Saturday, August 16, 2008

Volcano Suns


"The current lineup continues the mixture of surreal lunacy and singalong pop sludge that have already won them a spot in the hearts of many unemployed people on drugs."

-Homestead press release

I was listening to WFMU's Tom Scharpling this week, and I heard a couple of startling things about the Volcano Suns. The first: Merge is rereleasing the first two Volcano Suns records, the Bright Orange Years and the beloved All Night Lotus Party, in January. The second: Tom Scharpling seems to like the Volcano Suns better than Mission of Burma. Sacrilege to most, but when someone gave me a cassette of 1987's "Bumper Crop" in 1991, I took to it like a 21-year-old drunk kid takes to Volcano Suns: quickly and often. It was raucous and sloppy but slightly smart and intensely cynical, ie, the essence of Peter Prescott's contributions to Mission of Burma. Loose rhythm with a lot of screaming before the verses. Kristen Hersh says that they were the first grunge band and should have been famous instead of Nirvana. I'd be curious to see a world where Volcano Suns are legends and people criticize them for an acclaim not entirely deserved. I'd also like to see Peter Prescott write a "Dear Abby"-style advice column.

I'm not saying "Bumper Crop" is the best Volcano Suns record, but sometimes your first foray into a band, or inhalants, or intimacy with your own prostate is, at least, your most memorable, and one you inevitably try to recreate for the rest of your life. As in a lot of records of its kind, the vocals are mixed down deep, occasionally causing some confusion. For instance, in "Local Wise Man" I hear one lyric as "I know that one and one comes to two/ and I can put my foot through a nun." And I know that can't be right. But I think misunderstood lyrics are like a Rorschach test; we hear what we want to hear in those mumbly moments. I mean, maybe it's me and not the character in the song who wants to put his foot through a nun. It's something I should probably look into with my therapist or maybe local law enforcement. In "Peal Out" the vocals start with a scream, then some kind of flubber-lipped, head shaking noise that Shemp or Curly might make. Then a couple of "hep heps" followed by some "whoa-oa-oa" before the proper lyrics kick in.

I booked them to play my college a couple of years after this came out. I was so in love with this record, I wanted to hear nothing else. "We've done two records since then," Bob Weston said. I understood that. But it was my (entertainment committee's) $750, and I wanted to hear "Testify."

"I'm in love with everyone/ We're all god's chillun beneath the great big sun/ But don't you put no flowers in my gun"



Bumper Crop

16 comments:

Ape Mummy said...

Such great posts to date. Keep up the great work.

Glenn Baskin said...

One of my favorite albums Thanks

Doug said...

I am not the biggest Volcano Suns' fan but my brother is a huge fan.Thanks for this.Much appreciated.Looks like an excellent blog!

Anonymous said...

"I can put my bolt through a nut" is the correct interpretation I think, or at least a more clinically sound one. Anyway, "The Bright Orange Years" and "All Night Lotus Party" are coming out on Jan 27 2009...for tracklistings see the following newslink: http://www.cmj.com/articles/display_article.php?id=80547733

peace

Anonymous said...

I put my much-played vinyl copy of Bumper Crop into MP3 format and played "Curse of the Name" through headphones while sifting through sweaters in a thrift store today. My knees nearly buckled and my heart definitely fluttered when THE guitar lick kicked in during the tempo change. Now I might know how early fans of The Beatles must have felt. As much as I have enjoyed the CD reissues of The Bright Orange Years and All-Night Lotus Party, and the tempting alternative takes of some Bumper Crop songs on those CDs, my dreams carry me to a land where Bumper Crop, too, has been reissued, and Peter Prescott, Chuck Hahn and Bob Weston are recognized by many more for having created a beautiful, sloppy, funny and immense sounding disc. For years I have enjoyed being just about the only one I know with a fetish for the Volcano Suns, but seeing your original post makes me glad that I am not the only one. Career in Rock ain't bad, either.

Lots in Costa Rica said...

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fashion collection said...

Probably the 'best' Suns album, and this song rules.

tube said...

first heard it in'88 and it's still the best lp ever.by anyone.ever.

dissertation writing services said...

I think alternative rock has been used as a catch-all phrase for rock music from underground artists and all music descended from punk rock

Dave Bellard said...

I bought this in 88 because it was on Homestead and as soon as I heard the title track, I was hooked.

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not prefer alt genres of rock and metal. but these ones are probable great!! I mean it, so cool band

Phil Oats said...

this alb keeps coming back as one of my all time faves. so nice to read there are others who think so. thanks for the blog. i wrote a blog about this alb too! and i lifted a comment or two, hope you don't mind. you can read about it here:

Bumper Crop by Volcano Suns or how Peter Prescott burned into my soul’s ear forever

http://philoats.ca/

Nick said...

Love this album so much; at age 49 it sounds as good as it did back in the late 80's.
Thank you for sharing it, very much appreciated.

Amy! said...

Mission of Burma played a show in my town several years back during their reunion run. My husband's band played with them, and we had the pleasure of hanging out with the Burma fellows afterward. Super nice guys, one and all. I was most excited to be able to meet Peter Prescott and to thank him for "Bumper Crop." I told him that it was my all-nighter music during college, and really, my favorite Volcano Suns album. He laughed and said, "Well, I guess that makes two of us!" PEEL OUT!

Anonymous said...

The Williams/Weigand version of Volcano Suns wrote and played almost all the songs on Bumper Crop. It's a shame they didn't record a third record. The demo versions on the Merge reissues of Curse Of The Name and Magic Sky absolutely destroy the Bumper Crop versions, and I remember them doing great live versions of many others--Testify in particular was always a highlight. All the later lineups of the band did was try to emulate what they had originated-and never came close. Jeff and Jon deserve a lot more credit than they get.

Brad said...

I love this album too. My brother brought it back from college in Iowa in '89 or so. I was 14 or something. It got me at a good time and is deep in my heart. I never took the lyrics to be cynical. I feel it's the opposite, really - a lot of it feels like that surge of revelation you get on mushrooms when you suddenly excitedly realize everything is perfect and fine and great. It's super deeply joyous (to me at least). I dig it.