Sunday, June 12, 2011

Jam of the day: Ultimate Spinach / "Ballad Of The Hip Death Goddess"

Psychedelia epitomized, that is the name of the game for Ultimate Spinach. This Boston band put out three LPs in the late 1960s, full of awesome psychedelic rock gems. You might hear a few strains of their songs and write them off as too "typical" or something; they really do make in-your-face druggy jams, which isn't exactly inventive, but these jams are such perfect examples of this style, and who are we to not give them credit and laudation for epitomizing an epic style of rock music? Ultimate Spinach songs are generally languid yet mind-expanding instrumental adventures, with some female/male vocals peppered in, and they are endlessly listenable. They make you want to turn on the lava lamp, slouch into the couch, and drop out, and this is strongly encouraged, but not necessary. They have some poppier psych-rockers, like "Funny Freak Parade" and "Dove In Hawk's Clothing", but Ultimate Spinach should be recognized for their powerfully evocative jams. This song, "Ballad Of The Hip Death Goddess", is the example I've chosen, but don't let that stop you from exploring their catalog.

The reason I bring this song up now is because of a couple of random occurrences related to this song from a couple weeks ago. I just had to share. First off, though, I should say that I found this band also randomly, on the internet (via eMusic, I believe) and really dug the two albums of theirs I heard, Ultimate Spinach and Behold & See. I listened to those mp3s quite frequently for a while, and when I saw a used vinyl copy of Behold & See at Red Onion Records in D.C. over New Year's this year, I had to buy it. I spun it a number of times right after buying it, but kinda forgot about it until recently. Comedian Andy Kindler tweeted some random hashtag stuff about #BadCoffeeShopNames, which morphed somehow into #badbandnames and #comedianbands and #confusingbandnames and #badcomedyclubnames and so on. Silly stuff, but that's the Twitter-verse for ya! Anyhow, Andy sent out this tweet that mentioned Ultimate Spinach as a #badbandname and I "politely disagreed while not really disagreeing but merely qualifiying the claim" by saying this back to him, and he deemed it worthy of a retweet. Huzzah! And it was about this jam I'm featuring now, in particular. Double huzzah huzzah! Thus far in my short Twitter life, I've been retweeted by Todd Barry and Andy Kindler, both funny comedians and Home Movies voice actors! Now I just gotta track down Brendon Small, Ron Lynch, Jon Benjamin, Laura Silverman, Mitch Hedberg, . . . uh oh.

Anyway, the other coincidence with this song involves a compilation album I just bought (on eMusic, even, whaddyaknow?) last week. I had been looking through the Dungen catalog (trying to research/listen to write a New Classic on Ta Det Lugnt) and saw they had an instrumental version of "Satt Att Se" on a compilaton album, called A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind. I saw this album had a gigantic amount of music for a cheap price, and was intrigued by ... well, the title. I downloaded the whole thing and listened through most of it in one inspired and lethargic sitting. It was great for that mood. And somewhere in the middle, I heard Ultimate Spinach come on! How could I mistake those opening chiming bells, so melancholy yet enticing, for anything else? In a way, the tune is kinda formulaic—repetitive bass groove, reverby vochals, ethereal lyrical themes, tinges of feedback on the lengthy guitar solo—but this song is so much more than the sum of its constituent parts. It's about a mood, a sense of existence, and powerful emotions. It's evocative, it's scary, it's groovy, it's psychedlic, baby. Check it out.

See the glazed eyes
Touch the dead skin
Feel the cold lips
And know the warmth of the hip death goddess

On an only slightly related note, the guy who put the compilation together (and whose band, the Amorphous Androgynous, also has a couple songs on the compilation, strangely enough) seems to be really ... interesting. While reading about the band I stumbled on this video of his featuring a crazy religious lady at Speakers' Corner in London. If you've never been there, and you're in London, you have to see it. Somehow, the northeast corner of Hyde Park has been designated as the spot where anyone can just show up and start shouting at the world. It's weirdly fascinating.

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