Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tarnished Gem

Nothing like it. The hidden gem, the found object, the gewgaw in the back of a bedroom dresser draw. Often tarnished, sometimes obscured, possibly encrusted in dust, but mysteriously enchanting and magically beckoning. Culture vultures live and feed off this stuff--the seemingly endless trove of lost classics, overlooked wonders, ignored geniuses. At the same time it downright pisses us off, despite the frequency of the occurrence that we, the self-proclaimed diviners of all things cool, hip, underground, and ramalamadingdong, that we somehow missed the boat.
Well its happened again. From, of all places, Florida, in the early to late-80’s, a rocker named Charlie Pickett, alongside a few different versions of the traditional line-up (2 guitars, bass, and drums), cranked and spit out an affecting patch of Stonish, cow-punk, and neo-punk sounds, all of them delivered with the proper ferocity and extremely well-written. Along the way Charlie and his boys managed to get produced by REM’s Peter Buck, signed by Twin/Tone, and underwent at least one lengthy tour-in-a-van to America’s then punk palaces.
A wide array of Pickett’s indie singles, LP and EP cuts, and a few live tracks have resurfaced on a collection entitled Bar Band Americanus (Bloodshot), a must-have for anybody still intrigued by the punk movement and it’s many offshoots and tie-ins. Pickett and his boys definitely fostered a punk attitude, and many of the songs are dripping with smart ass drug references and overt paeans to drug use, but Pickett’s overall soundscape (when delving into Rank and File territory) translates as a less ferocious (and less caricatured) Heartbreakers, with a huge debt to the one and only Flaming Groovies. (Pickett actually takes the ultimate challenge--covering the seminal, one-of-a kind, tower-of-song “Shake Some Action”, and almost, almost, pulls it off.) The sharp writing (“Get Off on Your Porch”, “All Love All Gone”, “Penny Instead”, “Heads Up-Heels Down”, “American Travelust”, "Overtown") whether it be focused on the typical topics of drug sickness or bad love, or more expansive themes like America’s landscape past and present, are vividly resounding despite the variance in recording quality.
According to the liner notes Charlie’s gone from junky to guitar slinger to practicing lawyer still up for the occasional gig. (Sounds like the premise for a HBO series.) Hello and Goodbye Charlie, and I just can’t believe I missed out the first time around.

No comments: