By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
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By Derek Askey
Just to be sure I got it, I've decided to take up Strangewayes' invitation to hear the CD for the first time wacked out on mushrooms. An informal listening party for the band's new album is taking place at his home, and while everyone's waiting for Wilhite to show up before firing up the CD, we sit around the pool getting progressively toastier around the edges. There's an alarmingly fuzzy tree in the yard that even Strangewayes claims not to have noticed before in all its fuzzy splendor. I alternate between being transfixed to that and watching the pool pump dance around.
After about an hour and a half of listening to Pink Floyd's Animals, several people, myself included, jump into the pool fully clothed to escape the Blue Cheer album that follows. Later, someone puts on some John Lee Hooker album. I comment on how the bluesman's hand-clapping time seems off, and Newlin points out "that isn't John Lee Hooker, it's your noisy pants clanking in the dryer." For your information, Strangewayes' dryer has a button on it that says LOUD. We turn the knob in the opposite direction of LOUD, but the pants are still clanging out of time. When we turn the knob all the way to the right toward LOUD, however, it makes a pleasant buzzer sound. Everyone is relieved.
We decide not to wait for Wilhite to finish off the last of the mushrooms, and what NMG/Pavement's promotional department promises to be "the heaviest trip you've ever been on" finally gets under way. Here, in jumbled chronology, is a track-by-track analysis of this splendid Windigo CD, with prognosis reports on my condition so that you can gauge my journalistic objectivity.
"The Ballad of Reichen Overgraaben"
Our lethargic Norwegian friend is hitching a ride down south to a nice mix of funk and foggy mental breakdown at the end. "We hunted down some old Sports Almanacs and found out there really was a Reichen," swears Strangewayes. According to some legends, this teutonic, paisley-clad wunderkind skater (presumably the aged subject of this album's cover) went mad when he came to America.
Aiding Reichen's downfall, of course, were hallucinogenics and classic rock, which explains the "Riders on the Storm" reference midway through. One senses if Reichen really was that killer on the road, the sweet family fated to die would've gotten away scot free since the winded Nordic chronically complains, "I lost my energy." This affliction makes it necessary for him to take:
"This is a drug much like ginseng, used to keep your dick hard. I don't know why this song is called 'Yohimbe,'" confesses Strangewayes. This trudging anthem starts out with swirling bong-water sounds made exclusively on guitar and contains references to Reichen partying with rock stars and their "designer drugs."
"There's rumors that he knew the Doors, when he was at his peak in '70, '71, getting ready for the '72 Olympics. He used to hang out with all the swank swingers, the Bee Gees, Tower of Power, Sabbath, Foghat, they all knew him."
The album's cover art contains what are rumored to be the only known photos of Reichen, first in his prime, and then wobbling toward middle age with his trusty dog Maestro.
"Postcard From Chupacabra"
"Yohimbe" and this number both sport cameo appearances by the world's most notorious Spice Girls fan, one Charles Manson. According to Strangewayes, the fascination stems from having a friend who corresponded with sorry Charlie in prison. "My friend hands me this postcard he got from Charles Manson, 'cause he had written him in jail and sent him some Sepultura cassettes. The gist was 'thanks for the cool stuff' and some awesome gibberish."
The ensuing song used to be titled "Postcard From Charles Manson" but was changed on the advice of producer Gilby Clarke.
"I didn't insist on it, I just suggested it," Clarke replies. "When you put that name on a record, it draws attention to it, and I don't think it's the attention you want to draw. And it's not a major part of what the song's about, anyway. I was, unfortunately, in a band that recorded a pretty fun record (The Spaghetti Incident?), and they stuck a Charles Manson song on the end of it. I didn't even play on it, and they never asked my opinion, either. Axl played it to me over the phone and told me it was going on the record. My family members wouldn't even buy the record as a protest. I don't blame them."
Here Strangewayes gives notice with Beastie Boy calm, "I'll smoke my green god 'til my lungs give out." The room is now completely engulfed with secondhand bong clouds. Like that poor choking schnook in "Mama Told Me Not to Come," I decide my lungs need some fresh air. They fare little better outside, since one of Strangewayes' indecisive neighbors has turned on his barbecue gas grill and is taking forever to remember what he was going to cook on it.
Loosely based on the old "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down" jingle, "wobblies are how you get when you're on psychedelic mushrooms," explains Strangewayes.