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Various Artists – Brown Acid: The First Trip

Riding Easy

Brown Acid - The First TripIf this album were attending high school, right now it would be on its way to the principal’s office, about to be expelled for having been caught selling cheap speed to the younger kids at the school gates.

So, from where did it cop its supply? Why, from one Lance Barresi, proprietor of American emporium Permanent Records who, together with Daniel Hall of Riding Easy Records, has undertaken a heroic trawl through the vaults in order to bring the discerning music-buying public this tasty selection of greasy, long-haired cuts with a bad attitude:

So, what have you got to say for yourself?
Fuck you, Principal Brown.

The premise is so simple it could almost form the basis of a question in a logical reasoning test:

Question 14 – Complete the next in the sequence:

Garage Punk – Nuggets
Proto-Punk – Punk 45
Heavy Rock – ….. ….

There’s no room for subtlety or niceties here, but then again, nor should there be. Many years ago, in far off university days, I had two friends, we’ll call them Robin and Colini. Now their musical tastes really were poles apart, the former a lover of the weird, the outré, the improvised and the avant-garde, the latter a devotee of the Temple of Rock in all its glorious and excessive efflorescence. I stood, Janus-like, in the middle, looking both ways. But there was nothing that all three of us agreed on. Nothing. Well, almost nothing.

When Spine of God made its victorious entry into the world’s consciousness in 1991, like Pompey arriving home in imperial triumph, suddenly there was concord. Everyone loved Monster Magnet. Who could not? Filthy monolithic guitar riffs, thinly veiled hostility at the straight world, vocal delivery like that of a hopped-up kid about to rip off your car – who could not like this stuff? All three of us could finally stack a bong and know instantly what to put on. Peace reigned in the valley.

Barresi’s masterful compilation goes right back to source, digging out eleven gut-busting examples of stoner rock avant la lettre. As he rightly explains:

All of (these songs) could’ve been huge given the right circumstances. But for one reason or another most of these songs fell flat and were forgotten. However, time has been kind in my opinion and I think these songs are as good now or better than they ever were.

Admirably refusing to bootleg the tracks, Barresi has instead painstakingly tracked down the original participants and encouraging them to license the material officially, thus ensuring that the project, as well as being musically satisfying, is also ethically-sourced. Top man.

And, from Raw Meat’s delightful gurgling grunge-fest “Stand by Girl” to Zebra’s “Wasted”ii, this is primo quality riffing. The spirit of Blue Cheer – that is the one, true Blue Cheer, the one founded on the rock of Leigh Stephens’ six-stringed ministry, not the later reformist, schismatic Randyite heresy – is infused across every moment. Thudding drums, heavy riffs (bucketsful of wah an optional extra at no charge), lyrics about “going down fast”, this is the joyful sound of early ‘70s America, just as the mystic vision quest of 1967 is breathing its last, transforming on its death bed into the bad come down of Watergate, the fag-end of Vietnam and the ’73 oil shock. It is surely only a matter of time before Brown Acid forms the soundtrack to a Tarantino movie featuring Dodge Chargers, brown leather jackets and girls in stack-heeled boots and hotpants.

So, before Quentin beats you to it, here’s a tip. Buy a copy of Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland – his chilling, masterful overview of the turbulent years of ’60s and ’70s America from Barry Goldwater’s rise to Tricky Dick’s downfall – open the pages, have a large chillum and stick on Brown Acid, in mono, on a wood-effect-finish music centre. Now that’s the kind of history lesson we can all relate to…

-David Solomons-

i The names have been changed to protect the guilty.
ii Zebra! Punch? Tour! Christ, they were really never destined to succeed with ill thought-through monikers like that.

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