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22 February 2016

The Golden Palominos - 'Visions of Excess' (Celluloid)

Were the Golden Palominos a 'supergroup'? Cause they weren't really a group, were they? Just one guy, Anton Fier, and a bunch of famous friends making songs together. But the lineup is quite impressive - it looks more impressive to me now than it did when I bought this for $1 many years ago, no doubt due to the presence of Michael Stipe, cause, see, I was a big R.E.M. fan during my early teenage years. This sounds a lot better now than back then, too, maybe because I've made my peace with big mid-eighties drum production (and Fier, the svengali here, is a drummer after all and there's unnecessary digital programming on about half of this). The song selection is pretty decent too; the highlight of the whole record is the cover of 'Animal Speaks' by 15-60-75 (y'know -- the Numbers Band!) which is the best Numbers song anyway, and gets a pretty good treatment with a snarling John Lydon. The core band (Fier, Bill Laswell and Jody Harris) is only accentuated with organist Bernie Worrell here, and they somehow bring a manic pulsing punk feel to the song, stripping out its more R&B elements. The songs on Visions of Excess are grouped by singer, weirdly - all three of the Stipe tunes are put in front, maybe to try to capitalise on his marketability. 'Omaha', the Moby Grape cover, is even catchier than the original, and has Henry Kaiser playing this searing drone guitar throughout the whole thing, which sometimes loops into a weird reverse delay. It's such a great song, and the Palominos know that just because they have serious avant-garde cred they don't need to deconstruct every song. The original tunes are pretty solid; the two of them which are Stipe-sung are driving mid-tempo songs, the kind of songs I always imagined when I hear the term 'modern rock'; 'Clustering Train' sounds a little bit like 'King of Birds' from R.E.M.'s Document, though this pre-dates it. Jack Bruce sings on the rather long 'Silver Bullet' but it's probably the weakest track on the album. Syd Straw takes over for two tracks (and does backing vocals on others); 'Buenos Aires', which features Carla Bley on the organ, is really great - Straw's Southern twang breathes life into the song, which keeps rising and falling organically. Fier's drumming is really overpowering throughout this record - partly it's the sound of the times, but probably more because he's the leader of the band and the drummer so he's gonna mix himself up. I can't help but wonder what 'Buenos Aires' would sound like with a more loose, folksy feel. 'Only One Party' closes it out, a Beefheartian dirge with Arto Lindsay yelping and the guitar recorded so it sounds kinda lo-fi, or at least distant. It's a pretty cool track actually, though it somehow feels incongruous with the rest of the album, even though it's already a pretty divergent affair. And that's it for the Golden Palominos though if I ever resurrect the 7" blog, I also have the 7" of 'Omaha'. No grand conclusions to draw here. I wonder what their other albums are like? The first one is maybe worth checking out as Fred Frith is on it. But then again, some of these guest musicians make such minor contributions that they might as well have been session people; does Chris Stamey's keyboards on 'Omaha' really sound distinctly like Chris Stamey playing? Is he even known as a keyboard player? But I'm quibbling; this ain't a bad record, and one that is simultaneously a product of it's time and also doesn't really sound like anything else.

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