Songwriter Dan Stuart has been at it for more than three decades, but his upcoming album, Marlowe's Revenge, shows he's still in full possession of his verve, ranking among his finest albums with Green on Red, the band he founded in the early '80s, which brilliantly straddled the lines between desert rock, alt-country, and indie rock.
Stuart got his start in the late-'70s Tucson punk scene, fronting the Serfers. In 1980 the band relocated to Los Angeles, changed its name to Green on Red, and began playing alongside defining alternative bands like the Dream Syndicate and the Long Ryders. The group signed to prominent indie label Slash and then to a major, Mercury. Since Green on Red's dissolution, Stuart's recorded with hometown friends like Al Perry and under his own name, but in 2012 he (sort of) adopted an alter ego with The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings, recorded with Italian band Sacri Cuori. In 2014, Stuart released a "false memoir" of the same name, utilizing the Billings character to write about his rock 'n' roll experiences. "Marlowe's been around forever, goes back to the Serfers and Green on Red," Stuart explains.
"It's just a nom de guerre that allows me some breathing space, like Chinaski for Bukowski I guess," Stuart says. "The Marlowe book is basically a roman à clef although an editor at [publisher] Serpent's Tail thought I should just use everyone's real name since I could get sued regardless. Thankfully, no one cares enough to do so or maybe they know I have no money, anyway."
Now situated in Oaxaca, Stuart's upcoming album Marlowe's Revenge is a loose and psychedelic effort. Sometimes the record snarls, like on the shredding opener "Hola Guapa," but often it sounds like a fever dream, like on the lulling "Last Blue Day," the dizzying "Elena," and the extended guitar rave up "Soy Un Hombre." Though full of the wit and and songwriting maturity three decades brings, songs like "All Over You" and "The Whores Above" recall Stuart's early punk rock days, when he'd brave the I-10 strip from Tucson to Phoenix. Shows in the Valley were "always an adventure," Stuart says, still harboring some Old Pueblo pride.
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"Generally speaking the Phoenix punk scene was less naive and sweet than in Tucson, harder drugs and personalities," he says. "I think Tucson turned out better bands because of that, with the exception of Meat Puppets."
Marlowe's Revenge features the added vigor of young Mexico City band Twin Tones, who back Stuart on half of the record. "I was looking to make a rock record and got very lucky, we clicked from the get go," Stuart says. "I think they are like the little brothers of Sacri Cuori in Italy, who I cut the first Marlowe record with. The main difference is Sacri Cuori are a little too rarefied to play nasty rock 'n' roll and probably would not allow themselves to wag their weenies in such a fashion. I love both bands and am happy that members of Twin Tones played on the new Sacri Cuori record, which is excellent."
The record is a vital, driving statement from the 54-year-old Stuart. "It was loads of fun and it feels great to be still getting away with shit like this," he says. "I've made plenty of bad records but the last two have been a pleasure. Now if I can only finish the next Marlowe book..."
Dan Stuart is scheduled to perform Tuesday, July 14, at Yucca Tap Room in Tempe.