- The Deviants (Track)
The Deviants are less a band than a musical institution. Brother Ken Shimamoto first wised me to them a few years ago and they receive extended periods of airplay around the Bar. Centred on ringleader Mick Farren, the British-born author, ex-NME journalist and rabble rouser, now living in L.A., their extensive body of work stretches back to 1967. At times it's infuriatingly patchy, but rarely boring.
Today's Deviants are essentially Farren and guitarist Andy Colquhoun, joined for this, and their last live-in-Japan album, by the Rolls Royce engine room of Doug Lunn (bass) and Ric Parnell (drums). The latter's a member of Spinal Tap, I shit you not, and collectively the pair was the backline for Brother Wayne Kramer.
Farren has always attracted noteworthy collaborators, ranging from Bro. Wayne himself to supecharged axemen Sid Bishop, Larry Wallis and Paul Rudolph, as well Chrissie Hynde. Farren's "Deathray Tapes" partner-in-crime, saxophonist Jack Lancaster, adds to the ranks on "Dr Crow", adding another (jazzy) sonic dimension.
Farren has written a number of books, not the least of which is his autobiography "Give the Anarchist a Cigarette". It's a rollicking good, off-the-wall read, and a bit like this album. Dont get the wrong idea - it rocks plenty - but there's also a strong bluesy feel and elements of jazz and a Brit-folk direction too. "The Murdering Officer" in all its maudlin, ragged swagger, sounds for the world like a sea shanty sung around the Portsmouth pubs in the 18th century. "You're Going to Need Somebody On Your Bond" - where Concrete Blond's Johnette Napolitano vamps it up on a duet with Farren - is a traditional blues song with fresh lyrics. Farren doesn't sing so much as announce, and is at his best when he doesn't try and hold a note.
Farren's wheezy pipes might be a detraction for some but that's a pity 'cos
they'd be missing out. The man's never claimed to be a vocalist, anyway. His
lyrics are dark and sardonic - Farren posseses a rapier wit and bleak vision
- and will hold your attention if you're a word person. If you're not, Colquhoun's
biting, overdriven lyrical guitarwork will. It's at its nadir on "A Taste of
Blues", a wonderfully tangled web of fretwork overlaid through a simple tune,
or the sprialling interludes of "Song of the Hired Guns".
Ramshackle narratives like "What Do You Want" and "Diablo's Cadillac" - the latter a commentary on the aftermath of the El Diablo cocktail, the bartender's spciality at Canters in L.A. - are choice, while the opening blast of "When Dr Crow Turns on the Radio" is downright commercial. Now there's a scary thought: The Deviants on the radio. - The Barman
Mick Farren's a lit Brit who was present at the creation of both hippie and punk in the U.K. He's been a rock scribe and social commentator for the International Times, OZ, and NME. Busted twice under Britain's (no fooling) Obscene Publications Act, he fought the law and won.
After his anarchic 1960s speedfreak band the Deviants collapsed in 1970, he reinvented himself as an apocalyptic visionary, writer of pulp sci-fi, Elvis obsessive, and paranoid conspiracy theorist. In recent years, he's authored a successful series of vampire novels called the "Renquist Quartet", the final volume of which, "Underland", was just published by Tor. More to the point, he's revived the Deviants and made a new record.
The Deviants exist somewhere in the territory between jazzy spoken word and the dregs of psychedelia, between Jack Lancaster's saxophone and Andy Colquhoun's stinging acid-blues guitar. At their brooding best, the Deviants project an air of real menace. The rhythm section of bassist Doug Lunn and drummer Ric Parnell (who played one of the doomed percussionists in This Is Spinal Tap) keeps things percolating, but the centerpiece of the sound is Farren's acerbic lyrics. And he doesn't sing so much as he declaims, in the voice of an evil Jeremy Irons. Farren duets with Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napolitano on a blasted-sounding cover of Blind Willie Johnson's "You're Going to Need Somebody On Your Bond." "The Murdering Officer" sets Farren's bleak urban vision to a warped sea chantey, while "Taste the Blue" makes the blues sound sinister. And "A Long Dry Season" recaptures some of the vibe of Farren's best record, 1995's The Deathray Tapes.
The shtick should sound familiar to Tom Waits fans, but Farren's been at it
since 1968. - Ken Shimamoto
Ken Shimamoto writes for the Fort Worth Weekly.
YOUR KNEES, EARTHLINGS!!! - Mick Farren & the Deviants (Total
Here's a second volume of Farren/Deviants hits and misses, compiled from 34 years' worth of releases to coincide with the publication of Mick's memoirs, "Give the Anarchist a Cigarette" (reviewed elsewhere on the Bar). If you don't have the scratch or the availability to spring for the whole catalog (which has, for the most part, been re-released by the Japanese Captain Trip label), you could do worse than to pick up this shiny silver disc and its predecessor, "This CD Is Condemned."
The early Deviants were a hippie band, alright, but one with an incredibly bad attitude, heavily influenced by Dylan, the Fugs, the Velvet Underground (an early tape of whom they heard prior to the release of the debut album) and early Frank Zappa (whose studio weirdness they emulated on their own debut, "PTOOFF!"). In their first recording incarnation, they were blessed with a guitarist (Sid Bishop) who, in spite (or is it because?) of his relatively conventional lifestyle/politics, produced a racket closer to the early Ron Asheton's than anyone else on that side of the pond, heard to best advantage here on "You Got to Hold On" and "I'm Coming Home."
When Bishop was replaced (before their third album) by Canadian Paul Rudolph, an axeman in the more conventional Hendrix/Page/Iommi mode, the stage was set for Farren's ejection from his own band - largely through the machinations of manager and Rudolph's fellow-Canuck Jamie Mandelkau, who, Farren's memoirs reveal, also stole the author/evil dictator's wife around the same time, making the inclusion here of the Floydian song that bears his name from the second album, "Disposable," an act of hippie magnanimity that almost defies comprehension.|
From the much-maligned (mainly by Farren) 1970 debut solo album, "Mona, The Carniverous Circus" comes "Observe the Ravens," a slice of wah-laden psychedelic funk that wouldn't have sounded out of place on an early Funkadelic album. Even better are the late-'70s post-punk single tracks "All in the Picture" and "Lost Johnny," with backing by various members of the Pink Fairies, Hawkwind, and Tanz Der Youth, and the storming cover of Zappa's "Trouble Every Day" from 1978's "Vampires Stole My Lunch Money," with guitar damage courtesy of Dr. Feelgood's Wilko Johnson and Pink Fairy/Stiff Records house American Larry Wallis.
Myself, I'm of the opinion that Farren's '90s work (usually in cahoots with guitarist Andy Colquhoun) is his best, and it's well represented here by a coupla previously-unreleased studio covers, Dylan's "It's Alright Ma" and Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean." Dig the wordplay on such latter-day artifacts as "Arts of Darkness" or "When the World Was Young" (the latter of which provided the title for Farren's memoirs, and features bracing solo work from Jack Lancaster and Brother Wayne Kramer) - you'll find none finer in rock'n'roll today. Dig also the evolution of Farren's vocalismo, from the malevolent insect of the spooky "Last Man" (from "Disposable") to the evil Jeremy Irons (my daughter's phrase) of the '90s (and later) tracks.
Farren's still one of the great ones, in my book, even though some of his apocalyptic visions have been outdone by horror and mortal terror reality has provided us with in recent days. "On Your Knees, Earthlings!!!" makes a very functional soundtrack for the interesting days in which we live.
- Ken Shimamoto
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