AMERICAN RUDENESS - White Flame (Munster through Fuse)
Damned if this posthumous re-issue from an American band you've never heard of doesn't recall Lou Reed, circa "Street Hassle" crossed with the Pink Fairies. There's the same streetwise attitude that Lou had, some white hot, stinging guitarwork and even a generous streak of lyrical irony. As for the Fairies connection - well, this, like those guys, is out there, although with a great deal more focus.
Recorded over four months in 1978 in New Haven, Connecticut, by the core of guitarist Mark St John and vocalist Richard "Rick Ricciuti" James (who's cover shot scarily makes him look like Ron Jeremy's receding cousin - bet he wishes he pulled as many chicks) and a bunch of very able friends, it's firmly rooted in the '70s - in a good way.
This is a strange ride, at times treading that thin line between madness and genius. "American Rudness" traces a course through speedy funk guitar rock ("Cash 'N' Sin"), dodgy reggae ("Vacation in Handcuffs"), greasy rock ("Hard Women"), voodoo rock ("Makumba Love") and an urban cowpoke stroll ("The Last Cowboy".) Mostly though it's down and dirty proto-punk with no respect for stylistic boundaries.
"Ailing Dogs" uses a double-tracked vocal in the same manner as Lou's "Dirt" and the guitar on "Lewd Dude" - or the caustic title track, for that matter - would give pre-"Street Hassle" Reed sideman Dick Wagner a run for his money. It's not the sturm und drang of "Rock and Roll Animal", it's a little more understated, but there's a similar intent. Don't be put off by the big funky bassline that runs through "Obedience Love" either - the guitar's pretty good.
There's lots of fodder throughout for lyrics fans too with wry (and sometimes blunt) observations on society, sexual politics and the human condition. "Vacation in Handcuffs" isn't "Venus in Furs" but it spends time at the same bookshops.
No idea what sort of business the original album did or even if it saw the light of day in any numbers. I'd guess that White Flame's book-ending of the record with twisted takes on "The Star Sprangled Banner" wouldn't have made them many friends among conservative American radio programmers. Living an hour outside the core of the Big Apple couldn't have helped either.
Kudos to Munster for having the good sense in re-issuing it and for Fuse Music for making it available in Australia. For once the blurb about a lost, great album rings true. – The Barman
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