"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"