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19 March 2010

Bongwater - 'Too Much Sleep' (Shimmy-Disc)

I'm not sure what's up with my bizarro version of Too Much Sleep, as it seems to have a different cover than anything I can find online, and is missing quite a few tracks from what Wikipedia/AllMusic reports. Which means I apparently miss a cover of 'Why Are We Sleeping?' but that's okay since the Slapp Happy tune 'The Drum' remains - probably my favorite of any Bongwater (or even Shockabilly) cover version. As if there was any doubt that these guys were into Blegvad! But they wear it well, cluttering up the lovely chord changes with sampled voices that are totally eerier instead of just superflous. But that's the name of the game with Bongwater. Too Much Sleep is a messy, goofy bundle of singsong flapping about, which has a lot of that Kramer reverb sound and enough double-tracked male-female vocals to totally drive a stake through the corpse of Sonny and Cher. There's a few tunes that have a proto-Chicks on Speed Eurotrash sound, like 'Talent is a Vampire', where Kramer seems to have calculated the right way to throw electric guitar shards in a way that conjures monster truck rallies, MA opening shows, and melting eyeliner. The spacey production occasionally works psychedelic wonders, particularly when keyboard/organ notes swell up and meander around the guitar-based rhythms. Dave Rick, who played in King Missile, shreds all over this record and I wonder if people would revere him the same way they do Alan Licht if he hadn't played in such goofy projects. 'Mr. & Mrs. Hell' is like an American reboot of the Mekons' 'Trouble Down South', and the electronic resonance has it's complement in side 2's 'Khomeni Died Tonight', a bit of Ralphy weirdness if I've ever heard it. 'One so Black', a Dogbowl-penned composition, has a lovely vocal arc and more of Rick's enlightening fretboard scratching. It all ends with the creepy, yet strangely affecting 'No Trespassing'. Overall I think this is Bongwater's most solid album though I can't say I've heard any of the others in recent years. The logo's designed by Gary Panter, who 20 years later has enjoyed a hipster resurgence though those kids probably wouldn't touch a Bongwater record with a 20 foot pole.

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