Monday, November 5, 2012

Bel Argosy - The Wreck of Bel Argosy on Donkey Town Records

The guys from Bel Argosy based here in drying out Brooklyn let me know about their latest single, The Wreck of Bel Argosy, a four song EP that according to the xerox insert, took somewhere around two years. Is it because they were assembling a 40 piece orchestra and helicopters with amps and 50 drummers in a spiral? No.
Basically, if you aren't one of those massive rock and roll superstars you probably have a job and friends that take up a lot of your time...and I know that's no excuse, and no one should be whining about not 'making it', but where's the celebration in just doing something that you love without caring who likes it? Not to be above any kind of criticism, or some legally disturbed outsider artist, but isn't that the great thing about all this readily available technology? I'd much rather have a million racist weirdos on a CB radio than the government controlling who gets to talk and when.
I was watching this no wave documentary Blank City and it seems like that whole NY scene in the early '80s, whether film or art or music was just done by people that could have cared less that no one twittered about it or hell... even wrote about it in their zines. They wanted to make crazy shit period. The one (?-ed) down side to Facebook and Twitter is this idea of self awareness to some microscopic degree that might prevent you from doing something. I get that Ariel Pink is fucking fantastic, but that shouldn't stop you from messing around with a shitty 4track. If you love carving Abraham Lincoln busts out of erasers, you can have meetups with those other weirdos (I just made that up, and of course it exists).
My dumb point is, I wish Billy didn't apologize for any of this, even if it did immediately let me know that their hearts in the right place for 7inches. There's no 'label' behind this, no marketing. They just made some music. Some damn fine, no-fi, scuzzy tracks that are catchy and hopefully find an audience. Should they be making more of this? Yes.
A-Side's "Into the Distance" has this great overall tone like the stuff from Eric's Trip, something like garage punk with the liberal use of big sweeping chords, lots of layered live feel with the thin, experimental home recording mic sound. Like Home Blitz, the cymbals peak out in that hissy, thin way....I love this handmade sound when it's authentic like this, a diamond that shouldn't ever be polished. This goes from a Dump sounding jangly indie number into proper Cheap Time glam rock, the vocals are mixed perfectly into this, or should I say imperfectly perfect. Reverse solo? Yes.
It just gets better with "P-Centric" which has this kind of off kilter slightly Pixies thing, a slight accent vocally, you have no idea where this is coming from, it's half sung, building up into a near mental breakdown on some of these verse but it always comes back to this dense harmony chorus. A demo maybe from early Blood on the Wall, there's something about this energy, when you forget everything about doing something for someone else. Did Lou Barlo think about anyone even hearing those cassettes? Well, maybe he did, but it's obvious he wasn't thinking about the current state of music when he made them. I think you can actually hear when someone is making music for a commercially viable audience and when they're not. Or when they're doing it deliberately, there's a strategy for staying 'authentic' by doing something no one likes too. There's a lot of slippery slopes here, I can't figure it all out.
B-Side's "Yer Business" keeps up this under the gun production with a cheerier pop sound, and those glam harmonies, maybe going back further to those flower periods of the Stones, they didn't sound very tough, you can hear the smiles in the singalong chorus, leaning more towards being as approachable as possible. All jangle and two part harmonies with a little bit of distortion. This chorus that changes the chord progression right into that minor shift is just great, phaser jangle on the chorus, those little touches that you wouldn't deliberately have an engineer at a studio pushing for, they have that playfulness written all over them, not too serious, but they still care...
"World's Not Me" might even have a drum machine for a second? The dynamics on this record keep changing in great ways, this unashamed rock that could be an old Dead Milkmen track (in texture only)...not that they don't have this kind of goofy vibe, just toned WAY down compared to Big Lizard. That hissy smash of the crash is back, and this song is basically saying to make a judgement call, everything isn't ok, you don't have to be alright with bad stuff. Hate it, it's alright. Well that's not going to apply to this single. Get it from Bel Argosy themselves.

These guys are playing Spike Hill in Williamsburg, right off the bedford stop, ride your bikes I think that L train could still be out of commission... this Wednesday actually, and I'll bet that doesn't happen very often.

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