Todd Tamanend Clark: Nova Psychedelia (1975-1985)

Todd Tamanend Clark
Nova Psychedelia (1975-1985)
Anopheles Records

Over the course of this two-disc set, keyboardist, poet, and Native American activist Todd Tamanend Clark celebrates, reinterprets, and reanimates his influences: William S. Burroughs (the author makes an appearance on "Into the Vision"), Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Stooges, the United States of America (both the band and the country), the Doors, Walt Whitman, the near-lysergic intergalactic story lines of '70s Marvel Comics, and just about any horror-movie mad scientist monologue rendered before the switch is thrown. Today, that's not all that novel. Most rock bands aren't afraid of flaunting either their college degrees or their large collection of Simpsons figurines. But that's mostly thanks to a post-'60s underground rocker nation that treated high art with whimsy and pop art with seriousness, and practically willed the first wave of American punk into being.

Clark has made his entire back catalog available to Anopheles Records, and it's like looking into an established artist's sketchbook with all the pleasure and frustration that connotes, especially on disc one. Tantalizing images lie in fragments; small ideas are pushed as far as their little legs can carry them. Your patience will be rewarded by a slowed-down cover of "2,000 Light Years from Home" with unsettling, high-pitched backing vocals, the bombastic yet melodic instrumental "March of the Legion" (written to accompany Clark and his friends at a comics convention; Clark was Brainiac 5), and 1979's "We're Not Safe!," an urgent anti-culture-conglomerate diatribe set to a grinding punk riff as easily at home in 2005 as 1965.

Disc two's visions of impending cosmic and personal apocalypse are set mostly to vocodered vocals and hooky, tight synth-driven rock with inventive, skittering solos by Chuck Moses and the Dead Boys' Cheetah Chrome nestled among the keyboards. Perhaps the most resonant piece is the trans-genre, multiphasic epic, "The Grim Rider." As sprawling and idiosyncratic as the aforementioned "We're Not Safe" is economical and universal, "Rider" meanders epically through incantationlike recitations, keening theremin, tough, soulful garage rock, and keyboard rumbles seemingly thrown down from the clouds. It aims for the stars, and damn near hits them.

 
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