Steve Wilson. On music.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Legs - Aaaa New Memphis Legs (Goner Records)

There are bands that never rise too far out of the muck of the American underground, yet they play a critical role in keeping a certain kind of rock ‘n’ roll anima alive. The Oblivians from Memphis were such a band.  Throughout the Nineties, their spontaneous, greasy mix of American garage-rock archetypes and rhythm and soul influences was most entertaining. And it was as pure a product of Memphis as anything from the heyday of Sun, Stax or Hi Records. Or Big Star, for that matter. Over the course of several albums, scattered singles, anthology tracks, and innumerable low budget tours they kept the flame for brash, bratty, soulful rock alive.

Jack (Yarber) Oblivian has gone on to a remarkably consistent, soulful solo career, fashioning a kind of bordello-barfly rock, fashioned from classic soul moves and strip club boom-boom. Greg (Cartwright) Oblivian formed the formidable Reigning Sound, combining ‘too much guitar’ thrash with Duke-Peacock heartache, bringing it all back home just-a-one-more time. Cartwright and crew also made a wonderful record, Dangerous Game, with former Shangri-La Mary Weiss.

It’s Eric (Friedl) Oblivian who’s made the least noise outside of the Oblivians. Of course he’s been busy with founding and operating the Goner label, a rocking imprint responsible for furthering the cause of artists from King Khan and BBQ Show to The Eddy Current Suppression Ring.

Around about the year 2000, Friedl hung out with a Texas guitarist named James Arthur. They did guy shit around Memphis, hung out, you know. No bass player. Eventually, they worked in the rough and ready drumming from the Neckbones’ Mr. Forrest Hewes.

Then … they spent months woodshedding, crafting a densely poetic, richly eclectic concept album about self-discovery. 


NOPE, they bashed out a noisy blast of half-baked originals, handy Aussie garage covers from some Ugly Things compilation and a mauling of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “Doin’ it Too Hard.”  And this short scrap of a set is called Aaaa New Memphis Legs.

 Whether creating a new mock dance craze with “(Let’s) Do the Legs,” a frat party stormer with guitar distortion as dense as freakin’ Blue Cheer, or going all down-tuned and metal dirty (“Been Kinda Lost”), or rewriting “Have Love Will Travel” (and blow-out combing their New York Dolls love) on “You Won’t Get Me,” Aaaa New Memphis Legs is an almost legless collection of Duchampian readymades, a spontaneous party of rock fuzz.

Truth is, by most orthodox standards this is a bloody, freakin' racket, It’s also pretty great, Moments of near brilliance include “Bill Dakota Knows,” a Paul Revere and the Raiders on rotgut gem that’s all deliciously excessive toggle switch use; the chorus is “you’ve been found to be bisexual, swinging, groovy, busted” – how do they know my old girlfriends?

“Wild About You” honors the night the Dolls spent in a Memphis hoosegow. It's whiskey soaked, a bit reminiscent of the Saints, and (oh yeah) the ghosts of every maniac beat monkey who ever tried to entertain shitheads at a frat party. ‘Wild man on a rampage, swingin’ through the jungle; honey, where are you?” It’s Raw Power with a side of grits, and it’s got a coda cool enough for an American International Pictures flick. Stepping down in thirds, clichéd, just right.  

Aaaa's twenty-seven minute romp goes out with The Legs' savaging of "Doin' It Too Hard." They do it pretty damn hard, that's for sure. In the Sir Douglas Quintet's hands the song sounded like some bizarre cross between Creedence and the Velvets. By the time the Legs are through with it it's been taken into the alley and beaten with a Kinks stick.

It’s all over too fast. That’s what she said, anyway.

But it sure is fun while it lasts. It’s a rock party for friends to be played at maximum volume. It’s stupid good. It’s not recommended for anyone who’s not ready, steady go for high distortion kicks. For sure not recommended to fans of Seals and Crofts or Bon Iver. And really, what’s the difference, ‘ceptin for a few decades.

Aaaa New Memphis Legs* is the sound of living for rock ‘n’ roll. You got a better idea?

* Available on digital download and Goner vinyl.

Reverberating: 8.2