Tag Archives: Kim Fowley

Ramblerin’ Gamblerin’ Man

It’s never a bad day to pimp Ben Vaughn.

Fourteen years ago this Friday, I felt the same way. Lots of people were going the indie route and recording in their home studio. Not many were doing it in their car. (Recording, I mean…I’m sure lots of people were “doing it” in a car. Some things never change.)

Here we go, from April Fools’ Day in 1997, and I was most certainly not pulling anyone’s leg. Still not. Get your Vaughn on.

If it sounds good in a car, why not record it in a car?” – Ben Vaughn, 1996

Probably the only people not shocked to hear that Ben Vaughn recorded his new CD inside his 1965 Rambler American (“the Fender Telecaster of cars“, says Ben) are his fans; they know that Ben is capable of just about anything. So what to do after less accessible side projects like Cubist Blues (recorded with Alex Chilton and Alan Vega) and the pairing with Kim Fowley? Vaughn uses his zaniest concept to date to create his best record since Dressed In Black.

Two songs are co-written with Bill Lloyd, and they’re both killer. The opening track “7 Days Without Love” rocks, complete with feet slapping on the car’s floorboard. “Boomerang” combines Vaughn’s megaphone-induced vocal with an instrumental punch straight out of the Sir Douglas Quintet. (I’d believe they were actually on the track but I know he couldn’t have fit them in the car). “Rock is Dead” is an example of Vaughn’s wit, an ode to the future when there’s “a blank space on your TV/where the music channel used to be” and “abandoned tour buses scattered across the hills“.

Outside of the sitar solo on “Levitation”, the stripped-down arrangements force Vaughn’s songs to be judged on their own merits. One listen to a simple melody like “Song For You” and those who are not Ben fans may be quickly converted. A Vaughn album is always a mix of surf, pop, country, rockabilly and anything else he can get his hands on. Rambler 65 is no different, with pop oddities like “Perpetual Motion Machine” (suggesting his work for TV’s “Third Rock From The Sun“) countered with bluesy wisps like “Beautiful Self Destruction”. An actual Rambler ad is even tossed in just to keep you honest.

Vaughn claims he was able to record the record in six afternoons because “everything was a first take because I just wanted to get the hell out of the car!” Cramming a small mixing board, effects pedals, a turntable, mikes and a reel-to-reel inside a car with the windows rolled up is about as intimate as you can get. And while recording in a car has other drawbacks besides leg room, Vaughn made the best of them. With airplanes flying overhead every so often, he finally gave up avoiding them and included one as the intro to “The Only Way To Fly”. Typical Vaughn, using whatever is necessary to deliver the goods, and it works.

And yes, there’s an engine solo

Ramblerin' Gamblerin' Man?

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New Album! Muck and the Mires

Dr. Tongue never had it so good

Much like Hypnotic‘s 3-d  album cover, the music of Muck and the Mires comes straight at you. Kim Fowley’s production is sharp and thin – he usually just throws the songs out there without fanfare (“Cocoa Beach” does get a roll of surf). When the songs are strong enough, like the garage crunch of “Crush on Me” and the killer opening track “Doreen”, it appears to be a marriage made in heaven. But when it doesn’t, it exposes a song like “Hang All over Me” for what it is; a pedestrian pop rocker that disappears from memory almost immediately. But that’s the beauty of an album of short pop songs – mental floss is three minutes away, and there are far more hits than misses.

Many bands ape The Beatles, but these guys cleverly went all the way back to Hamburg (and if “Hamburg Time” doesn’t get your mop top shimmying, there’s something wrong with you). But they don’t stop there – “Wipeout” is embedded in “Cocoa Beach”, “Do It All Over Again” subtly buries the theme from The Munsters in its melody, and “Treat Me Right” sounds like a teenaged Dave Edmunds grave-robbing Scotty Moore-era Elvis. The title track should be the theme song for a revival of Where the Action Is. I don’t think this is the best Muck album, but Fowley has captured a rawer, live sound, accentuated by deeper, raspier vocals from Evan Shore.

So what the hell, this isn’t rocket science. Do you wanna have fun or not? Pop this in and turn it up before that hot chick who wants to dance leaves the party. 

(This review is published in Bucketfull of Brains #73, available now. So what are you waiting for? Go to Bucketfull of Brains and get your copy.)

Visit Muck and the Mires at their  website and on MySpace

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