Everyone had matching towels!

At the ripe old age of [coughs in exaggerated fashion], it’s by now rare to discover something new about yourself. You reckon you know yourself pretty intimately by this point. But this weekend, I do think I may have. I’m currently rediscovering my vinyl collection (not nearly as extensive as I imagined) and recently laid hands on the first B52s record for the first time this century, I should imagine. It is, of course, an absolute blast – a riot of garish strangeness that still grabs you by the collar and breathes drunken exhortations at you across the decades. What a rush.

Naturally, I felt moved to say as much to my chums in the WhatsApp group but was inexplicably met with a wall of almost tangible indifference that left me scratching my head in stage fashion. What’s the matter with hipsters these days?

On the other hand I myself was left similarly unmoved by a similar discussion on the group about the recent release of Jason Molina’s posthumous album. I couldn’t summon much interest from these tired veins at all. Nada. Don’t get me wrong, I do like all the Songs: Ohia stuff, it’s an impressive, scary, rich body of work. And indeed I did a post about it… er… somewhere.

I know the Eight Gates release is going to be a good one – in fact people are saying it’s a great record – but right now I find I can’t gather the energy to get involved with it. Put simply, I can’t be arsed – it’s all a bit too much like hard work. In these sultry, summery days of August, all I want to do is lie on my tummy in the long grass, pick myself a fig from our tree and indulge myself in the gooey, low-hanging fruit of my record collection.

The golden shaft of self-knowledge came to me when I realised that despite the matchless quality of a tough, doughty artist like Molina, given a choice, I’ll mostly plump for the outlandish, the exotic, the stupid even. Give me some Beefheart, a dash of psyche nonsense, a bit of Gorky’s, a lot of Sun Ra – it’s always fun to be befuddled, distracted, transported, no?

So, with that in mind, I’ve granted a joyful afternoon or so loitering around the technicolour universe of Athens, Georgia’s finest (yeah, I know what I’m saying here…)

The B52s

In extravagant contrast to most artists that I turn to YouTube to illustrate, there is an embarrassment of riches when I look for B52s videos. There are actually four “live” versions of “Rock Lobster” to enjoy, all of them with their own goofy charm, all of them starring an often elaborately be-hatted Fred Schneider, and the improbable beehives of Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson. In each of them, the “dancing” of Schneider is a joy to behold, as he capers around the stage, banging the hell out of that cowbell.

I’ve gone for this one though, which although the sound is slightly out of synch, is an absolute killer:

 

I’m very keen on Schneider’s pre-irony handlebar moustache and his impressively skinny physique (we’re also pre-gym culture here…). There’s also a generous helping of performance art going on and a sense of chaotic daftness that it’d be impossible to resist if you were lucky enough to be in that hall.

Quite apart from the larks and frolics of Schneider and the B-Movie girls, there’s also the guitar work of Cindy Wilson’s brother, Ricky. With no bass lines and the only support coming Pierson’s ethereal Martian keyboards, pretty much all of the drive and melody comes from his choppy, surf guitar lines. His style was, if I remember rightly, pretty unusual for the times. We’re talking about a post-punk period (or not even “post” in the US) when most guitarists of the time were still banging away aggressively, or becoming more experimental in their approach, feeling less and less responsibility towards a melody. Wilson, though, was still carrying a tune and at the same time unwilling to overcome his instincts to cut a rug. Watching this clip, you realise the band’s first thoughts were always to break into all sixteen dances.

Here’s another clip, this time the album’s opener, “Planet Claire”, complete with Morse code opening that takes a full two and a half minutes (the whole song doesn’t last 5 minutes), and Schneider doing The Swim, performed on a deserted Plymouth seafront for ITV’s Get Fresh! (There’s another version online where it cuts away to Gaz Top talking doing something with candyfloss – don’t think I didn’t consider it…)

 

I’ll get onto that Jason Molina record in a moment, honest, I just want to watch Fred Schneider jogging around his walkie-talkie one more time…