Monday, January 2, 2012
Charlie McAlister 'Savage Arena' on Tick Tock Records
I've been waiting for this Charlie McAlister from Tick Tock Records to get to the top of the pile, sadly it wasn't before this light blue lathe cut was sold out from the source, so you best be quick on the draw yourself checking back regularly with Tick Tock because you obviously can't rely on me to break any of their new releases. Charlie McAlister last showed up on a Tick Tock lathe cut about a year ago, the same kind of awesome screen printed white inner sleeve and handnumbering. Charlie has been writing his particular brand of scuzzy no-fi swamp folk numbers since at least 2009, when I came across this Carolina by-product single co released with Unread Records, each time I end up poking around the world wide web for this guy I get more intrigued, imagining the front porch of a cabin in the middle of nowhere, an ancient 4-track machine, broken instruments...a bathtub of moonshine maybe in the basement. A combination of Beck from the one foot in the grave era with the patina of Mountain Goats early cassette recordings and the personality of Jonathan Richman. Hearing it delivered on this one sided handcut lathe is the icing on the cake, giving the whole thing this weird authenticity, like an old blues 78, buried under layers of hiss, taped off an old AM radio...there's nothing better to compliment this sound. It started out in the backwoods without a decent mic for miles and it will end up on this slowly degrading thin piece of plastic, leaving anyone within earshot to wonder exactly when the hell this was recorded.
The first track, "Savage Arena" has something to do with a book by Joe Tasker as noted on the reverse of this sleeve but more than that the plague of mosquito's referred to many times, every other word in fact, as 'fuckers'. I have a similar reaction when it's dusk in the middle of nowhere in the woods of the northeast...they are everywhere, and they are complete fuckers. There's no escape. The beat up stabs of guitar melody from both a halfway decent acoustic and I think one of those little plastic numbers with nylon strings is giving this a carnival ramshackle feel, fighting with the instruments to make this noise, not lasting much past a couple of go's probably. Beating on the floor, or a piece of wood, the succinct, perfect argument for making gold out of whatever is lying around. Old necessity is the friend and trademark of Charlie McAlister. At this point I don't want to hear this on anything but a hissy lathe record...do they distress brand new LP's like jeans? I bet Charlie could. I want a full length, but I'm afraid of those perfect, clean grooves. THAT'S NOT CHARLIE.
Next track, "Piss Parade", is about having to really use the restroom, as you could imagine, lots of wine, gatorade, whatever he could find to drink and I won't ruin the ending lets just say he 'rained' on their parade if you know what I mean. A couple layers of bluesy, slow bending chords...vocals right up in the blown out mic, narrating the story in a slight nasal whine, a mellow Bob Log III, I would love to hear those guys collaborate on something....or hell, play on the same bill.
Finally, "I ain't scared of shit", Charlie ends this side with a really classic almost protest track of lists of things that he's not afraid of, nuclear bombs, fire, ghosts, you name it...I also think that he's probably just really trying to convince himself most of all. A true contemporary folk sound, this is carrying on those traditions in a south carolina endgame. There's probably no one like Charlie steadily carrying on in those broken chords, and holy guitars, beating on washboards, hating mosquitos, not afraid of anything.
Marshall Mcluhan would also approve of this format.