Swan Fungus recently reissued this bizarre “outsider” record by a young man named Todd that was made somewhere around 1980. I found out about this records existence a few years ago from the Cosmic Hearse blog that the drummer of the 90’s punk rock band Hickey used to run. That blog was really an endless source of killer shit back before the great Mediafire crash/bust killed what was going on with music downloading a few years back. After reading up through the Acid Archives and realizing this weird record had a small cult following I figured it was just a matter of time before it would get a re-release. As you can see in the photo above, the reissue’s art looks great and they thankfully kept it the same as the original only with a much higher quality sleeve.
The classic myth that has never been truly confirmed or denied is that Todd Warthen was a teenage outcast and he recorded this with record to sell at his High School Prom with a few other teenagers. He was a laughing stock until the captain of the football team bought a copy and the entire school followed suit until he was out of records. We will probably never know if this John Hughes wet dream of a story is true or false and I am totally fine with that.
I spend a lot of time at thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets looking for weird regionally released records that may have a story like this to tell. To me this record will always be a favorite because it showed me that these kind of records can go beyond their basic novelty value. At first listen it plays like a novelty to get stoned with some buddies and laugh at. After a couple of listens the reality starts to set in of how unique and great it really is. I have listened to it dozens of times over the years and there is something about Todd’s endless optimism in these songs that is hard to deny. You can tell Todd really went through some heavy shit in his life, and judging by the photo on the back of the record it isn’t hard to see why. Even for a teenager in 1980 he has a pretty out there look going. He almost looks albino. For him to come out on the other end of the cruelty of youth with something as positive as this is pretty great.
I have tried to find Todd on Facebook (obviously I’m not the first person to attempt this) and the closest thing I have found is a man named Todd Warthen with no photos of himself but lots of photos of family and children. The background image is a 911 memorial photo. A big part of me tells me this has to be the same Todd that wrote these songs, seeking to share the optimism and innocence of youth of his nephews and nieces just like he shared those same feeling through this LP.
My advice is you either buy this online right now or get any record store near you that commonly stocks Light in the Attic releases to order some copies, because my gut tells me that once this one is gone it isn’t coming back again.
So now that I am living further away from most friends and have some extra time on my hands, I have decided to start writing reviews of some of the records I find around town.
In the past people have tried to have me more regularly do writings about new records for zines, weeklies, etc. I found it really hard to do. It is really not a very enjoyable experience to write about something you don’t have many feelings for.
It seems to me that almost all music journalism is essentially just comparing one band to various other bands to maybe appeal and convince you to pay for something. I will inevitably end up doing it regularly I am sure, but I definitely hope that I can go a bit deeper than most reviews would newspaper. These are personal views and opinions and I have no qualms about stating them as that, so do not expect a lot of objectivity in these writings.
Sky Juice - Hard To Kill
If I am not mistaken, the Sky Juice - Hard To Kill LP is essentially a solo LP made by Zac Davis of the more known free guitar/drum noise band Lambsbread. I found this at Used Kids Records for 6 dollars last week and grabbed it. There was a period of a few years when a lot of strange noise and experimental (whatever that means) records were coming out of my home town of Columbus, Ohio. I was 21 when this record came out and was going to a lot of shows at the time. Obviously the nature of going to something labeled as an experimental show is bound to be extremely hit or miss. It was one of the first times that I went to Skylab (a downtown D.I.Y. art space) for a show that Lambsbread played and changed the basic fundamentals of how I would approach playing and hearing guitar from that point on.
When I got to Skylab there were some characters sitting around an old faded rear projection big screen TV watching Lethal Weapon 4 on a VHS tape. A slightly older balding man with Krusty the Klown hair, a laid back (stoned) very pretty woman, and a guy closer to my age that looked generally normal other than how high he was. This was Zac who would later go on to make the Sky Juice LP a couple years after this.
I was early and decided to sit down and join them. They were very sharing with their dope and we hit it off right away. They asked about my shitty punk band (Biff Boff Barf) and asked me if we wanted to play a show with them soon. I guess the combination of the band name, that I was young and that I described it as being mostly influenced by The Meatmen and GG Allin was enough to convince them it was worth checking out. They had a really abstract sense of humor and thirst for knowledge about music which are both things that tend to help me connect with people.
When it was time for them to play, the space was nearly full. The first thing I noticed is that they were playing through amps that had words THE GODZ stenciled on the backs of them. Even though I was still a teenager at this point, I grew up around bikers and was familiar with my moms stories about The Godz being a 70’s biker rock band with songs about Quaaludes. The lyric was “tripping out the door on 714’s” and to this day she thinks it is one of the funniest/greatest things. I was instantly impressed that they would even know who that band was, let alone that they may have bought this gear knowing it was at one point played by that band. They played a crushing set that was unlike anything I had ever seen. They played so loud and overdriven that it created a texture of sound I had never seen embraced so wildly before. It was also clear that not only was this set completely free but that these guys must truly put in the time to be as in tune with each other as they were. They will always be one of my favorite live bands I ever had the chance to see. I would love to delve more into what a great band Lambsbread was and I probably will someday, but for the time lets get back to the LP at hand.
What we have here come across as something that sounds like it was recorded alone with a 4 track, almost entirely instrumental guitar (both electric and acoustic) and some fairly minimal drums here and there. A few tracks have Zac singing on them and it works well. The entire album flows very mellow and meditative. There are some really great stoned out guitar ragas here that make this an easy record to want to put on any time of the day. It sort of builds up to a textured guitar noise wall on the end of the first side, but then the second side starts to cruise right into the most mellow (maybe the best) gems on this album.
Looking back on all of that time and the adventures I had going up to the Lambsbread crew’s farm in rural Delaware to catch bands like Wolf Eyes and Emeralds, it was the kind of thing you don’t really appreciate the impact of until later. It did a lot to open my mind and shape who I am today. Those people were all always so welcoming and cool to me even though I was just some kid in a shitty punk band. In fact, my band would go on to be very influenced by this scene and morph into a kind of fucked up hardcore noise rock band that worked great playing those same shows. It just goes to show that having an open mind to your surroundings and never getting too caught up in genre labeling can go. I will never forget the time Kathy put on the Raven - Back To Ohio Blues LP (this was years before it was even reissued) right after guessing my astrological sign correctly and telling me that I would love the record. She was right, that has become one of my all time favorite albums and I still listen to it regularly all these years later.
This Sky Juice LP stands out from most of the recordings of this time period as it is damn near on the edge of “loner folk” or something along those lines. I don’t want to say it is depressive, but it does ooze drug use for sure. To me these are all great traits. If you are in the Midwest you should keep an eye out for it laying around at any random record store. There just aren’t that many people around here that appreciate this shit these days.
Here is an outrageously brutal and obscure recording from 1985. It is by an American band called Hellhouse. I have heard that this is a one man project but honestly the information about this demo is so sparse I doubt anyone can say for sure. It was found on cassette and eventually released in a short run as a single sided 7 inch. Beyond category and relentless, this is one of the most interesting metal tapes I have ever heard.