First thought was an unpleasant one: Ariel Pink. I know that might be considered blasphemy, especially from one of the several mouths in the giant mercurial Cerberus-face that is XXJFG, and yeah that Tascam Portatudio sound was a smear of loveliness in itself, and Pink did had an entire genresworth of back catalogue committed to C60 before even the first of the many Haunted Graffiti imitators paid over the odds for a vintage 4-track machine on eBay. But he just always seemed like such a douche. He’s not going to lead my vision quest! But then, hey, I still rep for Megadeth – the band fronted by the King of Douche that is Dave Mustaine – so what do I know?
Second, third, fourth, and fifth thoughts: Jimi Hendrix, The Zombies, Funkadelic, Van Halen.
Six, seven: Pavement, R. Stevie Moore.
Eight: Bobb Trimble!!
Because Rich Ristagno is no hipsteroid, he scrappily recorded a delicious, delirious classic (What Would It Be Like To Be Rich) back in ’81, with a bunch of under-rehearsed and over-high players employed at his cheapest local studio. His only influences were allegedly Aerosmith and Fleetwood Mac, but what came out was something much more interesting. The guitarist is maddeningly OCD, he totally over-plays – and by that we mean he shreds ALL THE TIME. It’s perfect. Especially as the general tone of the songs are so Hall & Oates-restrained that they become monotone. The cognitive dissonance between the wailing, cheaply-recorded, almost toy-like guitars, and the soft bounce of Rich’s vocal is beyond even Stephen Malkmus or Spiral Stairs.
Detroit steelworker Rich made up 100 copies of his little LP at a vanity pressing plant, but never got around to distributing them – they stayed in his parent’s basement, until Dirtbombs drummer Ben Blackwell stumbled across an old radio promo, and pimped the recoding out to Drag City. At least that’s how the legend goes. It probably will turn out that this whole thing is a goofy Electric Six side project or something, and that the handsome dude with the moustache was just an old photo of one of their dads, but hey ho. As it stands, What It’s Like To Be Rich is a gentle and fascinating little document, that reads as genuinely – if accidentally – psychedelic.
Plains Druid can’t compete with that kind of backstory, and why should he? There’s nothing accidental about this occultist synth-psychedelia. This track, Telescreens, seems to tilt forever, like it’s heard something magical happening just past the sun and needs to bear down on it in ever-slanting orbits. You think we’d be bored of being blissed out by now, but let me tell you a secret:
XXJFG IS NEVER BORED OF BEING BLISSED OUT.
The space between our ears is our one sacred protest against the modern world and all its hard edges and petty cruelties. And this is what that space sometimes sounds like.
Buy Plains Druid’s To Be Without Judgement from Bandcamp.
Buy Rich Ristagno’s What Would It Be Like To Be Rich from Rough Trade.Epilogue -
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