To the moon, Alice
Archaeologists likely will conclude that music once was illegal when each time they unearth the home of an independent musician they discover boxes of unopened self-produced CDs stashed in the closet. That is exactly where the Primitive Radio Gods album Rocket and its hit, "Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand," would have remained were it not for dumb luck; provided that luck includes having a sample from B.B. King's rendition of "How Blue Can You Get"--"I've been downhearted, baby/ever since the day we met"--stuck in the collective noggin thanks to constant repetition by radio and David Letterman, who nightly repeats the excavated mantra.
The tranquil sung-spoken digital groove of "Phone Booth" is antithetical to the hip-hopped power pop on the remainder of Rocket, electropasticcios a la Eno and Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts accessory to Zeppelinesque riffs: the rapid-fired rebellion of "Motherfucker" ("I got a God-given right to smoke whatever I like") and the glitter-rock update "The Rise and Fall of Ooo Mau" ("Future star, red guitar, you're gonna go far"). There is nary an unhum-able clunker on board, whether PRG is politicizing a heavy vamp like "Skin Turns Blue" ("...that nigger you hate is your brother...See through the eyes of another") or indulging in a rock 'n' roll inanity like the slinky sex romp "Women."
Obviously programmed drums and occasional naked upper-register vocal strainings ("Where the Monkey Meets the Man") are the only indications that Rocket essentially is the work of one person, Chris O'Connor, who for around $1,000 recorded it on an infirm 1969 Ampex 16-track in a garage, just after the 1990 breakup of his SoCal rock band, the I-Rails. A few organic songs feature guests including I-Rails guitarist Jeff Sparks and drummer Tim Lauterio, who now tour with PRG along with guitarist Luke McAuliffe.
The lyrics to the driving "Who Say"--"I'm getting no reaction"--were prophetic. Discouraged after a no-result mass mailing, O'Connor became an air traffic controller. He recently stumbled upon his CDs while housecleaning and randomly mailed a few more, one to a rookie record scout who finally broke the rules.
TicketsSat., Dec. 10, 8:00pm
E.Z. MO Breezy Presents...Grits & Biscuits
TicketsSat., Dec. 10, 9:00pm
World Famous Gospel Brunch
TicketsSun., Dec. 11, 10:30am
The Brian Setzer 13th Annual Christmas Rocks! Tour
TicketsSun., Dec. 11, 6:00pm
Kelsea Ballerini - The First Time Tour
TicketsTue., Dec. 13, 8:00pm
Sony Music, parent company of Columbia, parent of PRG label Ergo, posts the standard disclaimer (designed to protect against plagiarism lawsuits) on its Web site, Sony Music Online (www.music.sony.com): "We cannot accept demos! [and] you don't want to hear the boring legal nonsense on this topic!" It's a wonder Chris O'Connor ever got through to mission control.
Primitive Radio Gods perform at Club Dada Saturday, September 7.
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