GLUELEG – Heroic Doses (1994 Page Publications)
Any band that can handle an instrument as beastly as the Chapman Stick is worth listening to at least once. Glueleg, from Toronto Ontario, were once such band. They boasted not only the Stick but also a horn section with sax and trumpet. If that wasn’t enough to garner them some local praise, a few people turned their heads when they hooked up with former Cult bassist Jamie Stewart to produce their first CD, Heroic Doses. Prior Glueleg releases were cassettes…CD was the big time.
The title track was the first single/video, and entered rotation on MuchMusic and several rave reviews. Guitar player Ruben Huizenga sings this immediately infectious track. The hypnotic vocals, the punchy horns, the Stick, that low-as-fuck rib-busting riff…this track is perfect in every way. “Heroic Doses” nails it completely and there is no wonder that it garnered some serious attention. The end result of this was a record deal with EMI, but nobody can accuse Glueleg of being commercial on “Heroic Doses” even so.
“Pollo” (“Chicken”) is rapped and sung by Stick player Carlos Alonzo. He has an interesting voice, able to do a rap in a Beastie-like style but with his own spin. He can also sing quite well. He also sings “Mister Pink”, another manic groove. The horns deliver consistent punctuation, and that Stick just thumps. “Lilies” has a droney riff/groove combo that stoner rock bands today love to utilize. “Spiderman” is an original, an instrumental, but it certainly recalls the classic cartoon theme. Glueleg songs don’t tend to adhere to convention song structures. They have more in common with Mr. Bungle than the Chili Peppers, but much more accessible. Their songs have the complexity and chops of Bungle, but are direct. There are also grunge elements, a-la Alice in Chains.
The sonics of this album are really quite good even today. The Stick has a snap to it, and the horns have depth. Jamie Stewart (billed as James Stewart III) was doing a lot of production work in Toronto, all well received by local rock critics. Having two singers enabled them to play different styles of songs even within the confines of what Glueleg were doing. “Dust” is a dirge, for example. Then the next track “Pampa De Chooch” is completely different, at times almost sounding like Kyuss with horns. “Park Alien” might be Zappa-esque progressive jazz. “I Saw You Joja” is then something else again. Perhaps there’s a lack of focus, or maybe it’s just that Glueleg were so bursting full of ideas, but some songs come off as scattershot.
Biggest surprise of the album: the closing track “Red”, the King Crimson instrumental. What a drum tour de force performance this is, by Christian Simpson. Simpson is no slouch; he later went on to play with Saga for several years, as well as David Usher and Edwin.
I like all of it. Heroic Doses is one of those discs that are indicative of their times, and has nostalgia value, but also plenty of musical chops to keep you busy. If the songs had been tightened up a bit more I think you’d have a serious classic here. Unfortunately there are some songs that are just not quite there.