One of the stranger denizens of that nebulous world of outsider artists, Legendary Stardust Cowboy is an artist like no other.
There is quite literally nothing else quite like the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Not that should there be, of course, since he's so singular is his approach to music. Like the Shaggs and other so-called "outsider artists", he defies the fundamental laws of pop music construction, existing in a world entirely his own and virtually impossible to replicate by anyone else. His assorted verbal tics and screams jump up seemingly out of nowhere time and again, never really in service to anything but their existence. It’s a bizarre mixture of the familiar and the utterly alien, making “the Ledge” a uniquely odd artist: a combination of rockabilly sci-fi filtered through Wildman Fischer, Hasil Adkins, Jandek, and surf rock. His latest offering, Launch Pad Favorites, is an excellent example of why.
As a collection, there is no rhyme or reason to any of these tracks on Launch Pad Favorites; each one sounds more like a reject from the Dr. Demento program than anything to be taken seriously. Like other outsider artists, this lack of concern for societal norms stands as the primary hook and appeal. By completely ignoring the “rules” of pop music, these artists manage to create a sound and style completely and utterly unique, existing beyond the bounds of anything else within the musical spectrum. It’s certainly interesting, but these types of releases often feel as though they border on the exploitative.
1968’s “Paralyzed", the Ledge’s first single and de facto introduction to the world, is a wild mixture of yips and howls, a drum kit that sounds as though it is falling down the world’s longest staircase, incongruous bugling alongside a series of unintelligible shouts and screams. In an age when novelty was king -- see Wildman Fischer and Tiny Tim, among others -- the Ledge should’ve been a star. Sure, the single improbably released on Mercury Records and he appeared on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, but fate still seemed to be working against him, the freak scene apparently having met its requisite quota to present to the mainstream.
Because of this, the Ledge has remained on the fringes, an unapologetically cultish figure who has since become one of the more eccentric and often borderline unlistenable “talents” operating within the fringe umbrella of outsider artists. Indeed, his sound seems to encompass all of trash culture if it were dumped in a blender and set to frappe, resulting in an alternatingly appealing and repugnant creative output that often defies not only categorization but also explanation. His cover of “Fly Me to the Moon” is unlike anything you’ve ever heard before, save for perhaps Florence Foster Jenkins. Meanwhile, his take on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (who himself was a purported fan of the Ledge's take on “I Took a Trip... ") plays like the creation of someone who once heard about the song from another who heard the song through a drug-fueled haze. In other words, it’s a barely recognizable approximation of itself, a mix between cover and original.
Really, “Kiss and Run” is the closest thing here to a traditional pop song, using a lush, shag-carpeted arrangement full of strings, subdued horns, and other warm textures that are utterly at odds with the Ledge’s tone-deaf vocals. Similarly, “Everything’s Getting Bigger but Our Love” sounds like the lone stab at straightforward country, with the Ledge losing all his vocal affectations in favor of an almost monotone delivery of the lyrics set to a vaguely countrypolitan arrangement.
The rest of Launch Pad Favorites skews heavily to the Ledge’s more out-there, extremist persona. Sounding for all the world like Wildman Fischer, rants like “I Hate CDs", “Credit Card Blues”, and “I Ride A Tractor” are for those who prefer their music unclassifiable, odd, and often cringe-inducingly unlistenable. In the end, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy is very much a legend in his own mind, and so the music on Launch Pad Favorites remains a rarely acquired taste. Yet, for those with the taste, you can never have enough of the Ledge.