great Captain
Beefheart chose Gary to occupy a guitar chair in his last and final Magic

And for the technique freaks, there are three instrumental tracks 'the
steady-rolling 'Whirlygig' showcases Gary's trademark guitar flourishes,
'Hot & Cold Everything' features G&M's kicking horn section with some
gnarly, high-decibel fingerbusting from Señor Lucas, and the kinder,
gentler solo guitar of 'Lazy Flowers' provides an introspective pause
before the ominous closing opus,

Jedwabne is Gary's outraged commentary on the Jedwabne pogrom that
occurred in July 1941, where the horribly organized killing of
approximately three hundred Jews exposed Poland's (long-denied) complicity
with Nazi Germany at that time. Some of Gary's relatives were among the
three hundred burned to death in the barn that day in Jedwabne. The grave
tone of this account j'accuse is unavoidable, but the message is, as
always, never forget. And for those who still try to deny or doubt or
excuse, well - real monsters walk among us whether you believe it or not.

Anyway, this is Gary Lucas, Ernie Brooks, Billy Ficca, Jerry Harrison,
Jason Candler and Joe Hendel 'Gods and Monsters, first, last, and always.

Mitch Myers New
Years Day, 2011
for more information and materials contact:

Howard Wuelfing
Howlin' Wuelf Media

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