Pebbles – Vol. 3 – The Acid Gallery – Review


Vol. 3: The Acid Gallery (Archive International Productions)
by Nik Rainey

Join me on a journey into the recesses of the shag-lined fountains where the sounds of purple silence fall through the corduroy sky and burst into a billion refractive paisley fragments that whistle the Opus Dei while the sound of angry zircons fill the green-eyed mist… oh, sorry, just lost myself for a moment. Listen, you can take your three-CD Bay City Rollers retrospectives and your Knack tribute albums (“Good Girls Don’t” as assayed by Anal Cunt – radical) and stick `em where the black hole sun don’t shine – for some of us, the only retroactivity that still resonates is that which came out of the enchanted garages of the Great Society. The sixties may be the most overrated decade in American history and most of its innovations may have backed up on us like the commode in a Haight-Ashbury crash pad, but some of the byproducts of that era’s apex (’65-’68 or so) are still exhilarating in ways that can never be replicated. It was the moment when rock ‘n’ roll, like most of its audience, had reached that wonderful point in its adolescence where it was starting to grapple with Big Ideas but didn’t yet know to be smug about it. Drugs and drug music had hit Middle America, and the kids were still too busy digging the nascent flash of freshly-altered brain chemistry to be hunkered down, intensely discussing what it all means, man, and concocting three-hour songs based on Herman Hesse novels. I envy my folks’ generation pixilated naïvete, but at least we can still grok their music. And good god, was there a lot of it. Not only did it seem like everybody had a band, but there were enough labels around (record executives big and small having just started to feel their own opportunistic oats) that a staggering amount of their output actually got waxed and released. Of course, most of it is as hard to find as a philosophy major at a Pantera concert, but thanks to the generosity of some of our finest vinyl-obscurity enthusiasts, there are literally hundreds of comps out there arranging the brightest buds for the consumption of frugal freeks the world over. (For a solid consumer overview of some of the best, I direct you to my hero Byron Coley’s entry under “Nuggets” in the Spin Alternative Record Guide.) Okay, enough preamble, let’s sample the goods:

The Acid Gallery is but one of the more than thirty volumes in the Pebbles series, kicked off in 1979 to collect the best proto-punk. The tone is set perfectly by Higher Elevation‘s “The Diamond Mine,” kicking off with a wolf-howl and the purple poetics of DJ Dave Diamond (“…we will witness the flight of the precious peanut butter fudge angel of love as she spreads her wings and flies high through the thunderous silence of your vacuum-kept secret…” – and that’s just the first line), and from there travels through 21 more examples of the kind of inspired nonsense that only overprivileged kids with Vox organs, wah-wah pedals, and a complete collection of Seeds records can spit out. There’re novelty numbers (Jefferson Handkerchief‘s “I’m Allergic to Flowers,” the Monocles‘ “Spider & the Fly”), great snotty stoned boasting (Third Bardo‘s “Five Years Ahead of My Time”), Dylan-damaged babble (Driving Stupid‘s “Reality of Air-Fried Borsk,” Race Marbles‘ “Like a Dribbling Fram”), and the truly indescribable (Adjeef the Poet, His Girl(s) His Friend(s) and the Rest of the World(s)‘ “Squafrech Lemon Comes Back”). Great flippism, great liner notes, great googly-moogly!

If anything, Beyond the Calico Wall (Calico Wall, incidentally, is one of the bands featured on The Acid Gallery) is even further out. Erik Lindgren (Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Space Negroes) produced, and the man’s got a good ear for the demented. Check out Afterglow‘s “Susie’s Gone,” with its incessantly repeated raga-twang guitar, tranced-out organ, and deadpan echo vox, or The Pulse‘s “Burritt Bradley,” where, over the dominant sound of a heartbeat (I was wondering when that was gonna come in), the slowed-down voice of a dead man solemnly explains how he enlisted this band to spread the absolute truth he carried to the grave with him (shoulda chosen the Doors or somebody, Burr). Even cooler, some of the bands snag sounds that later artists would make legendary (the tremelo-fuzz riff in Spontaneous Generation‘s “Up In My Mind” is pure Spacemen 3, which isn’t much of a stretch, but Cosmic Rock Show‘s “Psiship” actually anticipates Suicide!). Alva Snelling‘s “Clock on the Wall” is a hilariously earnest paranoid-protest rail against timepieces (his presumed sequels, “My Lamp’s Trying To Kill Me” and “Vietnam Is Your Electric Blanket’s Fault,” are regrettably lost to the ages). Quality is a little bit of a variable here – the inclusion of Demons of Negativity, a late-’80s psych update, is unnecessary, despite Lindgren’s nifty organ trills and appropriate sonics, as is Six Feet Under‘s too-faithful “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (some good guitar rapine near the end, but that’s about all). But then, it also contains some of the most crazed tweakage you’ll ever hear. The guy who engineered Rasputin and the Mad Monks‘ cover of the Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” got so carried away with primitive studio trickery that the band all but fades away under the heavy stacks of echo, sound effects, and backwards nursery rhymes, accurately (if unwittingly) pinning the sounds of acid psychosis to tape, something even the Airplane’s After Bathing At Baxter’s couldn’t do. And then there’s the aptly-titled “An Experimental Terror” by The Greek Fountains, a musique-concrete neanderthalamusical monster that even long made-up words can’t do justice to.

Even after so many words, I’ve merely scratched the surface of the riches that both discs provide. The only way to really experience them is, of course, to buy them, go home, ingest the psychoactives of your choice, and sink into a drooling technicolor stereo stupor. Which is what I intend to do once I’m done writing this. Oops, maybe I’ve incriminated myself, you know, mandatory minimums and all that. That’s okay, I know what to do.