Thursday, June 19, 2008

So it is written...

WWSU Playlist
1 March 1989
Wednesday, 9 p.m.-midnight

Bauhaus – “She’s in Parties”
H Fini Tribe – “Finis”
TOTW (blank)
H Elvis Hitler – “Green Haze”
DC Batz Without Flesh – “Retention”
H Ultra Vivid Scene – “You Didn’t Say Please”
H Dead Milkmen – “Punk Rock Girl”
PMLS Royal Court of China – “Half the Truth”
H Girl Trouble – “Hurt Yer Heart”

Hula “Voodoo Chile 1”
H Dharma Bums – “Dropping Out”
TOTW (blank)
H Too Much Joy – “Bad Dog”
DC Zoetrope – “Seeking Asylum”
H Soundgarden – “Circle of Power”
H NoMeansNo – “Theresa, Gimme That Knife”
PMLS Laibach – “Sympathy for the Devil”
H Pussy Galore – “Adolescents Wet Dream”
PMREC Alice Donut – “Lisa’s Father”
H UK Subs – “Sabre Dance”
H Birdhouse – “Devil Looks After His Own”
K Talking Heads – “Stay Up Late”
REQ TRC – “High Speed 1996”
H Red Temple Spirits – “Nile Song”

K Pete Shelley – “Homosapien”
H The Brood – “Cry”
TOTW Pond – “Bullets”
H Ungh – “Boop Boop Bwahh” ??
DC Minimal Compact – “Next to Real”
H My Dad is Dead – “Cut Out”
H Victim’s Family – “Crap”
PMLS Laibach – “Sympathy for the Devil”
H Murphy’s Law – “??”
PMREC Metal First Aid – “Poolside”
H Blacklight 13 – “Graveyard Signal”
H Spongehead – “I am…”
DC Savage Republic – “So It Is Written”

My third hour is written by someone else, so I am assuming that I once again had a trainee sitting in with me. The playsheet doesn’t say who it was, but they had god awful handwriting. They also didn’t look over what I had played previously, because they played Laibach, which I had played during the previous hour.

There are two bands on this playsheet that I couldn’t get enough of back in the day: Red Temple Spirits and Savage Republic. Both band’s albums came through Fundamental Recording Co.’s distribution – RTS on Nate Starkman & Son Records and Savage Republic on IPR (Independent Project Records).

I won’t delve too deeply into Red Temple Spirits because although I loved the music on their luxurious, gatefold debut Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon, which had a post-punk tribal feel similar to Savage Republic, I never really warmed to singer William Faircloth’s nasally voice, which I felt was affected and fake. The band made interesting use of native instruments like flutes and bells, and incorporated natural sounds like birds and water into their music, but they simply haven’t stood the test of time for me.

Savage Republic, on the other hand, were so far ahead of their time that their music still sounds as fresh today as it did twenty five years ago.
The band first popped up on my radar via Camper Van Beethoven. Camper’s first album, the superb Telephone Free Landslide Victory, was released with a gorgeous hand-screened sleeve designed by Bruce Licher of Independent Project Press. When I bought the album (in 1985) I wasn’t familiar with Licher or IPP, but the letterpress graphics drew me in and spoke to me on an organic, primitive level, and while thumbing through some vinyl at Renaissance Music one day I stumbled across a staggeringly beautiful and moving sleeve reminiscent of TFLV. I didn’t know what the album was called because the name was screened in Arabic, and had no idea what the music sounded like, but I bought it nonetheless because I recognized the IPP style.

The sleeve featured a hand silk-screened version of a famous photo by Jahangir Razmi of several Iranian professors being executed by firing squad at the time the fundamentalists took over the country.
It’s a grisly photo, certainly, and recognizable to most who remember the Iranian hostage crisis. That Savage Republic was able to turn this horrific photo into an even more profoundly moving art statement is impressive and very brave. Aptly, the album is titled Tragic Figures.

Even if I hadn’t liked the music Savage Republic released I would have continued to collect their albums because of their uniquely striking sleeves, so it was a real bonus to find that the music was every bit as good as the wrapping. Tribal and evocative, their music seemed to exist outside the space-time continuum, far beyond the normal realm. Their use of metal percussion and Licher’s monotone-tuned guitars created a powerful onslaught with a decidedly eastern flavor. I fell hard for them, and set about collecting everything they released. That I never got a chance to see them live is tragic – for their live performances infused a raw energy unmatched by anything before or since. They were doing shows and blowing up stuff with Mark Pauline out in the desert years before the Burning Man phenomenon, and the full-length concert footage I have on video can only hint at the harnessed chaos they created.

The band never released a bad album and it’s difficult to play favorites, but as far as I am concerned they reached their zenith with 1988’s Jamahiriya Democratique et Populaire de Sauvage. From beginning to end this is the one Savage Republic album that latches on and doesn’t let go. Tightly wound, ethnically flavored sonic expanses ripple and shimmer under a crashing industrial veneer. Surprisingly for the motherlode of power contained within its grooves, the gatefold sleeve for Jamahiriya is something of a letdown in comparison, although Licher’s redesigned CD sleeve packs the punch lacking in the album version.

Savage Republic went on hiatus in early 1989 and briefly came out of "retirement" in 2002 for a whirlwind tour. In 2006 they reformed - minus founder Bruce Licher.

Licher has received two Grammy Award nominations for Best Recording Package: once in 1988 for Echelons by For Against, and in 1989 for Camper's Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart.

He continues to design gorgeous, original art from his studio in Sedona, Arizona.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Cool. Savage Republic.

Your labels are much more interesting than mine.