Doom Vs. Mandingo

Some nights I wonder why I even bother, and this is one of them. When the end is so obviously and rapidly approaching, what point is there in this? And by "this" I mean whatever you are doing right now, as I am writing this column.

I don't know how many of you have seen Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii, but there's a scene where the band is interviewed in a diner. This was during the 1972 sessions for Dark Side of the Moon. Anyway, the highlight of the round-table discussion comes when a heavy-lidded, glassy-eyed David Gilmour starts to speak about money, specifically about how it won't mean shit when "the great crash comes." Seriously--that's what he calls it: "The great crash." "And it's going to happen," he says in a stoned monotone, like a schoolboy reciting the pledge. "Right across the board."

I used to jeer at the screen. Fuckin' rock star with millions in the bank preaching about the evils of money while he's doing the best drugs it can buy. But the last time I saw Live at Pompeii, I keyed in less on Gilmour's hypocrisy and more on his slack-jawed premonition of "the great crash."

In a piece on horse racing he did for Rolling Stone last winter, Hunter S. Thompson said it another way: "Big Darkness. Soon come."

I don't strive for such eloquence. I settle for this: People, Armageddon has its breath on our necks.

Need you more signs? I have three: 1)When it rains in Phoenix, my car gets dirty instead of clean; 2) There are giant, bright-yellow snowmen with green sweaters playing football on the lawn in front of the Chase Bank complex on Mill Avenue; and 3)Death-metal satanists are running amok in Norway.

According to a story in the current issue of Spin, the "black metal" scene in Norway has gone crazy. Droves of fair-haired young Norwegians are trading in ice skates for pentagram amulets, and their mugs of hot cider for pewter goblets of warm blood. Black-metal satanists have claimed responsibility for burning down 22 churches in the past four years--many of them built in medieval times.

I ask you: When you think of Norway, do you picture rabid youths in black garb torching a church? Next they'll put their parents to the sword, gobbling mushrooms and standing naked amid the carnage like the Viking berserker ancestors they claim to channel.

I fear the lights are about to go out. Big Darkness. Soon come.
So why go on--why try to wait out the inevitable?
Well ... punk rock, among other things. So let's talk punk rock. Let's talk specifically about Mandingo, a Valley punk trio that recently cut a recording with no less than legendary (not all of the legends are good) indie producer Steve Albini at the helm.

Mandingo lead guitarist/vocalist Mike Upsahl says the band got Albini's home phone number from a friend in No Empathy, a punk band from Chicago, where Albini has his home studio.

"We called him, and two and a half months later we were in the studio," says Upsahl. Evidently, Albini knew of the Phoenix band through the Bollweevils, another Chicago band that shares the Dr. Strange label with Mandingo.

"Caustic" is one of the more polite adjectives associated with Albini, but Upsahl describes the producer as cool and professional. "We didn't know what to expect, but he turned out to be awesome. It's a sick recording. It's really fast, and the guitar sound is the best I've ever gotten."

Upsahl says Albini didn't attempt to hone Mandingo's style. "He was just really on top of it. He knew we made a mistake as soon as we did, and he would have the reel-to-reel ready to roll again in a second."

Recorded and mixed in three days, Macho Grande is scheduled for release in April, just before Mandingo goes on the circuit in a support slot for Voodoo Glowskulls. Cleveland rock artist Derek Hess is doing the album's cover. Tally for studio time and Albini's services: $2,600.

"Mandingo," by the way, is the name of a tribe that inhabits the upper Niger River valley region of Africa. Do with that what you will.

The Final Flurry: The complete list won't be made public until mid-February, but at least two Arizona bands have scored showcase spots at SXSW '96, the rock con in Austin, Texas, where the streets are paved with recording contracts. The envelope, please ... Trunk Federation (Phoenix) and the Drakes (Tucson) are both on their way, according to SXSW conference HQ. Further details to be reported as available.

Alert! If you have a tie-dyed shirt on your back (or even in your closet) or a knit Rasta cap on your head or Gypsy bells on your ankles or like to dance naked in the sun with mud between your toes, well, then, you probably already know this: There's a highly pleasant hippie jam band doing Monday nights at Sail Inn in Tempe. Heads in the Grass weaves some beautiful grooves, and the band's rhythm breaks are nice and primal. Exhilarating. If you're into hippie jam bands (and if you're not, you could probably stand to get loose and hop around once in a while) and you somehow haven't heard Heads in the Grass, or don't know where the band's playing next, I have the mantra for all your woes: Grass; Mondays; at the Sail. Sailing, takes me away ...--David Holthouse


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