Somewhere between a steamroller and hellhound train, this record is here to run you over. The term that pops in my teeming word-cloud is drive. Taut and loose at the same time, monolithic, monomaniacal and when Lucas’s guitar bellows and screams, just plain maniacal, this downtown supergroup—recorded live in 2006—is more cohesive and focused than a hundred together-forever bands. So much so you wonder how the musicians could ever stand to be apart. Or how anyone could have left this on the shelf.
Experience has taught me to look askance at live rock albums (and while this may be avant-rock, the emphasis is resolutely on the back of the hyphen). But these sturdy, mostly up-tempo tunes, mostly by Lucas, gain crazy authority amid the sweat and beer. And the driving sound, produced by band member—and as reaffirmed here, B3 virtuoso—Jerry Harrison, gains an overdriven quality that’s perfect. In an imperfect, noisy way.
You may know the origin story of Gary Lucas—which starts with Beefheart (the idol he would eventually serve as co-lead guitarist) and continues through Jeff Buckley (the protege with whom he wrote “Grace” and “Mojo Pin”). If you don’t, it’s a good ‘un. You may know Billy Ficca, founding member of Television. Ernie Brooks from the Modern Lovers. Harrison, from the Lovers and Talking Heads. Jason Candler, downtown sax ace. And the gifted Joe Hendel on ‘bone. But if you were curious about a through-line from “Sing Sing Sing” to “Third Stone from the Sun” to “20th Century Schizoid Man”—with stops for the Velvets,
Wagner, Zappa, the Allmans, Sun Ra, Chet Atkins and Bukka White—climb abroad.
Turns out, it’s not this album that was lost. It was us.