[19 November 2009]
Between Nuggets, Pebbles, Back From the Grave, and the cottage industry they’ve spawned, one would think all of the obscure psychedelic chestnuts would have been salvaged from history’s dustbin. (Has there been a Chestnuts compilation yet?) If anything, the wealth of material disproves the long-thought empirical truth of 70’s punk as the incipient moment of D.I.Y. autonomy. Mind Expanders Volume 2 and Past & Present records continues to catalogue and excavate this explosive outpouring of drug-addled creativity. Where it fits into the canon of the myriad releases from this era is hard to calculate, but hardcore collectors will surely scrape out their hard-earned cash if only to find that diamond in the rough.
Mind Expanders Volume 2, whose album cover looks less Peter Max than magic eye, is a spotty collection. Its greatest strength is in its diversity. The compilation spills out from the 1960s into the 1970s and gives a fair shake to entries that are jazzier, funkier, and more kitschy than your average bluesy rock ‘n’ roll noodle-snoozle fest. The Joe Meek spacey surf of the Flying Guitars’ “Electronics” transforms into aerated circuit-bent boards neither rhythmic nor melodic but completely alien to innocent pop ears of the time. Jamie Perez chimes in with some Persian-sounding snake-charming fusion, and there’s also plenty of sitar to go around, including a cover of the Beatles’ “Within You Without You”, notable mainly for the song’s complex complementary polyrhythms, which sound almost like a progressive hip-hop take on the tune. For a better cover, though, check out either the sax-addled version of the underrated Shocking Blue’s “Acka Raga” or the Stradivarius’s Booker T-like novelty take on Bach’s Toccata and Fugue.
Unfortunately, the album suffers from poor planning. The bad news is the track numbering is misprinted as LP side A gets swapped for side B. This means track 1 is actually track 10, Didier Vincent’s “Jerk Avec Nous”, one of the album’s dullest and a pitiful way to start things off. Other songs seem useful solely for a resonant riff, such as Timezone’s “Spacewalker”, whose opening sonic quotation seems like a sampledelic artist’s wet dream of a discovery. The Renegade’s “Mad Dog”, likewise, would probably have been forgotten forever were it not for the oddball guttural grunting masquerading as vocals. Sometimes, that’s how history finds you, not simply by the rareness of your talent, but by the acuteness with which you can exploit your lack of talent.