Fatso Jetson

REVIEW: Fu Manchu / Fastso Jetson – “Jailbreak” / “Blueberries & Chrome” (1998 split single)

FU MANCHU – “Jailbreak” / FATSO JETSON – “Blueberries & Chrome” (1998 split Sessions Records 7″ single)

Fu Manchu turn Thin Lizzy into Thin Sludge…and it works!  Though it’s downtuned and slammin’, it’s still “Jailbreak”.  Fu Manchu went to the effort to mostly duplicate the familiar lead guitar melodies.  The hooks you remember are there.  Vocally, considering that Phil Lynott often liked to speak/sing, Scott Hill from Fu Manchu’s natural approach works just fine.  He’s different from Phil, more than you’d expect.  He doesn’t really attempt to sing the vocal melody, he just applies his own style to it.  Few people will pick this as their favourite Lizzy cover of all time, but Fu Manchu fans should adore it.  Produced by J. Yuenger of White Zombie.

On the B-side, it’s Fatso Jetson with their own brand of stoner rock.  “Blueberries & Chrome” rocks heavy with riff in your face and vocals buried deep.  It doesn’t shy away from dissonant chords but it does allow the vocals by Mario Lalli to explode on the chorus.  “Baby want sugar!”  Let’s just say it’s probably better that you can’t really hear the lyrics.  “He’s about to unwind, and it’s stuck in your face.”  Good tune though, sludgey and heavy.  The chorus is an awesome blowout.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Brant Bjork – Jalamanta (Remixed and Remastered 2019)

BRANT BJORK – Jalamanta (Originally 1999, Remixed and Remastered 2019 Heavy Psych Sounds)

When the needle hits wax it won’t be long,
You got your radio tuned but it won’t play this song.

20 years ago, Jalamanta was one of my favourite albums in the world.  This is my third copy.  Partly instrumental, partly vocal, but 100% Brant Bjork.  It was his first solo album, and he played virtually everything himself.  The laid-back desert vibes are perfect for a summer evening chill-out.  Humid, sparse, exotic, varied compositions take you across a hazy landscape.

In 2019, Brant and engineer Tony Mason remixed Jalamanta, to take it the place they “always wanted it to go”.  The remixes are largely subtle, just making the album sound bigger in your ears.  The vocals might be a little less buried.  It’s still raw, and sparse, and all the things you always liked about Jalamanta.  Some songs have more noticeable differences.  More guitar on “Toot”.  Tracks tend to run longer than their previous fade-outs.  But there are things I enjoyed about the original that aren’t here.  The echoey lead vocal on “Toot” — “Cat scan, cat scan…”  That echo is gone, maybe so the sonic field wouldn’t be too crowded with that louder backing guitar?

This remix will never replace an original, especially when it was one of my favourites 20 years ago.  What is “Jalamanta” made of that makes it so tasty?  Only the most basic of ingredients.  Rolling bass and drums, simple unaffected guitar parts, and Brant’s laid back singing style.

Yeah, the man shakes me down and that’s why I’m broke.
The rich man’s got all the green but it ain’t the kind you smoke.
So we turn up the rock, and we roll it slow.
We’re always flying high, and the ride is always low.

Snakey guitars jab in and out of the speakers — one song is even called “Cobra Jab”.   Other tunes are more aggressive.  “Too Many Chiefs… Not Enough Indians” has a relentless and simple riff, with the snakey guitars carrying the melody over it like a wave.  Brant’s quiet vocal is hypnotic.  By contrast, “Defender of the Oleander” has a barely-there main riff while the snakey licks do all the brilliant melodic work.  Brant goes for hypnotic again on “Her Brown Blood”, a speedy run through the desert, with a cool monotone vocal right in the middle of your head.

Whichever version of Jalamanta you happen upon, you are guaranteed an incredible listening experience.  The new remix is certainly more three-dimensional, and will sound better on your big system.  But you will lose some of the charm of the original.  The 2009 vinyl used to be the way to go, with a beautiful full-colour booklet and Blue Oyster Cult cover “Take Me Away”.  But now you can get “Take Me Away” here on CD, albeit remixed.  Another bonus is exclusive to this CD — “Bones Lazy”, which segues out of “Defender of the Oleander” into the brilliant rocker “Low Desert Punk”.  And with the title “Bones Lazy”, you won’t be surprised that it is “Lazy Bones” backwards!  Like you’re watching Tenet.  Cool though.  Even though I knew what was likely coming, I felt like it fit right in.

Get a load of this, man.

Well I’m gettin’ up when the sun goes down,
And I shine ’em up and I hit the town.
Well I trim it clean and I roll it up,
And then I take it nice and slow…so what the fuck, man.

Jalamanta makes me feel that California sun way more than any Desert Sessions CD ever has.  You can taste it.  Let it sink into your lazy bones.   And as great as this new CD is sonically, it also makes me want to hear the original.  Nothing can truly upgrade a 20 years love affair with Jalamanta.  As a complimentary piece, I don’t regret owning or listening to it at all.  Hearing guitar parts that used to be beyond the fade is the kind of bait that we nerds line up for.  The 2009 vinyl, with the gorgeous embossed cover and all that delicious photography inside, will remain my preferred way to experience Jalamanta.  The 2019 remix will be the one to play when you want to examine it in more thorough detail.

(still) 5/5 stars

 

Original CD and vinyl releases seen below.

REVIEW: Brant Bjork – Jalamanta (1999/2009 vinyl)

 

BRANT BJORK – Jalamanta (1999 / 180 gram vinyl 2009 reissue)

I still remember the circumstances surrounding me originally getting this on CD.  As recounted in an earlier Record Store Tale, Tom and I were at a party.  We were listening to some sHeavy, and Tom mentioned the Brant Bjork solo album as another must-have.  Being a fan of Brant Bjork’s drumming from Fu Manchu, I ordered it without hearing a single track.  Tom attempted to describe it by calling it “a cross between Fu Manchu and surf rock.”  Interesting.

10 years later, when Bjork reissued it on vinyl, he added the UFO-centric Blue Oyster Cult cover bonus track, “Take Me Away”.  Automatic re-buy.  It doesn’t really sound like the rest of the album, but who cares?  It’s Brant Bjork covering Blue Oyster Cult.  But that’s not the only reason to re-buy Jalamanta.

What a beautiful record! The first thing you’ll notice is the new cover.  All black with the Brant Bjork skull embossed.  Beautiful.  Open it up to get at the booklet with all new photos. The booklet truly is a work of art. Remember when you used to buy an LP, and you’d sit down in front of your stereo staring at the pictures, trying to make out every little detail until the record was done? Brant Bjork takes us back to that time.

The cover page is what appears to be an awesomely greasy Mexican meal, and then the final page is the empty plate — a satisfied customer. Just like with this LP.  You can really get stuffed on the grooves and tones contained herein.  There are plenty of low-key, incessantly grooving instruments.  The music is simple, repetitive, but effective.  It’s not heavy, but it feels weighty nonetheless.

The lyrics are included.  Here’s an example, from “Automatic Fantastic”:

The man shakes me down, that’s why I’m broke. Rich man’s got all the green but it ain’t the kind you smoke. So we turn up the rock, and we roll it slow. We’re always flying high, and the ride is always low.

Musically, if you haven’t heard this album before, I don’t really know how to describe the songs.  Bjork plays almost everything himself, and the vibe is laid back.  He sings on every song but “Toot” which is handled by Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson). He’s chosen to mix his vocals way back and emphasize the unadorned guitars and drums.  The mix is spare, quiet at times, loud at others, but always trippy. Imagine driving down a deserted highway on a hot summer night with the windows down. This is the soundtrack to that ride.

This is one of those album that sounds like it was just meant to be heard on 180 gram vinyl. There’s no sound like it in the world. I noticed a heck of a lot more bass, the bassline on “Lets Get Chinese Eyes” being particularly sublime. This album just sounds stunning now.

5/5 stars

  1. “Lazy Bones” – 1:29
  2. “Automatic Fantastic” – 6:59
  3. “Cobra Jab” – 3:18
  4. “Too Many Chiefs…Not Enough Indians” – 3:44
  5. “Sun Brother” – 4:45
  6. “Lets Get Chinese Eyes” – 4:45
  1. “Toot” – 5:58
  2. “Defender of the Oleander” – 7:53
  3. “The Low Desert Punk” – 5:20
  4. “Waiting for a Coconut to Drop” – 4:17
  5. “Her Brown Blood” – 4:16
  6. “Indio” – 4:15
  7. “Take Me Away” – 5:35 (Blue Öyster Cult cover) vinyl only bonus track