Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Charlie McAlister on Unread / Tick Tock records
Christopher from Unread records sent me his latest release for review from Charlie McAlister. It looks like it's backed by a couple different labels, Unread being one of them. I have to admit I didn't know anything about this prolific homespun musician, until I started looking up his myspace, and that's where the ball unraveled. Apparently Charlie has released somewhere near 80 self released tapes on his own and small labels that he's seen come and go. I imagine he's the kind of guy that has been all over the country and seen every bar back room, pizza place, basement there is to play, and fought his way out of some of them.
A-Side "Carolina bi-product beach ball boogie" It sounds like we caught Charlie mid sentence talking about his feet (?) and then the track launches into spastic banjo/acoustic/washboard singing verse after verse of rapid fire lyrics in almost square dance style. It's going to take a few listens to work through even catching half the one liners in here. The percussion sounds like people working with whatever's laying around...beer boxes, trash cans, to keep up with this insane tempo folk madman.
I'm Freezing: The second track on the A-Side is mostly instrumental, Charlie creates this repetitive blues bassline with a distorted guitar soloing on top that repeats measure after measure. The song periodically cuts out and Charlie says 'I'm freezing' and 'It's cold in here'. At first I thought the tape stopped or he was messing with a loop of some kind. By the last breakdown he's groaning from the cold. And then the maddening little bassline is back, with more hooting and howling, to end Side A. I'm sure he was freezing out in some garage or barn and that's how this track started and they pressed record. I've been there, Charlie.
I don't love you anymore: The guitar has this really warm tube sound, and Charlie's yelling again either into something distorting his voice or the recording is just peaking out. There's at least 4 different strummed instruments coming together to create this carnival hootenanny. Maybe there's a Ukulele here? It's really perfect.
This has to be the best use of the trumpet sound on the SK-1, it actually works, only after repeated listens I'm realizing what that sound has to be.
As expected Charlie, as narrator, is really pissed off and gets more unrestrained as the song goes on. At the end it sounds like everyone simultaneously hitting the mic at once before the tape is stopped, and that's the homemade touch that makes me pay just a little more attention.
'Memories in the Rain' is a slow distorted drawling guitar melody that seems to get me everytime. At first Charlie's yelling off in the distance, probably at himself playing on the other 3 tracks. It's almost a sad kind of howl to just set the tone of this sincere bedroom middle of the night recording. When the main vocals start it's really up front, close to the mic. He has a kind of nasal Daniel Johnston voice, but there's some low end to his vocals here, as opposed to the typical metallic sounding distortion of the other ones. This has to be my favorite track...it's reminding me of the Mountain Goats, their home recorded feel stuff, it's spontaneous and couldn't exist any other way. It isn't too self conscious, it's not going for the obvious gag, the drums sound like cardboard boxes, it fades out with the sound of the rain.
Where does this fit into anything I've been listening to lately? Well, it really doesn't, Charlie is really out there in his own world, nearly outsider, but it seems like he's well adjusted to society enough to go on lengthy tours, and probably win over everyone he meets.
From Unread records:
Charlie Mcalister - "carolina bi-product" [seven inch] four new delicious cuts of classic mcalister strum and fuckery on pink platter.
span across and feel up some babes while square dancing on the beach. deal with the robot inside, and throw yourself out into the surf...only to drift away and rust up.
limited to 500 copies, with seven or so different hand screened covers, and co-released with : tick tock, doormat tx, borrowdeer, and carl.
"carolina bi-product beachball boogie"
"i dont love you anymore"
"memories in the rain"
On Sardine colored vinyl...which is a kind of light purple. It plays at 33 and I'm pretty sure all the sleeves are hand silkscreened and different. Mine looks nothing like either of the ones pictured on Unread or Tick Tock.
It seems Unread has released several full lengths from Charlie in the past and at least one is still available, so you can get a double dose of Charlie who won't sound like anything else on your shelf.